Back on onetime home turf - "I lived in Dublin for seven years", he later tells the knowing crowd - Ricky Warwick and his band the Fighting Hearts are playing Dublin Academy's Green room tonight (Tuesday 15th March 2022), and despite the obvious challenges that are facing the singer, it has all the ingredients to be a special one.
He may be playing to a modest midweek crowd, but the abundance of Black Start Riders and The Almighty shirts reveal that these are diehards, and they quickly get behind their adopted son.
Kicking off with 'Gunslinger' from his most recent solo album, 2021's 'When Life Was Hard and Fast', it's clear that Ricky isn't about to go down without a fight. With guitar slung low, Warwick is in ferocious form from the off, his singing voice showing no hint of what's going on beneath the surface.
Going straight into 'Over the Edge', it's a delight to hear this Almighty classic live once more. Thirty years after parent album 'Powertrippin' gave the band UK Top 5 placing, it sounds as vital as ever. It's the first of a smattering of tracks from Warwick's former outfit, and the perfect reminder of how great the Brit Rock four-piece really were.
Keeping the talking to a minimum for obvious reasons, it's three songs in before Ricky greets the crowd; "alright Dublin, it's good to see you", he says; "it's been a long fucking time!" Confessing his ill-health, the Los Angeles-based musician continues; "I've left a little bit of my voice across the Atlantic Ocean", before proclaiming defiantly; "there's no fucking way I was cancelling any of these shows!", to the obvious delight of the room.
The first real roof-raising moment arrives soon after, when the later-day Thin Lizzy front man launces into an unexpected, but faithful rip through the Dublin heroes' timeless 'Jailbreak'. A stone's throw from the Phil Lynott statue standing on Harry Street, and just two days ahead of St Patrick's Day, it's an easy set highlight.
A simply piledriving 'Wrench' meanwhile, is preceded by a hilarious wander down memory lane to the song's creation; cue The Almighty getting "high as fuck", in 1994, endless jam sessions, and the use of Iron Maiden's gear.
It's here that the Fighting Hearts really show their prowess. Featuring members of Tax the Heat (drummer Jack Taylor), the Sisters of Mercy (guitarist Ben Christo), and The Mission (bass player Richard Vernon), Ricky's band handle the material brilliantly, confidentially recreating the sound of the original recordings, with backing vocals, harmonies, and faithful guitar solos.
Of course it's not just about his former and sometime bands, and the set spans the years of his solo albums, from 2002's 'Tattoos and Alibis' - the title track dedicated to "uncle Scotti Gorham!" - to brilliant recent single 'When Life Was Hard and Fast'.
As the night comes to a close, it's a perfect one-two to see out the evening. First comes the rousing singalong of; "a song from the day job" in Black Star Riders' brilliant 'Finest Hour', before things are taken (almost) right back to the start, with a run through The Almighty's 1991 hit 'Free and Easy'.
The odds may have been stacked against him, and a string may have snapped just as the night reaches its crescendo, but the battle-weary singer emerges triumphant. "Thanks for coming, Dublin. It's been an honour, it's been a privilege", he says, taking his bows.
Ricky Warwick and the Fighting Hearts UK and Ireland tour continues in Belfast on Wednesday night (16th March 2022). See below for remaining dates.
Wednesday 16th March 2022 - Belfast, Limelight 2
Friday 18th March 2022 - Glasgow, G2 / The Garage
Saturday 19th March 2022 - Manchester, Club Academy
Sunday 20th March 2022 - Nottingham, Rescue Rooms
Wednesday 23rd March 2022 - Wolverhampton, KK’s Steel Mill
Thursday 24th March 2022 - London, O2 Academy Islington
Friday 25th March 2022 - Bournemouth, Madding Crowd
Saturday 26th March 2022 - Swansea, Patti Pavillion