For festivals & outdoor shows
Heavy metal is still alive and well, at least if the recent insatiable hunger of the underground and the new breed of twenty-something year old heavy metal maniacs forging new bands springing up across the globe is any measure to go by. Tonight offers a rare showcase of two influential English contributors to the early heavy metal movement, namely Girlschool and Raven.
Despite listings placing Raven above Girlschool's name, it is Newcastle's answer to the three musketeers who are on their marks first. Opening with the insisting 'Take Control' from 1983's 'All of One' release, the trio storm the Garage with rejuvenated heavy metal energy with muscular guitar work that successfully coerces the audience into banging their heads. In spite of their age, Raven grasp a bountiful supply of energy throughout the entirety of the set. Frontman John Gallagher dazzles the crowd with the clarity of his falsetto vocals, even shoe-horning additional high end notes into the tracks. Guitarist Mark Gallagher also impresses by not using a guitar strap to hold his axe.
A sizeable portion of the set is from the 'All for One' album and secures the loudest ovations from the fans. The energetic title track and screeching 'Mind Over Metal' are best at representing Raven's fast take on heavy metal that inspired countless prominent thrash metal bands. The fan favourite 'Speed of the Reflex' and the more orthodox heavy metal song 'On and On', beckoning the crowd to join in with vocal duties. Alongside the songs is a drawn out bass solo by John Gallagher which although different feels like a subtraction from their too brief set. After closing song 'Break the Chain' weaves in excerpts of Black Sabbath's 'Iron Man', Status Quo's 'Sweet Caroline' and Budgie's 'In for the Kill' and successfully solicits approval from the crowd, flattens the venue with its defiance, Raven's set reluctantly wraps up and the audience give them a well-deserved send off. Why Raven do not play London more often is a mystery.
No strangers to the gigging and festival circuit, London's own Girlschool are back on home soil. Formed in 1975 under the name Painted Lady, the all girl metal band changed their name to Girlschool in 1978. To this day, an impressive three out of four of the original remembers remain in the line up. Opening their set with 'Demolition Boys' , also the opener of their 1980 debut 'Demolition', Girlschool challenge the modern perception that women in metal either subscribe to fragile, corset-bound female fronted symphonic/power/gothic metal bands or desperately attempt to challenge men by adopting the role of extreme metal growler, both stereotypes usually using beauty as a marketing tool. Their take on heavy metal shares a certain level of ferocity with a focus on double bass drumming, a nod to Motorhead's recognisable gallop, and workman-like vibe devoid of any pretension but full of melodic hard rock guitar hooks.
The majority of their setlist is picked from their first two full-length efforts, the aforementioned debut and the more popular 'Hit and Run' with the quartet comfortably working through a wide breadth of classics including 'C'mon Let's Go', 'Kick It Down', 'The Hunter' and 'Take it All Away'. Their cover of The Gun's 'Race with the Devil' that appeared on 'Demolition' is given an airing, much to the audience's delight, and the South London natives jump forward in time with 'Never Say Never' from 2004's 'Believe' full-length.
The on stage performance is a blistering one with Girlschool providing an bold presence and frontwoman Kim McAuliffe engaging in light-hearted stage banter in between songs. The audience reaction is a clear indication of Girlschool's lasting impression and while the Garage is not sold out, there is an enviable number of attendees tonight showing that heavy metal remains alive and well.
Closing with the classic 'Emergency', Girlschool vacate the stage to a wall of applause only to return moments later for their encore. A solid rendition of 'Take it All Away' is improved with the two Gallaghers from Raven providing guest vocals on the chorus, John Gallagher providing eardrum-shattering falsettos, of course. Such an upbeat way to close the evening is the most ideal way to kick start Saturday night and show that heavy metal's life blood is still flowing through the rock world and probably will for a damn long time.