THERE are sometimes when past glories can overshadow individuals and bands, but there are other instances when those past glories are synthesised by a rare alchemy into a heady mixture of fine rock and finer still stage performances.
Black Star Riders and Dead Daisies proved on Sunday, December 15th at Belfast's Limelight1 that nothing can stop rockers when they show up with great tunes and a great attitude.
Faced with opening for a galaxy of star rockers many bands would be intimidated, but Hampshire's Western Sand took the stage with a swagger and style that shone through in songs rooted in straightforward, heads down rockin' out.
Despite being hampered by having drummer Nathan being isolated from the rest of the band the honest professionalism and energy evoked a positive response from the gradually filling venue.
Findlay on bass was a bundle of energy, while Jimmy and Tyler led from the front; solid stylish vocals and a twin guitar attack to flay. Western Sand showed not only potential but a clear intent to develop and grow as a band.
Dead Daisies are on paper the archetypal rock supergroup, with a collective CV that includes INXS, the Rolling Stones and Guns 'n' Roses and Disney....
With an impressive album [review here] under their belts it would have been an easy task to turn up and just ride the wave of that album's critical acclaim - but not Dead Daisies; they came to Belfast intent on raising the roof.
Jon Stevens has a helluva set of pipes and they were deployed to good use. And a killer combination of being a strong frontman and appearing relaxed in the role won the crowd over from the off.
With Dizzy Reed adding keyboard flourishes his Gunners colleague Richard Fortus delivered stunning solo after stunning solo; a truly par excellence performance.
Tracks like Washington and Miles in Front of Me emerging from the album invigorated in the live environment, the band also - in the words of Stevens - road tested new songs; all of which resonated with solid rock credentials firmly established by the time each chorus arrived.
Bassist Darryl Jones (unusually using a music stand and notation for each song) and David Lowry on rhythm guitarist were locked in tight with Charlie Drayton on drums; this trio forming a solid basis for other band members to allow each song to grow stage legs.
Concluding with a stormer cover of The Beatles Helter Skelter Dead Daisies have all the elements that both win a crowd's backing and also to have that same crowd baying for more.
The Black Star Riders have emerged phoenix like from the remnants of a post-Lynott Thin Lizzy. An album, originally intended to be released under the Lizzy monicker, balanced the heritage of Thin Lizzy and a new intent to produced songs that have a unique identity. [Review here]
But on stage is the real test. Can a fine line be trod that links the past and the present? Achieving that Black Star Riders have an ace in the pack - singer Ricky Warwick. Appearing as part punk-cowboy desperado and part hellbound rocker Warwick dominates the stage, oozing charisma and performing with well-executed stage routines. Whether with mic stand held aloft or with guitar strapped on his frame Warwick proved why he is becoming one of the top frontmen in hard rock.
With a setlist drawing on BSR material and well-executed Lizzy tracks Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson delivered harmony pieces and solos that were note perfect when required and fluid when they took on adventurous six-string work.
BSR songs Bound for Glory and the excellent Kingdom of the Lost shone through, with new breath on stage and an energy most acts would struggle to match.
Bassist Marco Mendoza laid down a solid performance, while at the same time showing himself as a performer for the audience - while all the time locked into Jimmy DeGrasso's drum lines.
Classic Lizzy tracks were delivered faithfully, and at times new twits were introduced such as in the Cowboy Song intro. Southbound, Don't Believe A Word, The Boys Are Back in Town, Emerald and Jailbreak delivered the crowd into the hands of the band members.
All Hell Breaks Loose and Hey Judas were also notable moments, but to try and analyse each track and each performance would be a disservice to BSR. The sum of the parts are a tsunami of rock; a masterclass for aspiring hard rock acts.
Rock royalty is sometimes perceived as a lazy bunch, re-treading the past. Such perceptions were blown aside in the Limelight1 on Sunday as aspirants Western Sand showed swagger need not be about arrogance when you deliver; Dead Daisies showcased how rock can meld together Antipodean power and US-style; while Black Star Riders just laid down sheer rock 'n' roll joy. Joy through hard rock - you just can't beat it!