Faced with some down time before their band head out on an European Tour later this year, Black Star Riders band-mates Ricky Warwick and Damon Johnson packed up their acoustic guitars and set off for 18 live shows in 19 days. A gruelling schedule for sure, but the end result was one of the best, and most fun, gigs that I’ve attended in a long time.
Now, when acoustic guitars are mentioned, the tendency is to think ‘Kumbaya’ around the campfire, but this was anything but. Both Warwick and Johnson spent the night on the front foot, standing on the monitors, guitars raised like Excalibur. This was very much a proper Rock ‘n’ Roll show… without the amplification.
Both are singer-songwriters in their own right, each having released solo albums, with Warwick being especially prolific on Pledge Music, but Johnson proven that he is just as comfortable in front of the mic as his cohort. What was obvious from the off, was that both guys have formed a great friendship, as well as an incredible working partnership. Despite being under the weather, Damon Johnson was all smiles throughout the two hour set, and Ricky Warwick was understandably beaming at the reception he received at being back in Glasgow.
The set was a cracking mixture of solo material from both guys, heaps of covers, and a fair few Black Star Riders tracks. Johnson took over vocal duties on “Pontiac” from his 2010 album ‘Release’, a stunning song that Warwick introduced as “One of the most beautiful I’ve ever heard, and I keep on telling him that I’m going to steal it from him when he’s sleeping“. Johnson also shined on a great cover of “I’m Eighteen”, dedicating to his old boss and great friend, Alice Cooper… “I spent more time on the golf course with him than I did on stage !” quipped Johnson.
Warwick of course handled the lions share of vocal duties, and has matured immensely as a modern day troubadour with a tale to tell, whether it be one of his solo tracks or a blistering cover of Eddie Cochran’s “Somethin’ Else”, the man is in his element in this stripped back personal environment. This was a true Rock ‘n’ Roll jukebox of an evening. We also got stunning covers of Eddie Cochran again, this time “Summertime Blues”, as well as “Ace Of Spades”, a slowed down version of “Running Free”, which sounded immense, and a show stopping version of Springsteen classic “Born To Run”. Homage was also paid to Thin Lizzy, of course, and it was easy to imagine Phil Lynott and Scott Gorham sitting around with acoustic guitars working on the songs that would become “Jailbreak”, “Dancing in the Moonlight”, and “The Boys Are Back In Town”. Songs that will outlive us all.
Word had spread on social media that tonight a special guest would be joining the guys on-stage, and half way through the set, Warwick told a tale about three teuchters (Scottish slang for someone from the countryside ) forming a band and getting a bassist from Glasgow in. Turns out, said bassist was a mighty fine guitar player who took over on lead guitar, and the band became The Almighty. So,enter on stage Andy McCafferty, otherwise known as “Tantrum”, for two Almighty classics – “Free And Easy”, and what else but “Wild And Wonderful”. It also turns out that this was the first time in 23 years that the guys have shared a stage with Warwick saying “Too fucking long “. It’s fair to say that the crowd did indeed go wild for this milestone, and the ex-bandmates wore massive grins on their faces.
Free and easy would be a great way to describe the gig, as evident when Warwick snapped a guitar string. Johnson swapped guitars with him and left the stage to replace the string, leaving Warwick to perform a solo version of “Jesus Loves You….But I Don’t” from 1995 Almighty album “Powertrippin”. Johnson waits in the wings for the song to end, before walking back on and swapping guitars back. Another string breaks, and this time Warwick leaves to change it. Johnson doodles around for a few moments then the unmistakable first few bars of “Sweet Home Alabama” start up, and wha-ay it’s party time! A truly great unscripted moment.
It was also great to see so many Black Star Riders tracks being welcomed like long lost classics. “Kingdom of the Lost” was introduced by Warwick asking the crowd to “Stamp your feet, jump around, sing and shout… do whatever the fuck you want“..a raucous few minutes followed, and the song proves that nothing quite gets folk pogoing like Celtic Rock. Another great moment came when Warwick said “Waited 49 years to say this…Damon why don’t we play that BBC Radio 2 favourite…” very cool introduction to the title track from BSR’s second album ‘Killer instinct’.
What else could close the set but “Whiskey In The Jar” eh ? Warwick’s vocals were barely audible over the crowd singing along like their lives depended on it. It was only once the guys said their thanks and goodbyes, that I glanced at my watch and realised that two hours had passed. An incredible night, with so many stand out moments, but just seeing the joy on Warwick and Johnson’s faces was totally priceless… next time round, don’t miss them![Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”27″ gal_title=”Warwick/Johnson”]
Review Dave Stott
Photography Ritchie Birrnie]]>