Europe / Black Star Riders. Nottingham Rock City, 10 March 2015.
Bringing a double dose of hard rock, Europe and Black Star Riders rocked the night in Dublin, as the boys were back in town.
Photo: Darren McLoughlin
The winter months have been a dark and lonely place for fans of live music. With spring about to be sprung however, the gigging calendar has at last come into life, and ushering in the new season is a double-billing of two of the most respected hard rock acts around today. Currently on a jaunt around the UK, Black Star Riders and Europe are an ideal paring. The former; an offshoot of the legendary Thin Lizzy, is a new band with a veteran history, while the later; since reforming in 2004, is a veteran band with a new history. Tonight the management stablemates were in Nottingham, at the midpoint of a tour that finds them in fiery form.
Europe may be closing this run of dates, but with both acts playing sets of an hour and ten minutes, it’s essentially an equal billing. Opening with debut single ‘Bound For Glory’, it was immediately apparent just how far Black Star Riders have come since their inception a little over two years ago. Tighter than drummer Jimmy DeGrasso’s snare drum, when the band followed with the first of many Thin Lizzy tracks in ‘Jailbreak’, it was a mesmerising one-two that immediately got the Nottingham audience on side.
“It’s great to be back in the greatest f**kin’ rock and roll club in the whole of England” boomed frontman Ricky Warwick before launching into ‘Charlie I Gotta Go’, the highlight from excellent second album ‘The Killer Instinct’. Warwick has really grown into his role as frontman, and his affect is clear for all to see, not least on the face of guitarist Scott Gorham, whose wry smile rarely left his face all night. And why would it, when his band are as tight as this? With a catalogue of future classics from “Radio 2 single of the week” ‘Finest Hour’ to Celtic-tinged rockers like ‘Soldierstown’, the band have the goods to stand on their own unabated.
However, it was the airing of tunes from the Thin Lizzy catalogue that provoked the greatest reaction. A marauding ‘Emerald’ and predictably, a rousing ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ were natural set highlights that electrified the atmosphere. Taking their bows following a celebratory mass sing along to ‘Whisky In The Jar’, Black Star Riders were a hard act to follow. They may have earlier sang about ‘going through the motions’ but tonight they were anything but.
In contrast to Black Star Riders’ highly charged, high energy set, Europe arrived on stage in a much more sobering manner. Opening with the dark title track from their latest release ‘War of Kings’ and following, as on the album with ‘Hole In My Pocket’, the change of pace was palpable. ‘Last Look At Eden’ followed, and although one of the standout tracks since the band’s 2004 reformation, with three songs in a row at a more measured tempo, it initially felt like the Swedes may have been in danger of losing the momentum that had been created earlier in the evening.
However all this changed as singer Joey Tempest announced “Nottingham rock city were back!”, introducing the first early period track of the night. “The Girl From Lebanon” was greeted rabidly, and followed by an electrifying ‘Superstitious’, the night finally started to come alive for the five-piece. From here on in it was a mix of old and new, as the Jurassic “Scream Of Anger” gave way to the seductive “Praise You” and an incendiary “Firebox”. There are however, a brace of tracks that no Europe show would be complete without, and as ‘Rock The Night’ and eventually, what else, but an anthemic ‘The Final Countdown’ brought the night to a close, it was clear that Europe were back on top form.
Tonight, Black Star Riders might have had the killer instinct, but Europe were far from yesterday’s news. The clear winner in this war of kings was the audience who got to witness a fantastic two band performance. With the boys back in town, and the tempest raging, the bar has been set high, with a bill that will be a hard bill to beat this year.
First published on gigsandfestivals.co.uk, 3 March 2015.