The last few months of the year are always incredibly busy in the UK with bands from all over the world doing the rounds. In the run-up to it, March this year looks like it should be slotted between October and November. Regardless of the time of year, a touring lineup like this is one you set aside the time for: Black Star Riders ably supported by hometown boys Gun and Swedes Backyard Babies.
With an early start for tonight’s showcase, Backyard Babies get things started. Their blend of sleaze and punk with grit makes for a great opener. With every band on the bill playing their own brand of rock, they all share the same core tenet: to go out and entertain with upbeat rock and roll. The Swedes deliver a polished show which only comes from playing together for almost three decades. And with their hiatus firmly in their rearview mirror, there’s a fresh energy there along with what comes from being part of a great lineup of bands.
Having originally billed the two nights at Glasgow as co-headlining nights with Gun and Black Star Riders taking turns to close the night, the hometown band are now given an extended support. Unfazed, they set out to ensure both the crowd and the five piece themselves have a good night. Sadly, I missed the start of the set due to interviewing Black Star Riders’ Damon Johnson, coming back into the room halfway through their rendition of “Word Up”. However, catching the vast majority of the set, it was great to see Gun once more.
They’re one of those bands who are just good fun and don’t need any gimmicks to make it so. The crowd themselves are more than up for tonight with the feeling that many people in the room are here for Gun. The current lineup has gelled well together and shows no sign in stopping with Dante Gizzi announcing a new album and hopefully another end of the year show at the Barrowlands. Hitting with their staples like “Don’t Say it’s Over”, “Shame on You”, “Better Days” and “Steal Your Fire”, you realise that these are fantastic songs and just how many great songs Gun have in their back catalogue. With the final bow taken to a cover of “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)”, the people who bought their ticket for them are well justified in doing so.
Backed by plumes of smoke, Black Star Riders waste no time in laying down the law. Gun may have had the honour of playing to their home town but tonight’s headliners assert their dominance with the opening song of “Heavy Fire”. Rattling through their three albums, the band have cherry-picked the best material from them. They’re all songs which make you want to kick back and have a good time and the crowd obviously feel the same way.
It’s the hard rock of yesteryear but manages to transcends the generations with teenagers next to the people who remember the Apollo fondly. Songs like “Testify or Say Goodbye”, “When the Night Comes In” and “Dancing With the Wrong Girl” nestle themselves in perfectly with older material like “All Hell Breaks Loose”, “The Killer Instinct” and “Bound for Glory”.
The triple-headed guitar attack of Scott Gorham, Ricky Warwick and Damon Johnson delivers crushing riffs and create modern-day anthems alongside Warwick’s massive choruses. Warwick doesn’t spend the entire night strapped to his guitars (electric and acoustic), allowing Gorham and Johnson to bounce off each other. There’s a great sense of mutual respect between the pair, Johnson treating Gorham as the elder statesman but is clearly comfortable letting Johnson take the lead in moments.
At the halfway point, the band take time to cover Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town” and from the instantly recognisable opening riff, everyone in the room is singing the lyrics alongside Warwick.
Songs like “Soldierstown” and “Cold War Love” are the only times the band drop a gear and it’s also where Warwick’s songwriting ability truly shines. It’s where he goes from a brilliant songwriter to a bona fide storyteller, lyrics rich with imagery, something which crops up again in the Celtic-infused “Kingdom of the Lost”. There’s a great chemistry between the five men onstage with their high-octane rock and its timeless sound. There are some legitimate anthems lodged in their back catalogue and whilst it may still be too soon to tell, they’ve been constructed to stand the test of time.
“Bound for Glory” and “Finest Hour” round out the evening with no encore and having only had ten minutes more than Gun, it still had the feeling of a co-headlining night.
All photos by Gavin Lowrey