Thursday, 14 December 2017

Live Review: Brian Downey's Alive And Dangerous @ Nells Jazz Bar, West Kensington

Founding member of Thin Lizzy, Brian Downey, breathes new life into 'Live And Dangerous', during a packed out London show at Nell's Jazz & Blues.

In 2018 it will be forty years since the seminal Live And Dangerous album was released, and much to our delight Brian Downey announced that his new band will be commemorating it by playing a one-off London show on the 24th November. This announcement created such a stir amongst Thin Lizzy fans that tickets sold out for the event, leading to a second gig being announced for the day after.

After declining an offer in 2013 to play with what was to become Black Star Riders, Downey took some time out, resurfacing again at 2016's Vibe For Philo for an appearance. This led him to approach Brian Grace who, as well as being Musical Director for the event, was a guitarist for Commitments' Andrew Strong. Brian Downey's Alive and Dangerous was born from Brian Grace's suggestion that they form a band with The Lowriders members Matt Wilson (bass, vocals) and Phil Edgar (guitar). After a successful performance at 2017's Vibe, it was inevitable that a long term band would come out if it.

Brian Grace, Phil Edgar and Matt Wilson

Recorded over several shows in '76 and '77, including two at the Hammersmith Odeon, Live And Dangerous set the scene alight, creating a benchmark, there and then, for how a live album should be made. Collecting Lizzy's most memorable tunes all together in one neat and tidy package and produced with the help of mastermind Tony Visconti, Live And Dangerous has the ability to hit the listener in the face with it's raw energy and infectious passion, giving them the impression that they are right there, front row, at the gig.

Before Brian Downey's Alive And Dangerous even come on to the stage at Nell's Jazz & Blues club, it is apparent that there is an overwhelming sense of excitement in the air; die hard Thin Lizzy fans have travelled to this intimate venue in West Kensington with anticipation of what's to come. It's quite easy to manoeuvre through the friendly throng of punters to a decent spot in order to catch all the action. Due to the size of the venue, however, it won't be hard for anyone there to not be in the thick of it. An emerald green drum kit sits in the middle of the stage awaiting the arrival of one of the geniuses behind the many hits of Thin Lizzy, Brian Downey.

The band pile onto the stage and delve into the title track of Jailbreak, and from the moment when the first chord is struck, the crowd becomes even more alive, grooving and moving to the intro as Matt Wilson's soulful voice carries the infamous lyrics across the room. The band seem well rehearsed, and as the kids say today, 'on point', nailing every verse and all its trimmings, straight off the cuff. Those who have come here to dismiss the honesty and integrity of Brian Downey's assembled outfit had better walk out the door. It's clear that Downey realised he was on to a good thing when he jammed with these guys back at 2017's Vibe. Piling into classic after classic; the band are able to switch the tempo to accommodate the slower tracks such as 'Southbound' and 'Dancing In The Moonlight'.

The crowd is lapping it up, in awe of the mastermind behind the drum kit, Downey; counting in the songs and keeping a tight rhythm section with Wilson on bass. At first glance, Wilson with his big curly hair and cheeky grin could almost pass as a Philo impersonator, but it must be said, he has his own powerful stage persona, complete with a swagger and confidence to completely own the spotlight.

Now is the real test, as I hear the intro to one of my all-time favourites; 'Still In Love With You'. Grace and Edgar's guitar playing feed off each other in dual guitar harmonies and shines in those intricate solos towards the end, before sweeping us in to the sleaze driven funky mood of 'Johnny The Fox'. We are well and truly entranced. The band don't miss a hit, including all those well known Lizzy songs that even a non-rocker would have heard, 'The Boys Are Back In Town', 'The Rocker' and 'Don't Believe A Word'.

The outfit close the set with a shimmering encore, adding two songs outside of the L&D album ('It's Only Money' and 'Whiskey In The Jar') before Downey effortlessly brings in the intro to the epic 'Emerald', dual guitars at the ready, leading the way into a stunning alternated solo between the two guitarists. Live And Dangerous is definitely still alive!

Score: 5/5

Writer & Photographer: M. Godding