Thursday, June 20, 2024

Black Star Riders, Tax The Heat @ The Asylum, Birmingham

Finally, the much anticipated Birmingham and final leg of the Black Star Riders & Tax The Heat mini-tour had arrived. The almost oppressively warm Asylum was about to get even warmer judging by the packed venue. The good people at Planet Rock Live had assembled two of the finest bands currently on the circuit, the awesome Black Star Riders and relative new kids on the block, the very exciting and talented Tax The Heat.

Tax the Heat

Tax The Heat

Planet Rock’s Paul Anthony, our host for the evening and great admirer of Tax the Heat – affording them much airplay on his radio show. Opening for Black Star Riders tonight, these likeable lads took to the stage as neatly coiffured and sharply dressed as you’ll ever see a band, although to some the “look” seems to be somewhat incongruous with their music. Personally, I like the contrast, and the reaction of the Asylum crowd seemed to suggest agreement with this viewpoint.

Opening with ‘Devil’s Daughter’ the underlying blues influences are obvious. Taken from the band’s self-titled EP and only release to date, this had an immediate impact on the now sweltering audience. Jack Taylor’s raw drum sound and Antonio Angotti’s slick bass playing are the bedrock on which JP Jacyshyn’s guitars and Alex Veale’s vocals flourish and impress.

tax the heatA ten track set was delivered with great energy and drive, and with material as strong as Tax The Heat have, surely an album is just around the corner. Highlights for me were the opening ‘Devil’s Daughter’, a great cover of the The YardbirdsLost Woman’ and, not surprisingly, the much aired ‘Fed To The Lions’ (watch official video below). If you like 60s and 70s rhythm, blues and classic rock – plus a bit of good old rock (and that’s rock expertly thrown into the mix), then these are your guys!

Black Star Riders

With the heat in the Asylum not abating and sweaty bodies in abundance, the culmination of an eight date tour was soon upon us. Announced and introduced by Paul Anthony as Thin Lizzy reincarnated, the band now known as Black Star Riders took to the stage. Sure, for some, this would be a nostalgic journey celebrating the great music that Thin Lizzy gave us, but Black Star Riders have their own album ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ – from which we were treated to nine songs out of the seventeen played in the main set.

black star riders

Since I last saw Black Star Riders, they’ve had a new arrival in the bass department. A lot of people were sad to hear of Marco Mendoza’s departure and he will be missed, but rest assured that his replacement, Robbie Crane (ex-Ratt), totally fills that slot and then some! Apart from the fact that he is annoyingly good looking and fit, he is a darned good bassist and has amazing stage presence, interacting well with the other band members.

As good as Black Star Riders own material is, the injection of the odd Thin Lizzy song into the set seemed to bring out a little extra from the crowd who were now past caring about how hot and sultry the conditions were. The trademark guitar harmonies were ever present throughout and executed brilliantly and perfectly. Damon Johnson has to be one of the coolest axe men around and evergreen Scott Gorham just does what he does, and has always done, that is playing great guitar and being the inspiration that makes Black star Riders who they are. Strangely though, Scott seemed to let the rest of the band work the stage whilst he just effortlessly made his Gibson sing, only occasionally joining with Damon centre stage for a twin lead guitar session.

black star ridersJimmy DeGrasso was plagued by the flu last time I saw the band, so I made allowances when I reviewed that night. Tonight showed just how he can really operate when firing on all cylinders! Vocalist Ricky Warwick, who co-wrote most of the Black Star Rider originals with Damon Johnson, has a gritty, genuine rock voice which keeps the Thin Lizzy sound well and truly alive. A man who enjoys his work? Without a doubt!

Since the release of ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’, the live set hasn’t changed that much, but when songs like ‘Jailbreak‘ can sound so fresh after so many years (and there are probably many younger fans), is that so bad?

black star riders

Following this short tour, the guys are Nashville bound to work on their new album working with renowned producer, Nick Raskulinecz. I dare say we may see a few changes following that album release …but when touring, which songs will they cut? Decisions decisions!

The night just wouldn’t have been complete without ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ and the Bob Seger classic ‘Rosalie’, so that’s exactly what we got as the encore, as well as a very tasty solo from Damon Johnson whilst the rest of the band enjoyed an extra couple of minutes breather before their finale. If Phil Lynott was looking down from a passing cloud, I can only guess at the size of the smile on his face.

Set list : All Hell Breaks Loose, Are You Ready, Bloodshot, Bad Reputation, Before The War, Jailbreak, Hoodoo Voodoo, Suicide, Kingdom Of The Lost, Hey Judas, Southbound, Kissing the Ground, Valley Of The Stones, Emerald, Bound For Glory, Cowboy Sons, Boys Are Back In Town, Damon Johnson solo, Whiskey In The Jar, Rosalie.

Photos by Lisa Billingham –

Robert Billingham
Robert Billingham
My wife Lisa and I have our own photographiy/video company and I manage the studio we have now set up. Normally working as a couple I tend to be the review part of the team, occasionally treating my Canon to an outing when needed. I believe in being honest, fair and constructive - we owe it to all those who perform for our entertainment.! Thanks for having me, Team RAMzine.

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