Monday, April 15, 2024

Girlschool, Raven and Alcatrazz start a heavy metal riot in Manchester

Girlschool, Raven and Alcatrazz launched a full scale heavy metal assault on the UK with Manchester as their next victim of a triple headliner special.

Airforce were the first group to start the wave of attacks as the air raid sirens could do nothing to stop the aerial bombardment. Just like Iron Maiden, the band walked onto the intro of Churchill’s speech before letting rip. Flávio Lino’s confidence was sky-high as he fearlessly showed off his versatile vocals, effortlessly sustaining falsettos that travelled like whistling fireworks coming from iron lungs which never seemed to run out of breath. Gary aka Chop Pitman’s contagious harmonies reminiscent of the 80s and Doug Sampson’s galloping beats were just a teaser of what was to be a long night of classics. Their set might have been relatively short but it surely got life into the Academy 3 who showed lots of pre-headline excitement.

Alcatrazz were the first to kick off the triple headliner party. Having escaped prison, they were out for trouble and it didn’t take them long to disturb the peace. Opening the set with ‘Little Viper’, it was a relentless hour-long performance of energetic, neck-breaking hits as Alcatrazz showed no mercy. Doogie White’s signature vocal tone shone through beautifully because while it has potency, it also has a hint of desperation which sits in well with the band’s frequent use of melancholic themes. 

One of the highlights of the show though was Joe Stump on guitars. With one wild solo after another, he shredded the life out of his white Stratocaster harder than a cheese grater, including some outrageous sweep picking and arpeggios as fans could only watch in awe of appreciation. Jimmy Waldo did a fabulous job on keys to add the extra eerie factor with dark chords to what was already an aggressive sound. The use of a harsh Hammond organ sample has never been a common thing in metal but in this case was very creative.

Once the riot was completed, it was Raven’s turn to pick up the pieces to say ‘if Alcatrazz can wreak havoc, so can we’ and they did so in style. The Newcastle trio upped the tempo with ferocious drumming, soaring vocals and grinding riffs that could overheat amps. The Gallaghers worked the sibling magic once again that evening as the speed metal machine that’s been running since 1974 was in full force. John on bass and vocals nailed the high notes with more precision than a sniper shot in Call of Duty while covering every inch of the stage, wanting more from fans. 

Somehow, he barely broke a sweat despite all the movement in comparison to Mark who looked like he had just run a marathon by the end of the show. That didn’t phase him though as he had a wide smile throughout while displaying some excellent skills on guitars ranging from dive bombs and technical solos to sweep picking. Meanwhile, Mike Heller behind the kit had an extreme voltage flowing through his limbs with tight techniques to pull off wonderful fills and sheer endurance to play long sections of double kick without going stiff.

If anyone thought that the invasion had eased off was deadly wrong as Girlschool closed out the night with another lethal blitzkrieg, leaving the venue with no choice but to surrender. Celebrating 45 years on the road, they cruised through an action-packed set. Girlschool are one of the first widely recognised all-female bands and in an era where being a female metal musician was unthinkable, the big man Lemmy stepped up to propel them to success. Since then, they’ve stuck their middle fingers up at critics and won the hearts of the metal world. Kim McAuliffe and Jackie Chambers both made an excellent guitar duo with tones resembling NWOBHM (New wave of British heavy metal) containing plenty of satisfying growl and bite, not to mention cheekily swapping solos like a swift football counterattack.

But it wasn’t just their guitar abilities that stood out, Kim led the line with her familiar protest-like phrasing which combined with Jackie and Tracey (bass) on backing vocals spread the rebellious cries across the room as Girlschool rolled back the years to whoever made the most noise was considered the badest one in town. Just the sight of the band prompted deafening cheers and by the time the greatest hits such as ‘Emergency’ and ‘Bomber’ were played, all hell broke loose and it wouldn’t take much for fans to jump over the barricade to sing along in unison to old school bangers. Denise Dufort’s drumming was as accurate as Swiss train punctuality with tidy beats and fills in perfect synch, playing the beating heart role of the group.

It was a lesson on how to be a real metalhead to the bone and Girlschool taught Manchester the hard way. Time after time, the London four-piece has surpassed expectations and after a thrilling display, there can be no denying that the spirit of NWOBHM is very much alive.

Pedro Felippe
Pedro Felippe
Metalhead since the stone age. Always bash the crap out of my drum kit and am an avid gig goer. I massively identify myself within the metal community as the sense of belonging is unrivalled.

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