Call them a tribute act. Call them a supergroup. Or just call them one of the best live bands you’ll see this year.
If Thin Lizzy as a touring entity continue to divide opinion and prompt heated debate then there’s simply no denying the fact that the current line-up kicks ass. And then some.
Scott Gorham is surely numb to the tired criticism of his decision to maintain the profile of the Lizzy brand through a sensational back catalogue which still sounds fresh today. And 25 years after his friend and band mate Phil Lynott passed away, the talented American guitarist has assembled the finest line-up since the late 70s with Brian Downey’s return to the drum seat adding credibility and that typically understated cool.
That this tour and band is in its infancy may go some way towards explaining why the rousing Ricky Warwick was too often muted in a mix struggling to showcase three guitars and the rest. The former Almighty singer and an Irishman seriously proud of his Celtic roots deserves the opportunity to sing a slew of Lynott’s finest anthems and Gorham’s decision to stick the commanding frontman up top had seemed inspired. Why his best efforts were frequently overshadowed, then, is anyone’s guess but it’s something for the sound guys to get their teeth into for the next few days.
A case in point was a fine rendition of Still In Love With You. When Warwick announced he would share vocal duties with Dare’s Darren Wharton, the keyboard wizard with a fine set of pipes, Lizzy’s new singer could hardly have expected his cohort would sound crystal clear while he continued to struggle with a muffled mic. Hardly Wharton’s fault it did, however, grate with those of us who admire the main man.
Thankfully this was also an opportunity to get up close and personal with one of the unsung heroes of the rock circuit. Def Leppard guitar hero Vivian Campbell has spent close on two decades supporting the fabulous Phil Collen on arena stages and stadium bills the world over without ever truly claiming centre stage.
Given a clear run by Gorham (yet another canny move by Lizzy’s driving force) the Ulsterman revelled in every note, rolling out a series of vintage Les Pauls tuned to Brian Robertson-esque perfection, and sporting a grin as wide as the river Tyne. His work on Jailbreak and Whisky In The Jar was worth the admission price alone and Campbell truly endeared himself to a typically demanding City Hall crowd.
Warwick battled gamely with the sound demons threatening to drown him out completely and the multi-skilled musician could and should be the face of Lizzy for years to come. Connecting with his audience and his band mates with consummate ease this was a performance which rolled back the years and reminded everyone present just why the Almighty were, however briefly, British rock’s next big thing.
As Downey and Marci Mendoza traded funky rhythms for fun, hamming up the Celtic beats at every opportunity, Gorham would occasionally glance right, from his familiar position stage left, and struggle to suppress a wry smile. For all the sniping and backbiting which greets every new Lizzy tour, the band’s measured stalwart maintains an admirable level of dignity safe in the knowledge that thousands of fans the world over still demand to hear Black Rose, Rosalie and The Boys Are Back In Town. Right now those songs have never sounded better and Lynott’s legacy is in the hands of men who really care.