Thin Lizzy without Lynott (1996–present)
1996–2010: John Sykes era
In 1996 John Sykes decided to reactivate Thin Lizzy, presenting the band as a tribute to Phil Lynott's life and work. He decided to take on the role of lead vocals himself in the absence of Lynott, and persuaded Scott Gorham, Brian Downey and Darren Wharton to return to the fold. To complete the line-up, Marco Mendoza continued in Lynott's role as bass player. They received criticism for using the Thin Lizzy name without Lynott being present, but the band only played hits from Thin Lizzy's back catalogue, and did not compose any new material.
In 1997, Tommy Aldridge filled in on drums when Brian Downey was unable to, and became a full member when Downey left shortly thereafter. This line-up remained stable through to 2000, when the group recorded a live album, One Night Only. The band went on to tour the US playing clubs in early 2001, but Wharton had already left the band by the time of the tour. From 2000 to 2003, Mendoza toured with Ted Nugent, and with Whitesnake in 2004. Sykes released two solo albums during 2002–03, while Gorham worked with his band 21 Guns. Thin Lizzy performed sporadically during this period, recruiting some musicians for single tours, such as bass guitarist Guy Pratt for the Global Chaos Tour of 2003.
Wharton later stated that Thin Lizzy would have been better suited to playing fewer concerts, in bigger venues. He also felt that after the experience of fronting his own band Dare, it was not satisfying enough to play keyboards behind Gorham and Sykes. Sykes said that all the previous Thin Lizzy members were welcome to play with Thin Lizzy at any time.
In 2004, Thin Lizzy worked together again, with Sykes and Gorham bringing in ex-Angel bassist Randy Gregg, and drummer Michael Lee, who had played with Robert Plant and The Cult among others. They toured in North America in both the winter and then the summer as special guests of Deep Purple. This line-up proved temporary however, with Mendoza returning in 2005, and Aldridge returning in 2007. There were no plans for a new album though Thin Lizzy continued to tour. At the London Hammersmith Apollo concert of 13 December 2007, the line-up was Sykes, Gorham, Aldridge and Francesco DiCosmo on bass.
Sykes stated that Thin Lizzy was now "more of a tribute thing" and that it would be wrong to record new material under that name. He added that while the existing band members might record together, it would not be as Thin Lizzy.