EUROPE, Black Star Riders, The Amorettes @Civic Hall, Wolverhampton 14/3/15


The best package this year so far rolls into Wolverhampton 

According to Planet Rock’s Paul Anthony who is – as usual – acting as compare, Scotland’s The Amorettes rock like Girlschool. We’ll see him that and raise him The Runaways and Motörhead. The all-girl trio stride confidently onto the stage and proceed for half an hour to rock the hell out of everything they’ve got. There’s a swagger, a rumble and Classic Rock crunch here that makes them the perfect opening act tonight. “Grab The Bull By The Horns” is great fun and, whatever closing tune “Hot And Heavy” is about, it probably isn’t an afternoon at the gym. The Amorettes are here to make a positive impression and that’s just what they do. Expect to see a lot more of them.

So from the ashes of the greatest hard rock band ever comes the best new one. When MVM saw Black Star Riders first ever gig getting on for two years ago, singer Ricky Warwick said they’d be playing 200 shows a year and releasing album after album. Little did we know he meant every word. 

Already on number two – the brilliant “The Killer Instinct” just out – and this is about their third full tour of the UK too. Thus, even at this point in their evolution BSR are as slick and well drilled as they can be, and have a collection of songs that most bands would kill for. 

It helps, of course, when you open with the best song of the last five years in “Bound For Glory” and then follow it up with one of the finest ever in “Jailbreak.”  As that would indicate, their 75 minutes is a glorious mixture of Thin Lizzy and their own songs – but then if anyone has earned the right to play Lizzy its Scott Gorham (billed tonight by Warwick as “the best guitarist this side of Cannock”) And in Alabama native Damon Johnson he’s found his perfect foil. The two drive the melody and in Warwick they have one of the best frontmen around. There has been a change in the ranks since that very first tour and ex Ratt Bass man Robbie Crane brings incredible energy to the show as he did last year.

The songs are impeccable. The new ones “Charlie I Gotta Go” and “Going Through The Motions” are superb as is the title track, while the first album is mined for – among others – “Kingdom Of The Lost” and Bloodshot” and with THAT back catalogue from THAT other band to mine, for christs sake “The Boys Are Back In Town,” Rosalie” and closing song “Whiskey In The Jar,” have there ever been better songs? BSR can’t – and don’t – fail. No longer Thin Lizzy perhaps, but no one will ever channel the spirit of Philip Paris Lynott this brilliantly ever again.

It was never going to end well. Joey Tempest might know better at his age than to ask if there’s any questions. Nonetheless, that’s what the Europe man does. “Do you have a question for us, madam?” He enquires politely. “Get your kit off” comes the reply. Good to know that, even after all this time, Tempest is still the housewives choice then…..

Down to business, and the headline act – although if we are honest BSR seem to have more of the crowd – are another with a new album out. “War Of Kings” has been out six days at show time. A brave decision then, to open with two songs from it, in the title track and and “Hole in My Pocket” but that’s what they do. 

“…..Kings” is – like everything the band have touched since they reformed – a mighty fine record, full of what we might term, grandiose hard rock, but there’s a problem. You see, most of the crowd don’t appear to know these songs their set lacks some if the visceral immediacy of BSR’s. That’s not to say that Europe aren’t a superb band, who are playing their superb songs….urmmm superbly, just that where what had gone before was akin to a great band playing in the best bar in the world, Europe’s section seems a little cold. 

Which is a shame, because latter day Europe music is marvellous. “Last Look At Eden” is brilliantly pompous, “Riches To Rags” is a belter and, when the public have more time with the new record then “Praise You” with its huge, sultry grooves will surely become a favourite. 

They might not have Thin Lizzy’s legacy to call upon, but Europe have their own and whilst it might be a frustration for the band that songs like “Superstitious” go down so much better than the new ones, they still gleefully play it. 

All those thoughts are banished, though, when three from the end they begin to play the two that everyone knows. “Rock The Night” is great yes, but “The Final Countdown” has iconic status because it’s a brilliant song. Always has been, and always will be. 

Tonight was a night full to the brim with them. Two of the finest rock bands around, and clearly one of the most promising of the young breed. However Black Star Riders are, on this form, unstoppable. Dare we say they are bound for glory……?

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