Thin Lizzy may just be the most unfortunate rock band in the world. When Metallica bassist Cliff Burton died, auditions for a replacement were held the day after his funeral. Even Lynyrd Skynyrd went on to regroup, joining with past members after losing three of their seven in a plane crash. Thin Lizzy however, lost just about the most irreplaceable frontman a rock band can lose, a black Irishman.
Phil Lynott was exceptional; his creativity, his stage presence and the unyielding commitment he showed to national stereotype, dying as a result of alcoholism, put him in a class all his own. Twenty-five years after his death therefore, one couldn’t help being sceptical about the reunion act, only half of whom were actually original band members.
It was supposed to be a celebration of Lynott’s work, but it felt like a dirge. Back In Black, a mutli-platinum release and AC/DC’s first after the death of vocalist, Bon Scott, played over the PA like an ironic comment on the half-filled, dimly lit auditorium. When opening band, The Supersuckers, came on and sang “rock n’ roll records | they ain’t selling well this year”, I had to seriously stop and consider if there was room for this much miserable irony in any one article. However, soon enough the crowd bulked out and the headliners hit the stage with ‘Are You Ready?’
Before long, the string of hits that followed had me yelling along like a battle-hardened Viking. “I’m daaaancing in the moonlight” I hollered, swinging my imaginary goblet of mead. There were some less obvious choices too; ‘Angel of Death’ for example, with full overblown keyboard intro intact, gave me a good chance to rest my throaty battle roar for ‘Still In Love With You’. Bassist Marco Mendoza was clearly a fellow Viking, pillaging all Lynott’s old stage moves, thrusting the air and paying a disproportionate amount of attention to the woman in front of me. The woman’s husband, at her side, appeared to have no battle experience.
‘Whiskey In The Jar’ and ‘Emerald’ then followed, giving hired gun Vivian Campbell, the Def Leppard axeman behind Dio’s Holy Diver, a chance to shine. The guitar duels between him and Scott Gorham were a spectacle to witness, and though I’m not sure who won, they certainly made frontman Ricky Warwick look a little redundant, standing with his acoustic guitar like a spare dick. The main setlist soon rounded up with ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’, which got a decent reaction as everyone who didn’t know any other songs woke up. Then came the obligatory, “Thank you, goodnight” before the encore.
I don’t know why bands insist on marching off stage and then traipsing back on after the crowd have made noise for two minutes; it’s like the cacophony of cheering were some tribal ritual to ward away the time constraints on the setlist. Still, despite it making bugger all difference if I participated or not, I yelled for an encore like everyone else.
Then ‘Rosalie’ and ‘Bad Reputation’ were up. At this point, I was lucky enough to catch a plectrum from the trusty, thrusty bassist, who’d tossed it to the woman in front. She looked peeved and told me she’d really wanted it. I shrugged my shoulders and moved my mouth like I was saying something that was being drowned out by the music. ‘Black Rose’ soon hit and was the last song of the night, soliciting a spirited reaction from the older Thin Lizzy veterans. Then the lights came on and I contemplated a point score out of ten.
Good: All the classics. Especially ‘Black Rose’.
Bad: Trying to think of a weak point afterward.