Live - March 27, 2011 The Starland Ballroom
Words by Dave Iozzia - Photos by Phil Laskowski
Are You Ready To Rock?
The classic rock band Thin Lizzy certainly was during their March 27, 2011 gig at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey.
The boys were back in town again, with a kick-ass new lineup, and I was "dancing in the moonlight" all night long. I was bopping throughout their almost two-hour set that featured so many songs from the soundtrack to my youth. I was jumping up and down in place, trying to keep warm, as I stood in the frigid cold outside the venue after the show trying to snag a few autographs. And I was scrambling, running around up until five minutes before Thin Lizzy took the stage, trying to resolve a snafu with my tickets and photo pass. All for the love of rock and roll, everything fell into place with minutes to spare.
Radio personality Eddie Trunk talked about Thin Lizzy's legacy and their new lineup during his onstage introduction. Some of the hardcore Thin Lizzy fans I chatted with before and after the show debated about the changes in the band's lineup. One person even stated that this lineup was the definitive lineup to honor the legacy of Thin Lizzy's late great frontman Phil Lynott. I won't wax poetic about that topic. Thin Lizzy simply has a "new" lineup. My humble opinion is voiced by a rabid music fan who's been around long enough to have seen a Phil Lynott-led Thin Lizzy in the late 70s open up for Queen at Madison Square Garden. My opinion is that the only Thin Lizzy lineup worthy of "definitive" status is a possible future four-piece lineup. It would have a bass player who sings lead vocals standing dead center, with lead guitarist Scott Gorham to his left, another lead guitarist to his right, and original drummer Brian Downey behind him.
That being said, Thin Lizzy's "new" lineup is top-notch. Brian Downey is back on drums, joined in the rhythm section by bass guitarist Marco Mendoza. He's played bass in a few different lineups over the last 15 years, as has keyboardist Darren Wharton. Scott Gorham continues as one lead guitarist. He's joined in the new Thin Lizzy lineup by current Def Leppard and ex-Whitesnake guitarist Vivian Campbell. The new frontman, Ricky Warwick, added guitar, both electric and acoustic, and harmonica to the band's onstage formula.
Ricky did an incredible job. His vocal range and Irish accent were hauntingly reminiscent of Phil Lynott's. During many a song introduction, Ricky paid homage to Phil, who's scepter and influence hover over any version of Thin Lizzy. Rick's bit of harmonica on "Cowboy Song" was a cool touch, as was his acoustic guitar strumming on a few others. He also stepped away from the musical instruments on a handful of songs. I'm familiar with Ricky through his work with the Los Angeles-based Circus Diablo and U.K.-based The Almighty. Seeing him live for the first time left me very impressed with his frontman abilities.
Tommy Aldridge and Michael Lee drummed in the last two Thin Lizzy lineups that I saw live. Brian Downey's return, after co-founding Thin Lizzy in 1969 with Phil Lynott and departing in 1998, added relevance to the new lineup.
Vivian Campbell is a curious addition to the band. At the New Jersey show I attended, he shunned the spotlight and front of the stage. His guitar work did all of the talking. His body language made it clear that this was Scott Gorham's band and that Vivian is a hired gunslinger.
Thin Lizzy's setlist was a "greatest hits" set with a few songs that surprised me. I don't know if songs like "Angel of Death," "Wild One," or "Black Rose" were in the setlist of any of the Thin Lizzy tours that I missed over the last decade, yet they were surprise additions for me. As was "Sha La La," with Brian Downey's pounding drum solo. Thin Lizzy's take on the Irish folk ballad "Whiskey in the Jar," with the audience singing along on the chorus, was the evening's highlight for me. "Cowboy Song," with the audience's weak attempts at a coyote call, is always another of my favorites. Especially when that song leads into "The Boys Are Back in Town" as it does on the band's 1978 double live album "Live and Dangerous." Brian Downey's drum tech Anthony (thanks for the drumsticks!!) placed floor toms in front of Vivian, Ricky, and Scott for a pounding percussion intro to "Do Anything You Want To." That song, and "Massacre," are the final highlights that I'll mention. Yet the night was filled with them, and I highly recommend grabbing a ticket whenever Thin Lizzy rolls into a town near you.
After the show, I spotted Guns N' Roses lead guitarist Bumblefoot. He's a New Jersey resident, a great guitarist, and a big music fan. I've run into him at many a show, including performances by U.F.O. and Lita Ford. Bumblefoot said he loved Thin Lizzy's show. "I've seen them with (John) Sykes and I enjoyed 'em just as much tonight. Great show, great players, great songs." If you "don't believe a word" of mine, take it from Bumblefoot. Thin Lizzy is back in town. With a vengeance!