Review by Sean Palmerston; Concert photography by Albert Mansour
My curiosity was peaked when I found out a newly reformed version of Thin Lizzy was back together and touring again. Of course, this was not the first time the band had done this. For much of the early 2000s a version of the band led by John Sykes on vocals and guitar had been playing the support role for many classic rock tours. I had the chance to see them play Toronto’s Massey Hall opening for Deep Purple back in 2004 and thought that they honestly stole the show.
Sykes announced his departure from the new Thin Lizzy a few years back and, instead of putting the band to rest, guitarist Scott Gorham decided to rebuild the band into the strongest line up since Phil Lynott was still alive and fronting the group. This latest version of Thin Lizzy features Gorham and Vivian Campbell on twin lead guitars, Marco Mendoza on bass, Darren Wharton on keyboards, original TL drummer Brian Downey back behind the kit and Ricky Warwick of The Almighty on vocals and guitar. Having been a regular Kerrang! reader over the past 20 years I had read a lot about The Almighty, but since they pretty much are a UK only sensation I had never heard Warwick sing and had no idea if he could pull this stuff off.
Well, let me tell you something. He definitely can.
Starting the show off with a seamless segue from set opener “Are You Ready” straight into “Waiting For An Alibi”, it became clear right away that this wasn’t some thrown together slapdash attempt at cashing in on the band’s previous glories. This six piece band is tight as hell and know the material inside out. The first real highlight of the night came when the band pulled out “Jailbreak” as only the third song of the evening. It was the first chance of the evening for the guitar pyrotechnics to explode, with Gorham and Campbell trading some fiery licks back and forth (and Campbell proving he still has some balls despite playing guitar in one of the most flaccid rock bands in the universe, Def Leppard, for most of the past two decades).
Warwick’s presentation of those classic Lynott vocals was done tastefully in his own style. Instead of trying to sound like a Lynott clone, Warwick instead let his own voice (which honestly isn’t that far away from Lynott’s) follow its own course. He has enough character to do this and did it very well. The same can be said for Marco Mendoza’s bass playing. He’s a strong player in his own right that has a style similar to but not exactly the same as Lynott’s. Nonetheless, he’s a great fit in this band and, when paired with the solid Brian Downey, really helped root the band on this evening.
The setlist the band presented in Toronto was about as solid as they come. Frantic rockers like “Massacre” mixed in with with more emotional songs like “Dancing In The Moonlight” and “Still In Love With You” made for a well-paced show. It was sort of surprising to hear them play “Whiskey In The Jar”, but I guess when Metallica releases their cover of your song as a single one has to remember where and how their bread is buttered. It was a great version of the song as well, which definitely made hearing it a nice surprise. I was personally a little disappointed that they decided to play no songs at all from the Thunder And Lightning album, one of my personal favourites, but even without those there was no lack of ace tunes performed.
The set ended with a huge bang, courtesy of two of the band’s biggest songs. “Cowboy Song” has always been a crowd pleaser and it surely was this night as well, with Warwick asking the crowd to howl like a coyote into the desert sky. The song blew right into the set’s finale of “The Boys Are Back In Town”, their biggest radio hit in North America which is now immortalized thanks to beer commercials and almost pre-requisite play at every major sporting event across Canada and the USA. Everyone in the crowd had their fists in the air in appreciation, with the 800+ strong crowd more than happy to soak it all in.
This was a solid, almost surprisingly good show. I went into it expecting that it would be good, but honestly Thin Lizzy circa 2011 is much, much better than I expected. This line up has great chemistry, the playing is excellent and the whole package was put together very well: loud but clear sound mix, an excellent lighting rig and those songs… every one is a classic. The only problem seemed to be the lack of keyboards in the mix. You could see Wharton playing them, but couldn’t hear them most of the time. Small quibbles aside, this was a monster show and definitely one that will make sure via word of mouth that Thin Lizzy will have twice as many paying customers the next time the boys are back in town.
Are You Ready
Waiting For An Alibi
Do Anything You Want To
Don’t Believe A Word
Dancing in the Moonlight (It’s Caught Me in Its Spotlight)
Angel of Death
Still In Love With You
Whiskey in the Jar
Sha La La
The Boys Are Back In Town
Killer On The Loose