Ricky Warwick and Damon Johnson – Ahoghill, Diamond Rock Club – 26 September 2015

Ricky Warwick live at the Diamond Rock Club, September 2015There are rock stars.  And then there are rock stars.  There are those with an anally-retentive sense of their own self-generated importance, who are content to ride around in limos and play hundreds of miles from their nearest fans in fields as big as their egos.  And then there are those who are prepared to constantly return to their roots and get down and sweaty, up close and personal with audiences so close they can taste the beer on each other’s breath.  Ricky Warwick most definitely falls into the latter category, filling every waking hour making and performing music and, in rare moments of rest from his commitments in Black Star Riders, thinking nothing of packing his acoustic guitar and rocking up to a tiny club.  And so it was that the Northern Ireland-born Warwick recently grabbed BSR band mate Damon Johnson for a run of 19 straight dates across the length and breadth of these fair isles, the penultimate of which brought him back to one of his (and my) favourite venues – the wonderful Diamond Rock Club in the heart of the County Antrim hills.

Matt Fitzsimons live at the Diamond Rock Club, September 2015Matt Fitzsimons and Adam Parkin temporarily rebrand themselves for their opening slot as an acoustic half of Gasoline Outlaws, and present stripped down versions of songs from their debut album, ‘No Rules, No Laws, No Regrets‘.  The performance brings out the basic rawness of tunes such as ‘Nothing At All’ and ‘Ready To Fly’, especially in relation to Matt’s rasping vocal.  The songs all work really well with their acoustic treatment, which helps to prove what a genuinely talented guitarist Parkin is, while ‘Wee Matt’ once again captivates those present with his easy and rambunctious rapport with the audience.  Set highlight is the brilliant ‘Stand As One’, which possesses a raw passion which in turn enunciates the restrained venom of the tune, especially in relation to its vocal delivery.

  • Gasoline Outlaws support Screaming Eagles at Limelight 2, Belfast, on Saturday October 24.

It may not have been quite ‘The Arms Of Belfast Town’ but it’s close enough to his beloved home city not to matter to Warwick, and he and Johnson amble on stage with the air of two old mates just meeting up with a load more friends (which, of course, is exactly what they are doing on this particular occasion).

Damon Johnson live at the Diamond Rock Club, September 2015Over the next couple of hours, the duo treat us to set drawn from their mutual collaboration in both BSR and Thin Lizzy, as well as their respective back catalogues, from Warwick’s time in The Almighty through Johnson’s sojourn backing up Alice Cooper (both ‘No More Mr Nice Guy’ and ‘I’m Eighteen’ get airings in this regard) to their own individual solo outputs. There are some predictable ‘staples’ – such as ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’, ‘Jailbreak’, ‘Free N Easy’, ‘Hey Judas’ et al – but there are also some pleasant surprises.  Early on, for example, Warwick introduces “my favourite Thin Lizzy song”, before turning the clock back to the band’s breakthrough era with ‘Borderline’.  ‘Gabrielle’ – one of the bonus tracks on the recent ‘The Killer Instinct’ opus – also gives an insight into the processes which go into writing and recording an album, as Warwick reveals that “nobody wanted to do it, except the people who wrote it… but, we did it anyway”.  There also is a small sprinkling of covers, with the segue of Eddie Cochran’s ‘Somethin’ Else’ and ‘Summertime Blues’ into Maiden’s ‘Running Free’ echoing Warwick’s recent ‘Stairwell Troubadour’ project., while Motorhead’s ‘Ace Of Spades’ (a staple of Warwick’s solo shows) is suitably psychotic.

The two guys are plainly having fun – Warwick jokes about Johnson’s ‘Pontiac’, renaming it ‘Ford Cortina’ for the occasion – and the latter in particular looks extremely relaxed in the company of his sparring partner and the intimate crowd.  And the audience, which is standing right back to the venue’s staircase, lap every last second of it:  the singalongs are loud and enthusiastic, with ‘Wild And Wonderful’ particularly cacophonous.

Ricky Warwick and Damon Johnson live at the Diamond Rock Club, September 2015This was an evening of rock ‘n’ roll at its purest and most natural. No glitz, no glamour.  Just two guys with guitars doing what they do best: playing music and having fun.  Yes, there are rock stars.  And then there are rock STARS.

Set list:  The Arms Of Belfast Town / No More Mr Nice Guy / All Hell Breaks Loose / Borderline / Free N Easy / Pontiac / Three Sides To Every Story / Killer Instinct / Gabrielle / Dancing In The Moonlight / Got No Shame / Hey Judas / Wild And Wonderful / Kingdom Of The Lost / Somethin’ Else / Summertime Blues / Running Free / Finest Hour / I’m Eighteen / Ace Of Spades / The Boys Are Back In Town / Bound For Glory / Born To Run / Whiskey In The Jar

  • Black Star Riders play two headline shows, at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire on Friday December 11 and Wolverhampton’s Wulfrun Hall on Thursday December 17.  Simultaneously, they also tour the UK and Ireland with Whitesnake and Def Leppard, starting at the 3 Arena in Dublin on Sunday 6 December.
  • Ricky Warwick releases his two PledgeMusic-funded solo albums, ‘When Patsy Cline Was Crazy (And Guy Mitchell Sang The Blues)’ and ‘Hearts On Trees’, via Nuclear Blast on February 26.  He also returns to the UK when Ricky Warwick And The Fighting Hearts support Stiff Little Fingers on a series of dates, starting in Oxford on February 25.
  • Photographs by The Dark Queen.  All content © PlanetMosh 2015.

About Mark Ashby

no longer planetmosh staff