Black Star Riders/Blues Pills –
O2 Academy, Sheffield, Wednesday, 15th November, 2017
Set List: Lady In Gold/Little Boy Preacher/Black Smoke/Elements And Things/Highclass Women/Somebody To Love/Devil Man.
Okay, so apologies for missing the two opening bands on the bill – it was an early start at 6.45pm but I did manage to make it down for the main support and the headliner. I must say that when I found out Blues Pills were on the bill I was really buzzed and totally looking forward to them after hearing them on the plane home from Florida, USA back in January this year.
A cooking gang of Swedes that have an energetically, vibrant style that harks back to the late 60's of the West Coast of America – think Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin all in one plus a sprinkling of Hendrix in there too. Plenty of Organ in abundance, crunching, wailing guitar-work, thramming drums, thunderous bass and a vocalist who simply wears you out just watching her. She hardly keeps still for a second – leaping around the stage, jumping up and down like a gymnast on speed who has swapped here leotard for sexy stage clothes.
They grabbed the audiences attention straight away too – especially those long legs of hers. Songwise they gave us a nice selection of material from their current 2 album releases that included a cooking cover of 'Somebody To Love' that Grace Slick herself would definitely give a huge thumbs up to – her voice really is that good!
Their organist even ditched the keys and strapped on the six string, now giving us some double guitar action – what a good deal! It was as loud as hell but very enjoyable with the Sheffield crowd thanked by the band – they loved us and it's easy to say that the feeling was mutual.
I reckon they will be back sooner or later headlining a UK Tour of their own. That'll really be something. Keep it retro baby!
Set List: All Hell Breaks Loose/Finest Hour/Heavy Fire/Testify Or Say Goodbye/ Soldierstown/Before The War/Dancing With The Wrong Girl/Hey Judas/When The Night Comes In/Cold War Love/Bloodshot/Jailbreak/Ticket To Rise/Blindsided/The Killer Instinct/Kingdom Of The Lost/Bound For Glory/Whisky In The Jar.
Now like the last band, the headliners of the night, Black Star Riders are frikkin' loud too – a fact we soon knew was going to be a reality just by the instrument testing alone before the guys took to the stage. What's that old cliché again? 'If it's too loud, you're too old' – well it was a bit and I ain't old hahaha – it was good sound though – further amplified to the back of the venue with speakers specially in the ceiling – personally I prefer the Authenticity from the stage itself – but that's my preference.
Light-wise it really was killer top quality which brightened up the entire stage really well, while the Black Star Riders themselves spread out enough to make full use of it's gigantic size. Without having too much of a dig at the audience, my buddy Alan Shooter did notice that there was not a lot of atmosphere coming from the audience – they really appeared to need charging up a bit or a few more beers down their necks before they really got into the swing of things – eventually it happened though but not without a lot of work from the extremely boisterous, Ricky Warwick and the boys.
Songwise it was a solid selection of songs of BSR faves like the opening 'All Hell Breaks Loose'; 'Dancing With The Wrong Girl'; 'Before The War' and 'Ticket To Rise'. Thin Lizzy Legend, Scott Gorham getting a massive hero applause when introduced by Mr. W who still can't believe he is playing alongside him; not to mention truthfully and passionately telling us that really only music mattered and not money, power and politics. He had little trouble encouraging us to get our hands in the air and clap to one or two of the songs. This really got the vibe going to the fabulous music.
The New boy in the group, Chad Szeliga (who recently replaced Drummer, Jimmy Degrasso) shows what he can do during his solo section with the lights down low – the of the area in blackout – very intense and dramatic, I must say with Bassist, Robbie Crane joining him in the latter part of it. He's young, talented, good looking, so the fuck is he doing with us, Warwick jokes – he partly does have a point though! Only kiddin'. Talking of Robbie, he was actually hiding from the stage behind the curtain a bit when being introduced which was a bit panto' to say the least – humourous though as well as laughing about the fact that they'd dive for the same record in a store.
The Thin Lizzy numbers 'Jailbreak' and closer of the night, 'Whisky In The Jar' have the Sheffield tribe going nuts – I guess it would be a bit bizarre for them not to actually. The aesthetics and sounds were also mixed around a bit with the tattooed fronter swapping his electric for the acoustic at times, throwing a lot of interest into the gig – oh and photo opportunities too.
Microphones are shared for added coolness that's all in the name of rock 'n' roll brotherhood and then some... not to mention the whole line-up looking real slick up there and having a real respect for a lot of the irish rootage that is very apparent in the songs – in fact some could be rammed up as Celtic jigs almost.
Plenty of numbers are stuck in the set from new album 'Heavy Fire' that are lapped up and loved like their older material – in fact they segue so well that you can't even see the join. It was good to see Guitarists Damon Johnson and Ricky Warwick together with the full band, after witnessing them last year at the Local Authority in acoustic mode – how these songs really light up even more when they are given the full-on electric treatment.
Overall this was a really good night with Ricky thanking the crowd saying how f*ck*ng great we all are. The band were too actually and no doubt the folk in here are looking forward to their return some time in 2018 or at a Summer festival close by.
By Glenn Milligan