Opening a North American arena tour for British metal heavyweights Judas Priest and Saxon would seem a tall order for any artist. Particularly ending the trek in a city that reveres its classic metal.
Black Star Riders, however, can more than handle it. Some may think of the Irish/American concoction as a supergroup. Others may view BSR as a reincarnated Thin Lizzy. The truth is that with each album, Black Star Riders is forming its own sound and legacy while continuing to honor a taste of its Thin Lizzy past. Led by Thin Lizzy guitarist-since-1974 Scott Gorham and armed with Irish vocalist Ricky Warwick, Black Star Riders gave the Freeman Coliseum a dose of its music while supporting two of metal's giants Tuesday night on the tour finale.
For Black Star Riders, which is touring behind third BSR album Heavy Fire, it marked the second Alamo City visit under its newest moniker, which is meant to distance itself from its storied past out of respect for the late vocalist Phil Lynott. But Black Star Riders'/Thin Lizzy's previous visits were interesting in their own right.
BSR's first taste of San Antonio came in 2014 when it kicked off its U.S. tour at the Aztec Theatre. Prior to that in one of its final shows as Thin Lizzy, Warwick, Gorham and guitarist Damon Johnson kicked off Judas Priest's U.S. tour Oct. 12, 2011 at next door's AT&T Center -- which just happened to be Priest's previous San Antonio visit. This time, Robbie Crane, who spent time in Ratt, was on bass for BSR with Chad Szeliga -- formerly of Breaking Benjamin and Black Label Society -- providing the drumwork.
Opening with the title track to BSR's 2013 debut All Hell Breaks Loose, BSR came out blazing. Second track and Thin Lizzy mainstay "Jailbreak" got things rolling further, and after the title track to Heavy Fire plus another classic in "Rosalie," Warwick demanded the seated onlookers simply waiting for Priest and Saxon get on their feet, reminding them they were at a rock show. Get a taste of BSR in action by watching ATM footage of another All Hell Breaks Loose track, "Bound for Glory" below, in which Warwick refers to Crane as "my favorite bass player in the whole fuckin' world" (sorry, previous BSR bassist Marco Mendoza).
Black Star Riders deserves credit for not performing predictable Thin Lizzy classics "The Boys Are Back in Town" or "Whiskey in the Jar." Both were inevitable. At least one would have appeared mandatory. But the band can be offered kudos for not using up its limited time on stage with two overplayed songs, opting instead to turn fans on to its modern sound without sacrificing all of its past.
Black Star Riders was more than a capable choice to set the stage for Judas Priest and Saxon. It was the correct one. And it's only going to get stronger as a unit the more it continues having as much fun playing live as it did at the very rarely utilized Freeman.