What: Thin Lizzy
Where: Hammersmith Apollo
When: 22nd February 2011
The boys were back in town last night, although the term boys was stretching it a little. The ghost of Phil Lynett will forever hang over Lizzy but classic rock songs and superb musicianship still make Lizzy an act to see.
Original 70s members Scott Gorham and Brian Downey are once again reunited after a gap of twelve years with 80s keyboard player Darrren Wharton. The lineup is completed with a very competent stand in for Phil Lynott by former New Model Army and The Almighty's Ricky Warwick, Def Leppard Vivian Campbell and journeyman Marco Mendoza on bass.
Phil Lynott is harder to replace for Thin Lizzy than Freddie Mercury was for Queen. Phil was also a great front man for Lizzy as well as their predominate song writer. Combine that with the revolving door guitarists rather than Queen's very steady line up and you see their problem.
That's not to say that Ricky Warwick does a bad job, on the contrary he is a great Lynott substitute. If I have a complaint it's that he tries too hard to sound like Phil between the songs, almost like he's heard Live and Dangerous and feels he has to imitate. I half expected to hear "Are there any of the girls who'd like a little more Irish?" from Lizzy's classic Live and Dangerous album.
Close your eyes during the songs and you'd be hard pressed not to imagine yourself back at Hammersmith in the 80s. Warwick's phrasing is true to Lynott's delivery and the beautiful harmonising guitars of Campbell and Gorham sound superb. You could well be back in the 80s version of Lizzy judging by the set list too. It's a Lizzy greatest hits tour which on the one hand makes it all sound so familiar and on the other firmly establishes the current line up merely playing homage to the Lynott era line up. This may sound like a negative but it's not intended to be as what the band produce is brilliant melodic rock.
Standing in front of the classic Thin Lizzy lit-up logo and at times engulfed by smoke, the six piece band take us through a heart pounding, ear ringing journey through songs such as "Jailbreak", "Don't believe a word" and Lizzy's classic and this time rocking out "Whisky in the jar". All lead vocals were provided by Warwick with the exception of the love song "Still in love with you" which Warwick shared with keyboard player Wharton. This spoilt what is a tender love song, not because Wharton can't sing, quite the opposite but by the loss of focus in the song.by splitting it. I know it was done originally as a duet between Lynott and Frankie Miller but it makes no sense to me in that one either. That aside, there was little to fault in the gig and much to commend.
People criticise the musicians for re-forming and playing what they see as Phil Lynott's songs. What they fail to see is that these same musicians and other past members like Eric Bell and Brian Robertson helped shape what we all know as the Thin Lizzy sound. Without the dual harmonising guitars I doubt we would associate it as Thin Lizzy in such a way. I for one loved hearing the songs of Thin Lizzy not Phil Lynott and would happily catch them again on any future tours.