A quartet of rock music’s most exciting artists arrives on Teesside as Black Star Rider’s “Coming Under Heavy Fire” tour rolls into town.

To see a bill as strong as tonight’s line-up you would usually have to go to a festival, but this evening the intimate surroundings of the art deco Middlesborough Empire are filled with the sounds of touring compatriots The Dirty Thrills, Tax The Heat, Blues Pills and headliners the Black Star Riders. This bill is certainly one of the most impressive touring packages to hit the road together this year.

For those in attendance early in the evening London lads The Dirty Thrills head north to open the show with a set centring on their debut album Heavy Living, which was released earlier this year via Frontiers Records. The energetic four-piece certainly make an impact with their distinctive brand of groove-heavy rock in the 25 minutes allotted to them.

Tonight Tax The Heat are performing in Middlesborough for the first time. Following on from the release of their debut long player Fed To The Lions, the Bristol-based outfit are getting ready to deliver their sophomore album Change Your Position next year.

Tax The Heat showcase some of the highlights of their latest offering with tracks like their emphatic single “Learn To Drown”, “Animals” and the hard-hitting “Fed To The Lions” all included in the band’s short but sweet set. However, the cherry on the top is the inclusion of a pair of tracks from their forthcoming album in the shape of “Money In The Bank” and the title track itself. On the strength of these numbers alone, Change Your Position is set to be one to watch out for next year indeed.

Swedish rockers the Blues Pills are the precursor to the main event and are performing in the North East for the first time since 2014. Whilst looking around the room, many present tonight are sporting Blues Pills shirts, with a strong contingent of their fans in the room tonight.

Blues Pills are currently touring in support of their 2016 album Lady In Gold and subsequently, open the show with the infectious title track from the record. Elin Larsson is a vortex of energy, she prowls the edge of the stage gazing upon and reaching out to the audience. Elin sinks so much of herself into her passionate performance and has a phenomenal vocal range to boot.

With tracks like “Little Boy Preacher” and the Blues Pills take on Tony Joe White’s “Elements and Things” the band really spread out and jam. These numbers have evolved somewhat since their original studio recordings, having taken on a new life of their own on the road.

Blues Pills second cover of the evening comes in the shape of a sublime rendition of “Somebody To Love” by Jefferson Airplane, again the band has put their own stamp on the track and it’s incredibly effective. Blues Pills close with the frantic “High Class Woman”. This evening the band put forward a set which truly showcases what they are all about and win over a whole raft of new fans in the process.

Black Star Riders round out an incredible night of music in Middlesborough. The band are currently celebrating five years together and have witnessed great success with their latest album Heavy Fire. Despite this the band’s frontman Ricky Warwick is still humbled to be playing alongside Thin Lizzy legend Scott Gorham every night, stating if only the 12-year-old version of himself could see him know.

Black Star Riders characteristic sound is built on a solid foundation of Warwick’s raw rock vocals, which sit perfectly on top of the twin lead guitar pairing of Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson. The formidable duo plays off each other effortlessly all night long with some subline dual guitar harmonies. This is particularly the case during the likes of the band’s recent Radio 2 playlisted single “Testify Or Say Goodbye”, the Celtic tinged “Soldiers Town” and “Hey Judas”, to name but a few.

Ricky Warwick commands the stage, and has the crowd singing and clapping along from the off. Warwick declares that the band will be releasing their fourth album next year, much to their fans pleasing. Tonight the Teesside crowd have their appetites whet for what is to come in 2018 with the inclusion of new song “Ticket To Rise”, which certainly leaves the Black Star Riders fans wanting more.

There is a real anthemic quality to many of the numbers included in the set this evening. The crowd can’t help but be swept away by the likes of “Finest Hour”, “Dancing With The Wrong Girl” and “Killer Instinct”. Of course, there is room for the occasional Thin Lizzy cover including the classic “Jailbreak” and show closer “Whiskey In The Jar”.

With each and every album and tour that follows Black Star Riders go from strength to strength. With five years and three albums behind them and they have really come into their own. Here’s to the next five years.

Black Star Riders
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Blues Pills
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Tax the Heat
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Dirty Thrills
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Event Date: 14-Nov-2017

About The Author

Adam Kennedy is an experienced music photographer based in northeast England. He has been shooting concerts for several years, predominantly with the band Vintage Trouble. In 2013, he was one of their tour photographers, covering the UK and Ireland tour including the headline shows and as opening act for The Who. As an accomplished concert photographer, Adam's work has been featured in print such as, Classic Rock Blues Magazine, Guitarist Magazine, Blues in Britain magazine, broadcast on the MDA Telethon on ABC Television in the US, used in billboard advertising for Renaissance Hotels in the US, and featured online via music blogs such as Uber Rock and Guitar Planet. He is also the official photographer at Newcastle Rock and Blues Club.

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