Thin Lizzy

The rock legends pay tribute to guitarist Gary Moore by going back to basics

When does a band become its own tribute act? In the same week as a new, six-piece incarnation of Thin Lizzy (minus iconic leader Phil Lynott) play the Waterfront Hall, Belfast will also be graced by a version of Dr Hook featuring just one original member, and 'Les McKeown’s Legendary Bay City Rollers', with none.

Critics may scoff, but there remains a massive demand for this kind of thing, as shown by the sell-out crowd that turns up for Lizzy tonight. Happily, the gig is a fitting memorial to Lynott, with mainstay guitarist Scott Gorham clearly relishing the opportunity to play with musicians worthy of the Thin Lizzy name.

Joining Gorham on twin lead guitar is Belfast’s own Vivian Campbell, of Def Leppard. Campbell hasn’t looked this engaged in years, peeling off the licks with a dopey grin plastered on his mug. Fellow new recruit Ricky Warwick – another Ulster native, from Newtownards – makes Lynott’s mic stand his own, while 1980s-era Lizzy keyboardist Darren Wharton adds a touch of authenticity on stage left.

But the key to this new line-up’s success is the presence of founding drummer Brian Downey. The last time Thin Lizzy played Belfast, in 2007, it was the heavy metal-oriented variant fronted by guitarist John Sykes, with the machine-like drummer Tommy Aldridge.

Dublin-born Downey – who started Thin Lizzy with Lynott in 1969, and played on every studio album – has much more feel for the band’s catalogue. The 60-year-old is a rocker of the old school, with his jazz and blues influences giving these songs the swing they require. Even his drum solo during ‘Sha La La’ goes over a treat.

Less than a fortnight after the untimely death of former collaborator Gary Moore, Lizzy perhaps feel obliged to include a nod to the legendary east Belfast guitarist. Warwick says a few words before encore ‘Róisín Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend’, while Campbell does an excellent job covering Moore’s classic solo on ‘Still in Love with You’.

But overall the tributes are kept to a minimum. Maybe Gorham et al realise that with 20 solo albums to his name – against just one full release with Lizzy – Moore should be remembered as much for his own career than for his on-off relationship with the Irish rockers.

Barely easing off the gas from thunderous opener ‘Are You Ready’ to a main set-closing stomp through ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’, the reconvened Lizzy – completed by ex-Whitesnake bassist Marco Mendoza – deliver a fan-pleasing selection of hits and lesser-known numbers.

So, for every ‘Jailbreak’ there is a ‘Massacre’, for every ‘Wild One’ an ‘Angel of Death’. The two hours fly by in a blaze of riffs and roaring choruses. Erstwhile Almighty man Warwick manages to stamp his identity on proceedings, while remaining faithful to the band’s heritage. It helps that vocally he’s a dead ringer for Lynott.

The much-missed Lizzy co-founder may have died in 1986, but this revitalised outfit does his legacy proud. Short of extricating Gorham’s old sparring partner Brian Robertson from whatever Glasgow bar he might be languishing in, it’s hard to imagine how the 21st-century Lizzy could rock any harder.

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