BSR 2013 By John Burrows@ Newcastle O2 Academy, December 7 2013

When former members of Thin Lizzy, Guns N Roses, The Rolling Stones, INXS, Alice Cooper’s band, Whitesnake and The Cult come together for a night of no-holds barred rock n roll it’s bound to be just a little bit special.

Like a mini hall of fame, the various musicians signed up to play for The Dead Daisies and Black Star Riders have graced just about every major arena, stadium and rock festival the world has to offer. 

And there was little to choose between the familiar headline act and the all-new supergroup charged with warming things up.

The Dead Daisies already boast one of the best debuts of 2013 but what that album couldn’t confirm was whether any chemistry existed at the heart of this star-studded collective.

Founders Jon Stevens (INXS) and David Lowy (Mink) had to recruit a whole new gang of hired hands to take their exceptional record on the road. But it seems a common desire to entertain is driving Dizzy Reed, Richard Fortus, Darryl Jones and Charley Drayton to do their employers proud.

The Dead Daisies 2013 By John BurrowsThe Dead Daisies look and sound like they’ve been around for decades. Confident enough to throw new tune Angel In My Eyes into the mix alongside the poppy Fly – from Disney smash Planes – and Slash-endorsed lead single Lock N Load, this was an incredibly assured performance.

Fortus stole the show although Stevens reminded the masses that he boasts one of the finest set of pipes in town. With the funkiest rhythm section since Fishbone and a live sound reminiscent of classic Living Colour there’s an oh-so-cool vibe about the Daisies’ brighter moments. A rapid fire finale featuring a Beatles/Zeppelin mash-up paid homage to British rock’s greats and guaranteed a rousing send off from the Academy’s Saturday night crowd.

Even before Steven’s next big thing set the Riders’ nerves jangling, British four-piece Western Sand delivered their own feisty set of southern-flavoured blues rock. With a swagger well beyond their tender years it’s too their credit they tricked the punters into believing this was a late night set in a sweaty club – not a 6.30pm start in a half-empty theatre.

Taking along two triumphant supports for the ride is a dangerous game for even the most seasoned of players. But Black Star Riders are a band reborn.

For frontman Ricky Warwick, at least, the Thin Lizzy name had often been the albatross around his neck – preventing deserved praise and long overdue respect coming the Irishman’s way.

Proud as he is to follow in Phil Lynott’s footsteps the fact remains: nobody has ever been the Black Star Riders’ singer before now. And Warwick was on fire as he rifled through his band’s mighty debut before blazing a glory trail all the way to the anthemic Lizzy-flavoured finale.

BSR 2013 2 By John BurrowsFive of the last six songs were an ode to Lynott but by then the Riders had proved their mettle as an incendiary act in their own right. If the band’s hastily arranged Download set suggested Warwick, Scott Gorham and co. lacked confidence in the new material this tour has showcased a band loving its new-found live freedom.

Encouragingly in the post-Lizzy era it appeared the Toon faithful had long since bought into All Hell Breaks Loose. The title track to the Riders’ debut set a heady tone and once Warwick introduced Bad Reputation, by way of referring to David Moyes’ latest embarrassment at the hands of Newcastle United, the room was his.

Damon Johnson – rapidly emerging as one of the 21st century’s must-see guitar heroes after serving a long and largely unheralded apprenticeship with Alice Cooper – took the lead on the new material leaving Gorham to nail his trademark solos on the Lizzy numbers. It’s a combination that can be utterly mesmerising.

Johnson’s decision to fire off a fine instrumental version of Blaydon Races to usher in the encore was inspired. The bloke knows his stuff and knows his audience – it’s not just Newcastle fans who’ll attest to that.

Back in the city that spawned All Hell Breaks Loose, this was like a homecoming show for the Black Star Riders. The sooner they return, the better.

Simon Rushworth

Exclusive photos courtesy of  John Burrows @ishootgigs