When a band like Black Star Riders roll through the UK, any rock fan worth their salt should be there. Armed with their latest album, Another State of Grace, it’s guaranteed to be a great night, especially with this now being a full headline set due to Biff Byford’s recent health issues putting paid to them opening for Saxon (reportedly, he’s in great spirits and well on the way to recovery and we wish him the best). Add in Wayward Sons with their own new album and it’s a night you’d be daft to miss.
Taking to the stage to the dark opening strains of “Any Other Way”, Wayward Sons immediately make their presence known, hitting it like a sonic tidal wave. And the crowd dutifully return in kind where you’d be forgiven for mistaking this for their own headline gig. It’s a great response to a support band and it only gets more enthusiastic as their time onstage passes in the blink of an eye.
The new tracks from The Truth Ain’t What it Used to Be such as “Little White Lies”, “The Joke’s On You” and the title track work excellently live and have just as warm a response as older numbers like “Ghost” and “Crush”. The band act as one cohesive unit, as well-oiled as they could be, well into tour mode by now. With Toby Jepson mixing the order of the setlist at one moment, the band don’t miss a step. It’s a dynamic, fully-charged hard rock feast, straddling the line between classic and modern tones, dual guitars mingle with keys and foot-tapping rhythms.
Even visually, it’s a treat and it’s hard to know who is enjoying themselves more: the band or the crowd. As “Until the End” aptly signals the end of the set, the band, making their umpteenth appearance in Glasgow have once again conquered and as the depart, there’s a sense when they come back to headline, a large portion of the crowd will be back.
If Wayward Sons had a deafening response, Black Star Riders’ arrival on stage is rapturous. The quintet trail out and as Ricky Warwick and Scott Gorham make their appearance, the volume increases evermore. Hammering through “Another State of Grace”, “The Killer Instinct”, “All Hell Breaks Loose” and “Testify or Say Goodbye”, it sets the tone immediately. With not a dud album to their name, and a case could be made for each being better than the last, it’s great to see each of them getting their fair shake and it continues for the rest of the night with songs like “Hey Judas”, “Bloodshot”, “Soldierstown”, “Ticket to Rise” and “Dancing With the Wrong Girl” all peppered throughout with a healthy dose of numbers from the new album.
Working with a new lineup, there’s a palpable chemistry between them where you’d think this iteration had been playing together for a number of years. In particular, guitarist Christian Martucci constantly prowls the stage, bringing a fresh, youthful energy to the band. Not trying to be his predecessor, Damon Johnson, there’s a new dynamic between the five of them and has his own twist on the older numbers. Looking slightly out of place with more of a punk vibe and adding that into the music, it’s injected a new rawness to them and between it all, it works. Between he, bassist Robbie Crane, Warwick and Gorham are giving it their all and showmen each in their own right without trying to outdo one another or be flash just for the sake of it.
In particular, Warwick commands the stage with ease, telling a humorous anecdote about his daughter and buying a Billie Eilish record, poetically introducing “Why Do You Love Your Guns” and leading the “Here we fucking go chant” (which, for the record, should be on the scrapheap alongside disco, 8-tracks and MySpace). With the band firing on all cylinders, they refuse to let up and from the start until the end, they have the audience in their grasp as riffs from Gorham and Martucci bounce off each other with Warwick providing additional licks on electric and acoustic guitars to add extra depth. Meanwhile, Crane and drummer Chad Szeglia (maybe buried at the back but just as present as those in front) combine to make for some meaty rhythms and will have you nodding and bouncing along.
If there’s any sign of the band flagging, it’s hidden well and as they hit the final few songs, starting with “When the Night Comes In”, it’s as fast and furious as they can be, but for the final round of it, somehow, they go even harder. However, “Finest Hour” signals the end is indeed in sight and it’s obvious which songs are going to be the encore. “Kingdom of the Lost” follows on. So only one song to come back out for? Nope. “Bound For Glory” has the band going for broke and they eschew the idea of an encore. There’s a sense that they could have kept going and making the most of unfortunate circumstances, to simply open for the mighty Saxon, as great as that night would have been, it would have meant this didn’t happen. Quite possibly, the best they’ve ever been and yet to falter; the new album and line-up make Black Star Riders as potent as they’ve ever been.
Photos by Pete Agate