Black Star Riders, Michael Monroe, Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons Live at The Tramshed, Cardiff

BSR Tour Poster 2023

Black Star Riders, Michael Monroe, Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons
The Tramshed, Cardiff
Live Review and Photograhy by Paul Hutchings

There will be few more variable yet totally entertaining bills than the one that rolled into one of the best venues in South Wales this Tuesday evening. Celebrating a decade together, Black Star Riders pulled in two very solid supports to bolster the audience on this tour. Not that they ever looked like they needed it. But more of them later. 

Just shy of seven o’clock and the Tramshed is already an expectant buzz. Twenty minutes later and there’s not an awful lot of room in the 1000 capacity venue as the first in a parade of hard rock legends enters the stage. It’s been eight years since Phil Campbell played his final gigs with Motörhead, something which still seems incredibly raw. Since then, Campbell assembled his All-Star Band before morphing it into The Bastard Sons. The band tour relentlessly, evidence that fame and notoriety and status doesn’t a) pay the bills and b) ease the creative itch. Campbell is most comfortable on the stage, peeling out those bluesy solos he’s been doing for over 40 years, since those days when he played with Persian Risk a mere stone’s throw from tonight’s venue. 

The band are a man down. Guitarist Todd is absent, still recovering from illness. This leaves the band slightly light in the axe department, although bassist Tyler appears intent on bringing the low end, such are his rumblings through the 40-minute set. He locks in tightly with drummer Dane, who is surely becoming one of the most underrated drummers in the UK. He handles everything with ease. But this is a band made to survive adversity and the four-piece don’t look like they’re bothered. Indeed, given the limited space afforded to them, it’s probably a relief for Tyler and vocalist Joel Peters to have an extra foot to move around in. 

They hit the stage hard, with their anthem ‘We’re the Bastards’. It’s a fist pumper of a track and immediately gets the crowd moving. This is home turf after all. Peters is a blur of movement, he reminds me of a lighter Ben Ward (Orange Goblin) with his constant cajoling, be it splitting the sides to get a singalong which was embarrassingly polite or getting the crowd to raise their middle fingers to shout, “fuck you, Tyler Campbell”. The band may be struggling slightly when Phil takes the solos, but overall, there is little to complain. They throw in the welcome smattering of Motörhead tracks. ‘Born to Raise Hell’, ’Going to Brazil’ and the mandatory ‘Ace of Spades’ all feature – they do the job in style and Lemmy smiles, I’m sure. 

In Peters, the band have the frontman that they were hunting for since Neil Starr left. Andrew Hunt did a fine job, but Peters is loud, obnoxious, and potty mouthed. He gives it large, and then some. Meanwhile, Phil is content to play guitar, and he can do that with such ease. He thanks the Cardiff crowd, and as ‘Ace of Spades’ fades away, we hope the band will be back to play another headline gig here soon.

If you look in the dictionary for the definition of flamboyance, you’ll find the name Michael Monroe there. Now aged 60, there cannot be many of his age who are in such fine shape. As the lights drop, Monroe and his band enter the stage to a huge ovation. There are clearly a good percentage of the audience here to see the Finn as well as the headliners. He’s everywhere, a nervous ball of wired energy, dashing across the stage, dropping onto the barrier, climbing high above the front row, sitting on the monitors. He does it all. 

One Man Gang starts the evening, and it’s a 40-minute high-octane riot that races through a combination of solo hits and some old favourites. He mixes the set slightly, throwing in ‘Hammersmith Palais’ and ‘Motorvatin’ for the first time on the tour. The songs whizz by, as Monroe thrusts, pouts, flatters his mascara coated eye lashes and generally throws shapes. He can still do the splits, which he manages with alarming frequency. I’m sure I’m not the only middle-aged dude to wince. 

Alongside Monroe, he has quite the team. Guitarist Rich Jones and Steve Conte riff it up on either side of the stage, leaping about almost as much as their frontman at times. Behind them drummer Karl Rockfist hammers out the beat, locking in with long-time bassist Sami Yaffa, whose time with Monroe dates back to those heady Hanoi Rocks days. By the time the band hit ‘Dead, Jail or Rock ‘n’ Roll’ the crowd are eating out of his hands. It’s time for a final fling, and there was never going to be anything other than ‘Up Around the Bend’ which Rocks made their own from CCR, and which gets the Tramshed bouncing. Legend number two ticked off.

Formed in 2012, The Black Star Riders has always been a supergroup of sorts. Formed by Ricky Warwick, Damon Johnson, and Scott Gorham in 2012, it’s Warwick who survives as the sole original member. The band’s latest album “Wrong Side of Paradise” was released a couple of weeks before the tour began. 

