It’s a discussion which has been held in bar rooms up and down the land – and, indeed, on these very pages: the merits and demerits of what happens after an iconic band loses one of its pivotal members – and particularly someone in turn as iconic as their frontman. It is a debate which raged following the death of Freddie Mercury – and, to a lesser extent, that of Philip Lynott. Many fans – and I must admit to counting myself among them at one stage – regarded subsequent incarnations of Thin Lizzy as a mere “tribute band”, a hollow imitation of what had gone before (especially in the awful John Sykes era) – a cash cow milking the great man’s legacy.
The arrival of Ulsterman Ricky Warwick into the ranks seemed to re-energize the band and at the same time re-establish their credibility among both faithfully longstanding and wavering fans: himself a lifelong fan of the band, the tattooed frontman seemed the ideal person to pay the appropriate respect to Lizzy’s legacy – in the process winning over many previous sceptics and heralding one of the most commercially successful eras since the band’s heyday. The news that the band had started writing new material, while greeted with some scepticism in some quarters, was generally welcomed as a positive step forward in not only helping to cement that all-important legacy but in taking Lizzy forward…
Then, the bombshell dropped: it was announced that, not only would the new album not be issued under the Lizzy name – mainly due, it’s reported, to the intervention of Philo’s mum, Philomena – but that, as of the end of 2012, the band also was to cease touring. Which brings me to the reason for 600+ sweaty rockers braving a freezing cold Wednesday evening – to pay homage and farewell (if it is indeed that) to their heroes, and say thank you for more than 40 years of amazing music.
For openers Trucker Diablo, this was their dream gig… Two years ago, an (ultimately unsuccessful) online petition had been raised campaigning for the Co Armagh quartet to support their idols at the nearby Belfast Waterfront: after all, there was a direct connection between the two bands (apart from the fact that they’re both from the island of Ireland) – the then newly-recruited Warwick had featured as a guest vocalist on the Truckers’ debut album… anyway, wind the clock forward and the Big Truck finally rolled onto the same stage… and delivered on of the most blistering and powerful sets this reviewer (and most of those present) has ever seen from the foursome.
Always a band to get any audience singing and dancing along, Tom and the crew truly are at the top of their game this evening, delivering a combination of tracks from their about-to-be-completed second album, ‘Songs Of Iron’ – with ‘Drive’ showing an edgier, more aggressive edge and ‘The Rebel’ having all the hallmarks of a future anthem – alongside blistering crowd-pleasing favourites such as ‘Voodoo’ and their trademark call to ‘Drink Beer, Destroy’ – which even had Warwick himself throwing the horns from the side of the stage… They finished off with the fitting Lizzy tribute, ‘Evil Marie’, a song which just sounds better and better the more I hear it. Look out for the Big Truck in 2013 – it’s going to be a huge year for them \m/
Earlier in the afternoon, reports had emerged that Warwick was ill – and possibly extremely so: in fact, the promoters had to send for medical help, and the frontman received a cortisone injection to help him continue with the show… well, he certainly showed no signs of it, as he and the other five Lizzies asked ‘Are You Ready?’: the only person who wasn’t was the soundman, who took a few seconds to wake up and switch the frontman’s microphone on!
What followed was what we in Norn Iron do best – a riot! Only this was a rock ‘n’ roll one, with the band playing their hearts out and the audience responding by singing their lungs out to each and every tune.
‘Don’t Believe A Word’ was as magnificent as it ever has been, Marco Mendoza’s thwomping bass proffered a funked up ‘Dancing In The Moonlight’, ‘Waiting For An Alibi’ swaggered with all its panache, ‘Still In Love With You’ (with Darren Wharton sharing lead vocals) was soulful and brought a tear to more than a few eyes, ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ brought the house down, as did ‘Emerald’, on which Damon Johnson produced yet another stunning guitar performance, ‘Cowboy Song’ was simply breath-taking and the encore coupling of ‘Rosalie’ and an emotion-charged ‘Roisin Dubh’ could not have been a more perfect curtain closer.
With Warwick very much leading from the front, and Brian Downey and Scott Gorham both wreathed in smiles – with the former still demonstrating why he always has been one of the best and most under-rated drummers in the business – this was a band who were proving that, far from being put out to pasture prematurely they were bowing out gracefully and energetically – albeit with a hint that “the boys will be back in town soon…”
If this is indeed the sun going down on Lizzy’s long and storied career, then there could be no more fitting way for them to bow out. They certainly have left their fans still very much in love with them, and have sealed the legacy of both Lizzy in general and Lynott in particular forever in the hearts of true fans of real rock music. On behalf of those many fans, I humbly say “thank you”. Until the next time?
Are You Ready? / Jailbreak / Don’t Believe A Word / Killer On The Loose / Chinatown / Dancing In The Moonlight / Massacre / Waiting For An Alibi / Still In Love With You / Damon Johnson guitar solo / Whiskey In The Jar / Emerald / Suicide / Cowboy Song / The Boys Are Back In Town
Rosalie / Roisin Dubh (Black Rose)
Thin Lizzy’s ‘Farewell Tour’ continues:
Saturday December 15th – O2 ABC, Glasgow (with Afterlife)
Sunday December 16th – O2 Academy, Leeds (with Jettblack)
Monday December 17th – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London (with The Quireboys)
Photographs by Marc Leach: http://www.marcleachphotography.com
‘Thin Lizzy: The Boys Are Back In Town’, by Scott Gorham and Harry Doherty, has just been published by Omnibus Press: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Thin-Lizzy-Boys-Back-Town/dp/1780384327/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1355496397&sr=1-1