Black Star Riders @Newcastle O2 City Hall, February 24 2023

It says something about the remarkable rise of Sam Wood that, on a night when timeless guitar heroes were ten a penny, the new kid on the block eclipsed them all.

Barely a decade after his alt rock band Treason Kings caught the attention of ex-Little Angels frontman Toby Jepson, the 33-year-old is in the form of his life.

And it’s no exaggeration to say Wood looked perfectly at ease trading licks with the slew of storied six stringers who treated Tyneside to a fret-melting masterclass.

Phil Campbell, Steve Conte, Rich Jones, Scott Gorham and Ricky Warwick were all seasoned axe-slingers back when Wood was still wearing short pants.

But the supremely talented lead guitarist, who divides his time between Black Star Riders and Jepson’s Wayward Sons, is confident beyond his years.

So much so that Wood was clearly the safest pair of hands to usher in the Riders’ headline set — racing through the first seven songs before Gorham joined the fray.

Saving the former Thin Lizzy man for later was a smart move.

On the one hand Wood was free to stamp his own mark on a set that perfectly captured a decade of bullish Black Star Riders.

By the same token Gorham — who turns 72 next month — was fresh as the proverbial daisy by the time he sneaked on stage following a blazing cover of Crazy Horses.

Wood wowed on the slide guitar during a bombastic version of The Osmonds’ classic.

But a typically dextrous display won’t have surprised anyone who’s followed the career of one of British rock’s rising stars.

Throughout Riders’ gritty 100-minute show Wood — that beaming grin growing wider than the Tyne — went about his business with effortless efficiency.

Whether taking centre stage or complementing the ever-gracious Gorham, his was a career-defining performance of pure class.

And it’s little wonder Warwick confidently raised a fist to another 10 years of his chart-busting band knowing Wood will be along for the ride.

If the sight and sound of Gorham and Phil Campbell joining forces to riff the hell out of Don’t Believe A Word wasn’t thrilling enough then Michael Monroe’s cameo alongside Warwick was worth the admission money alone.

The veteran Finn is the self-styled king of chaos and during a reassuringly regimented Riders’ set there was a delightful sense of anarchy pacing Tonight The Moonlight Let Me Down.

Monroe’s red hot band were the perfect warm up for the main event and there are few frontmen on the planet quite as affecting as the former Hanoi Rocks’ rabble rouser in chief.

Of course, there was the cheeky health-and-safety busting balcony trip just days after he had his knuckles rapped for doing the same.

But this wouldn’t be a Monroe show without some sort of age-defying ascension from the safety of the stage.

Proving that there’s plenty more gas left in the tank, 2022’s Murder The Summer Of Love was one of the supercharged standouts of a stirring set.

But it was the back catalogue romp through a career spanning six decades that brought the fast-filling house down.

And Monroe’s post-set rendition of Wor Geordie’s Lost His Penka only served to reaffirm a special bond with the North East’s rock fraternity.

Campbell also goes back years when it comes to fabled City Hall shows and nights out in the Toon.

These days the softly spoken Welshman brings his kids along for the ride.

And the post-Motörhead Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons continue to rep balls-to-the-wall British rock with style.

Rushonrock raved about the band’s Call Of The Wild headline slot last summer.

But The Bastard Sons get better and better with every fresh show and that man Monroe added another layer of madness to the Saturday night openers.

How Lemmy would have loved a frankly bonkers version of Born To Raise Hell — Sons’ puzzled frontman Joel Peters looked utterly perplexed as the metal anthem took on a life of its own.

On a night when crowd-pleasing collabs were the order of the day, Monroe made the most of every minute on stage.

But it was that man Wood who emerged as the unlikely hero — putting the Star into Black Star Riders.

Images by Gordon Armstrong