They get a good start as heavy metal comedian Don Jamieson cracks a few poor jokes but succeeds in raising some laughs as well as some emotions. Slade’s ‘Cum On, Feel the Noize’ gets the crowd singing and the band race into ‘Pay Dirt’, the first of five songs from the new album to get an airing. Warwick is centre stage, leather jacket, bandana and that familiar scowl. He’s flanked by bassist Robbie Crane, a fixture since 2014, and Wayward Sons guitarist Sam Wood, who’s the new boy in the camp. Although Zak St John played on the album, it’s Jimmy deGrasso who is laying down the rhythm for this tour. His CV is impressive and he nails the new tracks as well as those he’s a bit more familiar with. 

With five albums to choose from, it’s almost a greatest hits set. We get ‘The Killer Instinct’, ‘Bound for Glory’, ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ and ‘Another State of Grace’. The audience is singing along. Warwick rehearses his Celtic connections. It goes down well. As does the arrival of the main man, Scott Gorham, who spends 60 minutes reminding us of his skill. A bruising cover of ‘Crazy Horses’ increases the temperature. 

We get an even bigger treat when Phil Campbell joins the band for the cover of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Don’t Believe a Word’. It’s a massive song, and a massive moment. Michael Monroe will join the band for ‘Tonight the Moonlight’ later. It’s fabulous stuff, with the musicians in harmony, smooth and polished, whilst the crowd roar approval. 

They do what they do flippin’ well. They may be slightly formulaic, but Warwick can write an anthem. Of course, he’d kill to write something as good as Lizzy’s ‘Jailbreak’. It gets the venue jumping once more before ‘Finest Hour’ wraps things up. It’s been immense. Hard, heavy, but with heart and feeling. Smiles all round. They know how to do it right. Every time.




Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Paul Hutchings and Ever Metal. Photography solely the property of Paul Hutchings. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Black Swan – Shake The World

Black Swan – Shake The World
Released by Frontiers Music srl
Release date: 14/02/2020
Running Time: 51:08
Review by ‘Dark Juan’
Score: 8/10

Good evening, fellow house arrest prisoners of Boris The Animal! This is Dark Juan and while I am technically off duty from spreading the foul gospel of the Ugly Red Source Of All Evil due to a shock headed wanker in an ill-fitting suit essentially grounding me indefinitely (you’re not my dad, Boris!) because a significant proportion of the British populace cannot be trusted to do as they are fucking told just once on the weekend. My Dark Protector Beelzebub is not amused and is demanding that I do a double shift next week. He’s been told to get to fuck and also has been warned that if he takes that tone with me again I’m going to shave his fucking nipples off, the sulphur smelling twatmonkey. So, now we have the pleasantries out of the way let us crack on with this record review what I’m supposed to be writing, innit fam?

Black Swan appear to be where rock legends from America go and enter this kind of amazing time warp where the Nineties never happened, grunge was drowned at birth and where Skid Row and Whitesnake reign supreme over hordes of long haired, denim clad metal warriors in a field, blasting the kind of good time hard rock that just MAKES you go and try to pull that girl with the big BIG hair and the dress that’s so tight you can read her lips and that short you know what she had for breakfast. It’s a glorious reminder of the youth of old metalheads, warm cider and your brain being destroyed by the levels of amplification normally only employed by North Korean propaganda broadcasts. Dark Juan is transported back to his teenage cell… I mean bedroom and trying desperately to trap off with Emma from college to a soundtrack comprised of MSG, Winger and Ratt. Sensibly, I kept the Morbid Angel and Death records hidden away from her.

Speaking of MSG – the most distinctive and rock and roll pipes of Robin fucking McCauley!!! (remember the sheer joy of the McCauley Schenker Group?) provide the kind of vocal histrionics that made hard rock great on this record – his slightly gravelly, yet soaring and effortless delivery is the perfect focus for the music. You could not imagine a more apt vocalist for this band. And the vocal harmonies on this record just pin you to the wall and hold a knife to your throat and steal all your money and drugs. And then steal your girl as well. If you’re too young to know what he sounds like, imagine a mix of Joe Lynn Turner, David Coverdale and Ronnie James Dio. What? Pardon? You young striplings don’t know who they are either? YOU HAVE GOOGLE FOR A FUCKING REASON AND DON’T COME BACK TO THIS REVIEW UNTIL YOU HAVE LISTENED TO WINGER, MSG, FOREIGNER, WHITESNAKE, DOKKEN, MR. BIG (but not Green Tinted Sixties Mind because that song is utter toilet!) AND SURVIVOR!!! Then you might have an idea about what I am talking to you about! And that is also a fairly comprehensive list of just how much talent this band contains considering it is composed of members of all those bands.

