GIG REVIEW: Black Star Riders, Backyard Babies & GUN Live at O2 Forum, London UK
On 17th March 2017, the only place to be was at the O2 Forum Kentish Town, London – where hard rockers flocked in the hundreds to celebrate St Patrick’s Day and Scott Gorham’s birthday with a phenomenal line up that included GUN, Backyard Babies and headliners Black Star Riders. This was a show that I had been waiting for since its announcement in August 2016, and it was going to be a guaranteed night of pure rock ’n roll and madness.
Underrated Scottish band GUN opened the show to a decently-filled venue immediately having the crowd working their vocal range with a cover of everyone’s favourite Cameo song “Word Up!”. Vocalist Dante Gizzi worked his magic on the audience and sent them into a frenzy with people bouncing along to the beat. Guitarist Tommy Gentry skillfully showed off his talents during his solo, which caught my attention as his tone was so smooth. Playing old favourites “Better Days”and the new, catchy single “She Knows” taken from their new album due in September 2017, they certainly warmed up the crowd for what was yet to come.
When Sweden’s Backyard Babies hit the stage the Forum was packed out. Their gradual intro into “Th1rte3n or Nothing” built up crowd anticipation, then sending them into a rapture dancing and singing along to the chorus. Swiftly going straight into the “Dysfunctional Professional”, guitarist Dregen motioned his arms to tell the crowd to open up the circle pit. However, the sensible crowd had other things on their mind, one of which was to simply enjoy the musical talent that was before them. Fast on his feet as he is with his impeccable guitar-playing, Dregen certainly kept the crowd engaged by spinning on-stage, and in his excitement almost knocking his microphone stand off-stage!
With all original members, Backyard Babies’ group dynamic and chemistry was undeniable, and this was apparent in their performance. Further, it was intense to see the full live version of “Painkiller,” which was an emotional dedication made by Dregen to the recently deceased guitarist of the Hellacopters, Robert Dahlqvist. Additionally, singer Nicke Borge put on a powerful performance during “Nomadic” and really pierced the crowd with his guitar solo. Some crowd members had never heard of Backyard Babies, and it’s safe to say that this far into the set, they gained new fans. Dregen’s interaction with the crowd was immense, passing his microphone to make them get involved with the singing. They set the bar high, ending their set on a total high, although some would agree that their set ended too soon.
The night was filled with many special moments, where GUN presented the Planet Rock Radio Award for Best British Album to Ricky Warwick of Black Star Riders for ‘Heavy Fire’, who accepted it on behalf of the band. Also that night during Black Star Riders set, the band presented Mr. Scott Gorham with a birthday cake for his 66th birthday, to which the crowd joined in to greet him. Happy and smiling, Mr. Gorham prematurely blew out his candles eager to continue with the show, which I found endearing.
As for the headliner we all came to see – Black Star Riders is worthy of their own attention outside of the Thin Lizzy tag, and it is safe to say that these bad boys of rock are well and truly established in their own right. With three records produced in four years, it’s no wonder BSR have nurtured a strong following that includes die-hard Thin Lizzy fans as well as a new fan base. This was apparent as the audience consisted of rockers of all ages. Who said rock ’n roll is dead?
Kicking things off with the hot title track “Heavy Fire” immediately set the crowd off from the outset. Frontman Ricky Warwick was on top form, with the depth and texture in his vocal range making his lyrics even more heartfelt and relatable. Warwick’s voice is what attracted me to BSR in the first place. They have enough of a back catalogue to complete a setlist of their own – however, the show wouldn’t be complete without at least one Thin Lizzy cover. Fans were in for a nostalgic treat when the band broke into “The Boys Are Back in Town.” I was delighted as BSR performed songs from all three albums, and the setlist was at an optimum length. Although, I can never get enough of this musical concoction!
With Robert Crane fading into the background, we finally got to see him stand out with those punchy bass lines during the intro of “Thinking About You Could Get Me Killed” alongside Jimmy Degrasso, with his hardcore drumming sending tremors through floor. A true heavy metal drummer, DeGrasso’s solo came at the end of “Finest Hour”, when he finally got to release that beast within, kicking that double bass drum hard and blasting out those beats so effortlessly that it sent shivers down my spine. Additionally, it became clear who takes lead on guitars as Damon Johnson provided some expressive, powerful solos throughout, and Mr. Gorham took on the rhythm section while also giving us a few bursts of short solos in all respects. The momentum was high with everyone on their feet for the last three songs, clapping and singing in unison. The atmosphere was invigorating and the crowd was on fire!
Overall, the night was one big party – full of celebrations and unequivocal musical talent with energetic performances. Black Star Riders and the supporting bands put on a blinder of a show, all proving themselves worthy of being headliners. The UK leg of the ‘Heavy Fire Tour’ has ended, but that does not mean you’ve missed out. With European festivals lined up, be sure to catch Black Star Riders in a city near you!
Also check out our Photo Gallery of the set here.