Black Star Riders

Review: Black Star Riders -Bristol O2

Black Star Riders/Stone Broken/Wayward Sons – O2 Academy Bristol October 10th

When this lineup was announced, there was no way that I was going to miss three such good bands on one bill. So a quick blast up the M5 and I was in early to watch the venue fill with expectant rockers on the first night of the tour.

Wayward Sons, Black Star RidersToby Jepson’s Wayward Sons opened the evening to an already decent crowd and got the reception someone with Toby’s history more than deserves. It surprises me to realise that this vehicle has only been around two years, as it is an outfit that feels to have much more history than that.

Last time I saw them perform they were missing bassist Nic Wastell, and it was clear how much his animated playing adds to the stage presence. On Jepson’s other side, Sam Wood is a blur of blonde hair and fretwork. Dave Kemp contributes lushly layered keyboards and Phil Martini (somewhat hidden in the shadows) drives things along. Jepson himself of course is the focus, a true rock and roller playing his heart out. Song of the set for me is the one they leave as an ear worm at the close, “Until the End”, with it’s classic riff and singalong chorus. Mission more than achieved and the crowd well and truly warmed up.

Stone Broken, Black Star RidersThe filling in the sandwich was Stone Broken, a band I have seen many times and who bring with them a huge amount of support thanks to their savvy social media presence. As always you know what you are going to get in a Stone Broken set. You get great, catchy songs such as “Doesn’t Matter”, “Heartbeat Away” and “Not Your Enemy”. You also get the utterly delicious “Wait for You”, sung solo to acoustic guitar by vocalist Rich Moss, before being joined in a stadium worthy sound as the rest of the band return. You get Chris Davis and Kieron Conroy trading sides throughout as they anchor Moss’s vocals and at the back (or side tonight) you get the ever smiling face of Robyn Haycock as she consistently delivers behind the drum kit.

What you don’t get, is anything much new. Stone broken have recently re-released their first album, “All in Time”, and to me, that seems a retrograde step when so many of their contemporaries and, in reality, competition are throwing out new music. Stone Broken have been a stand out band in the NWOCR scene since 2016 and it feels as if they are approaching a pivotal moment where their new music has to move forward else they will stagnate and find people’s limited budgets going elsewhere.

Black Star RidersFinally, the headliners on their “Another State of Grace” tour. Tonight, for the first time live, they are showcasing new guitarist Christian Martucci who has replaced long time member Damon Johnson but the transition is seamless and he looks totally at home to Ricky Warwick’s right. Over time BSR have been moving away from their tag of “Thin Lizzy Tribute” and tonight that transition is complete as the focus is utterly on their own material. Yes there are similarities. Warwick’s lilting drawl echoes that of Lynott, and Scott Gorham’s presence alone is nostalgic. This however is the sound of now rather than the past and you feel the influence rather than the chains of the past.

What you get therefore is a set of pure rock and roll. Warwick bosses the stage. The man is a consummate rocker and can work a crowd like few others. Beside him Gorham, all in black, has that easy manner of someone who knows that at any moment he can rip out licks that will make your heartbeat race. He knows he can do it, we know he can do it, so the fact that he picks and chooses his moments in between standing back and watching with a gentle smile makes those moments all the more worth waiting for. Martucci, colourful and animated and Robert Crane complete the front stage team and of course are backed by the powerful Chad Szeliga.

Highlights? The powerful jig and dark lyrics of “Another State of Grace”, “In the Shadow of the War Machine”, “Soldierstown” and personal favourites “Finest Hour” and “Bound for Glory” which closed the show.

There are still plenty of dates on the tour to come (it goes on until 27th October) so get yourselves along and enjoy a night of simply cracking music.

Review and pics by Rob Wilkins

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