It is fair to say that Dark Juan is undergoing a nostalgia trip of conspicuous size and scope and remembering his days of tight blue denim, bangles, big hair and when he was young and beautiful, before all that unfortunate business with the threshing machine, the farmer’s daughter and the subsequent facial reconstruction, court case and incarceration. This album is not in the slightest bit modern and groundbreaking. It is a timewarp par excellence – imagine the era of David Lee Roth’s “Skyscraper” (‘Just Like Paradise’ would fit perfectly on Black Swan’s album), the skintight spandex, the leopard print scarves, the acidwashed denim and the white trainers all the men wore in the 80’s. It is the sound of good times, Thunderbird wine and partying till its light again. It’s the sound of Friday nights in your bedroom listening to the album you just bought again and again and again.

So, is it fair to say that Black Swan have done a Very Good Thing? The answer, my good defilers of all things holy, is yes! The music, although nostalgic, is pointy, sharp and superbly arranged. The guitar work of Reb fucking Beach!!! (Winger, Whitesnake) is incendiary with classic soloing all over the place – two handed tap ons being a staple on a number of songs and always oozing class. The man is a fine player in the classic mould. The drumming comes courtesy of Matt fucking Starr!!! (Mr. Big, Ace Frehley) and his approach seems to be to try and destroy his drumkit by pummelling it until it forms neutronium, and not to play it as the drums sound absolutely fucking huge and are linked beautifully to the rumbling bass playing of Jeff fucking Pilson!!! (Dokken, Foreigner) who appears to want to steal your girl and drive off into the sunset with her merely by employing his prodigious bass talent and watching her white lace panties fall off. And then there is the vocal which we have already dealt with. Suffice it to say that the singer is at the top of his game on this one.

We have therefore established that this album is a good listen and tremendous fun. It is however very 80’s album formulaic – opens with a couple of slammers (‘Shake The World’, ‘Big Disaster’ – both tunes will take your head off in a welter of arterial spray), ups the rock and roll rather than the hard rock on track three (Johnny Came Marching) and then fucks you violently and unpleasantly up the arse (sans lubricant) by having a fucking godawful power ballad as the fifth song in (Make It There) being composed of slow chugging and wailing mournfully about something or someone I lost interest in after 23 seconds. Pull yourself together, girls. Jesus. It’s one saving grace is that it wasn’t a Poison song. My views and opinions on ballads (anyone who writes one deserves to be sent to a gulag of my choosing and made to write black metal songs or djent riffs until they have fucking learned their lesson!)  are well known and even the LEGEND that is Graham Bonnet has felt the rough edge of Dark Juan’s tongue about ballads. Reportedly he was wryly amused. The record then rapidly gets its shit together and returns to the high quality hard rocking fun it was before the bastards ruined it with the ballad. It’s remarkably fresh sounding too, as it doesn’t sound like people trying to reclaim past glories (unlike Warrior Soul’s last two releases which were the absolute epitome of a has been desperately trying to remain cool and instead just looking like someone’s creepy grandad leering at teenage girls in the beer garden of his local).

Black Swan are worth a punt if you love melody, solos and classic rock vocals by masters of the genre. The tunes are perfect, man. Wave your lighters in the air and drink and be merry, my poor imprisoned acolytes. Recreate Monsters Of Rock in your lounge with this record. Have fun. That’s an order.

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System has stopped dancing now, much to the relief of Mrs. Dark Juan, who claimed it sounded like a herd of mildly pissed hippos rampaging around the spare bedroom, and awards Black Swan 8/10 for a fucking good rock and roll record. Points were deducted for making me listen to a fucking ballad… Argh. I hate them. They are the musical fucking equivalent of having your eyes gouged out with spoons and then having your penis inverted and then being trampled on by hordes of screaming children and then being fed to pigs. Fucking ballads. Might as well just admit that you wear dresses and call yourself Sandra behind closed doors…

01. Shake The World
02. Big Disaster
03. Johnny Came Marching
04. Immortal Souls
05. Make It There
06. She’s On To Us
07. The Rock That Rolled Away
08. Long Road To Nowhere
09. Sacred Place
10. Unless We Change
11. Divided/United

Robin fucking McCauley – Vocals!
Jeff fucking Pilson – Bass!
Reb fucking Beach – Guitar!
Matt fucking Starr – Drums!


Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Dark Juan and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.