Ricky Warwick and the Fighting Hearts @ Sub89, Reading, England

Tuesday 8 March 2022

Northern Irish rocker (and the current Thin Lizzy frontman) Ricky Warwick is back out on the road in support of his latest album, “When Life Was Hard and Fast” and we took a trip to see him come out to play to the faithful at sub89 in Reading. Seven or eight loose-knit rows of people in Black Star Riders, Thin Lizzy, and The Almighty t-shirts needed no invitation to come up to the front as soon as the music started. Warwick came on after the band, keeping the crowd waiting a few seconds longer, before commencing a high-octane, breathless set which hardly paused, except for a few words from the man himself. After «Gunslinger» from the new record, «Over the Edge» from his days in The Almighty, and «The Road to Damascus Street», he greeted the crowd ‘It’s so fucking good to see you after so long… thanks for keeping the faith. Rock’n’roll is back, brothers and sisters.‘ «You Don’t Love Me» underlined his point, and he backed it up with a Thin Lizzy classic, «Jailbreak». The crowd were in motion now and in fine voice – they knew all the words, whatever the provenance of the music – and the set’s relentless pace continued. The Fighting Hearts are a tight outfit, well drilled, passionate, committed to the music. Guitarist Ben Christo (Sisters Of Mercy, ex-Night By Night, Ghost) had plenty of opportunity to show off his chops, with excellent solos on «You Don’t Love Me» and «Never Corner a Rat», bass player Richard Vernon kept the ship steady and nimble, never missing a beat, while Jack Taylor pounded the drums behind the others (the more subtle work on «Damascus Street» was his stand-out moment). 

«Wrench» from The Almighty’s 1994 album “Crank” stood out in the middle of the set, a brutal metallic number, darker than the other material, and a highpoint for the undersigned. As with the other tracks from that repertoire, it got a huge reception. That showed the enduring quality of the music, something which comes from Warwick’s authenticity and commitment to his craft, which he continued to demonstrate with songs from his earlier solo records, like «Tattoos and Alibis» and «Celebrating Sinking», all played with the same passion and energy and all received with the same delight. Towards the end of the show, he thanked the crowd again, not just for coming to see him, but also for supporting the venue and the staff. ‘The only way we keep this going is if we keep coming out‘, that from a man who worked so damned hard keeping his own music going with a series of well-received concerts streamed from his sitting room in LA. The concert rounded off with blatant crowd pleasers – «Finest Hour» from Black Star Riders, «Iron Fist» by Motörhead, and a final Almighty Track «Free’n’Easy». There had been nothing free and easy about the show – they left it all out there. Rock’n’roll is built on material and people like Ricky Warwick and his band. It’s good to see them back in the saddle. 5/6

Tekst: Alex Maines
Foto: Anne-Marie Forker

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