On paper the re-formed Thin Lizzy, which has been put together for a tour to commemorate 25 years since Phil Lynott died, reads for want of a better description, as a rock super group. Previous members of the band, Scott Gorham, Brian Downey and Darren Wharton are joined by Def Leppards Vivian Campbell on guitar, Marco Mendoza ex Whitesnake and Ted Nugent on bass and Ricky Warwick, ex The Almighty, on guitar and lead vocals. Read some of the comments from a number of Thin Lizzy fans on the internet and they doubt the validity of the line-up, but personally, I think this is a close as there could be to the true spirit of the band, without obviously the great man. While Lynott was the main focus, being one of the greatest rock front men ever, original member Downey on drums and guitarist Gorham who played through the “classic” Lizzy years, were just as much an integral part of the sound as the revered vocalist. Downey’s return to the fold in particular gives the band an authenticity that I’m sure the majority of fans can appreciate.
From the perspective of the audience in the Apollo tonight, the main focus initially was on Ricky Warwick and how he would shape up in the roll of their hero. The time for talking was over and it was now up to Warwick to show that he could handle this pivotal role. Straight from opening track “Are You Ready,” any fears he might not be up to the job were dispelled and it was obvious that his inclusion was a totally inspired decision. He has been quoted on many occasions saying there was only one Phil Lynott who can never be replaced and thankfully, Warwick doesn’t even try. He comes across as a down to earth guy, who, as a fan of Thin Lizzy himself, has been given the opportunity of a lifetime, which he’s grabbed by the scruff of the neck and is extremely reluctant to let go of. There’s no attempt to sound like anyone other than himself, but the gruff tone of his voice seems to fit perfectly with the songs and his energy and passion creates a real connection with the audience. At a conservative estimate, I’d suggest that the whole theatre were convinced by Warwick by the end of the first song, probably even sooner.
As a band, this was Thin Lizzy back to their blistering best and as someone who had the privilege of seeing the group three times in the early eighties, I can honestly say that I have never heard Lynott’s songs played any better. The musicianship was just phenomenal and both Campbell and Mendoza fit into the mix absolutely perfectly. Campbells guitar style sits so naturally alongside Scott Gorham, probably better than anyone since Brian Robertson, and in some ways he seems to have rejuvenated the veteran axe man. The solos in “Still In Love With You,” were just out of this world with both Les Pauls producing such beautiful sounds that it reduced an old rocker to a quivering wreck.
Further highlights of the gig, where do I start. The segues of “Dancing in the Moonlight” / “Massacre” and “Cowboy Song” / “Boys are back in town,” while clichéd in some ways, as that’s exactly how they were played on the classic album “Live and Dangerous” seemed perfectly fitting in the circumstances. There was also a clever little tweak to the lyrics in “Cowboy Song” with Warwick proclaiming “Phil’s still riding here with us” - highlighting that although Lynott is of this earth no longer, he’ll never be not forgotten and as everybody is aware, without his song writing genius, these masterpieces wouldn’t exist. There was a further tribute to Lynott later in the gig, as his image was projected onto the big screen with band and crowd respectfully paying homage to their hero.
There was hardly time to take breath as classic after classic was ripped through in magnificent style, “Waiting For An Alibi,” “Jailbreak” and “Don’t Believe A Word” were all gratefully accepted and a special mention must also go to the bands version of “Whisky in the Jar,” which in the hands of this line up, just rocked like never before.
From my position at the side of the room, I had very little view of the light show, big screen and back drop of the stage. What I could see perfectly however was a fantastic, old fashioned, foot on the monitor heavy rock show, which even included a (mercifully not too long) Brian Downey drum solo, highlighting his wealth of talent behind the kit and how important his position is and always has been to the legacy of Thin Lizzy.
As the crowd left the Apollo with the strains of “The Rocker” still ringing in their ears, all the comments being made were to a man (and woman,) endorsing what an incredible gig this had been and I can’t imagine any true fan left feeling they’d been short changed in any way. If you were at all unsure about the validity of the new Thin Lizzy as the real deal, I can set your mind at rest, and without a doubt, I’m still in love with this band, all over again.
Are You Ready
Waiting For An Alibi
Do Anything You Want To
Don’t Believe A Word
Dancing In The Moonlight
Angel Of Death
Still In Love With You
Whisky In The Jar
Sha La La La
The Boys Are Back In Town