Saturday, 4 June 2011
819 THIN LIZZY, The Union, Swindon MECA (Music and Entertainment Cultural Arena), Thursday 2 June 2011
Shall I tell my Phil Lynott story? Okay, here goes… as a skinny little early teen, I whiled away many a balmy Summer evening hanging out on Swindon Railway Station; yes, it’s true, I was a teenage trainspotter! Anyway, one such Summer eve, a train pulled in and the first class compartment slowed to a stop next to my seat. Through the window I could see the occupants, and recognised one; a wiry leather spray-clad man with a candyfloss puff of jet black hair, and a gorgeous and nubile blonde draped provocatively over him. I reached for my notebook and scribbled, “are you Phil Lynott?” on it, pressing it up to the carriage window. This elicited a nod and a thumbs-up, and I then wrote, “thought so,” and held that up, to general hilarity from the great man.
I recalled that, when I’d heard that the next MECA rock booking was Thin Lizzy, Lynott’s classic 70’s rock band, a band which, more so than any other 70’s “rock” group, had an affinity and alignment with the burgeoning punk movement, Lynott hanging out with the Sex Pistols back in the day. As a result, I’d always admired them (even before my meeting with Phil!) without being a huge fan. I took a late shout on this one, however, given my Ant-ics the previous night, and also with trepidation that without Phil, sadly 25 years gone now, it just wouldn’t be the same... nevertheless, I drove up about 8.30, paying on the door and hitting the amply-filled venue while support band The Union were on. A gang of old rockers, they played some formulaic hard rock and occasional power balladry, which nevertheless went down well with the crowd of similar old rockers and middle-aged couples revisiting their wild youth, and which was alright for what it was.
Chatted with an old friend at the bar, filling time usefully as Thin Lizzy kept us waiting for ¾ hour! Yipe! Eventually, they emerged at 9.45, a 6-piece comprising 3 “original” members from their halcyon 70’s days, and 3 younger “guest” performers, bedecked in de rigeur rock hair, sleeveless shirts and full body tattooing. They played it hard and heavy from the outset, with a rocking opening number similar to Cheap Trick’s “Good Evening Ladies And Gentlemen”, not the only similarity in evidence tonight to a Trick gig!
Despite appearances, the “new” guys were nothing if not authentic; Guns & Roses lead guitar man Richard Fortus did a fine job of replicating the late Gary Moore’s snaking power-chord riffery, and dovetailed very well with “original” member Scott Gorham. Vocalist Ricky Warwick, of The Almighty, had the most unenviable task, and whilst not able to replicate Lynott’s smooth, smoky voice, did an admirable job of emulating his laid back and laconic, almost conversational vocal style. He also admirably deflected attention from himself to focus on the Lizzy legend (“I thought I’d gathered some rock’n’roll stories in 24 years – then I had a call to join the greatest rock’n’roll band in the world! It took me half a second to say yes and pick myself up off the floor…”), in a similar vein to Mike Peters’ Big Country appearance. An early, stomping “Do Anything You Wanna Do” was a highlight until a strident, powerful and lengthy “Whisky In The Jar” became a swelling terrace chant which filled the venue. I could have done without the drum solo during “Sha La La La”, but a roaring final “Boys Are Back In Town”, an octane-fuelled tale of male camaraderie, and an indisputable all-time classic deserving of its' place at rock’s top table, more than made up for it.
A couple of encores (including a fine and sinewy “Rosalie” - I was amazed throughout at how many Lizzy numbers I knew, and how well I knew them!) capped a fine performance and a thoroughly enjoyable gig. Despite not being my usual thing, I’ve travelled a whole lot further to go to worse gigs this year! Nice one, chaps.