Whilst fads in music come and go, quality is eternal. If ever proof was needed, this joint tour by these three veteran acts, Girlschool, Alcatrazz and Tytan, showed exactly why staying power is a matter of both talent and sheer determination.
Girlschool – Alcatrazz – Tytan
The Underworld, Camden – 11 February 2023
Words: Paul Monkhouse
Photography: Antonio Giannattasio
The Underworld may be one of the most intimate of London venues, but to experience the visceral thrill of rock ‘n’ roll up close and personal can’t be matched since those heady days when the Marquee Club was the jewel in the crown of the capitol’s music scene. Whilst Camden has its fair share of gloriously sweaty rooms, including the nearby Black Heart and Dublin Castle, all those squeezed into this sold-out show could attribute to the unique atmosphere and rush of adrenaline caused by the sheer visceral excitement of a gloriously loud band.
They may be some four decades into their groundbreaking career, but Girlschool still put as much energy and combustible potency into their performance as ever. Friends Kim McAuliffe and Denise Dufort are still determined to cause a riot.
It’s a thrilling thing to witness, and that rough-edged, punky rock ‘n’ roll that so captivated Lemmy is still there as large as life, and whilst it might lack a certain finesse, it’s truer to the spirit of Metal than a thousand pretenders who fill Wembley or the O2.
Never having lost their edge, the world’s longest-running all-female rock band still command the respect of both peers and fans. The eagle-eyed amongst the crowd may have seen Julie and Jody Turner from Rock Goddess present and singing their hearts out to every number, all reports of the historic rivalry between the two bands shown to be the absolute nonsense that it’s always been.
The fast and furious Demolition Boys and C’Mon Let’s Go are a hard-hitting opening salvo, guitarist Jackie Chambers and bass player Tracey Lamb constantly moving around the stage, leaning into each other. Hunter still retains its feral and menacing Led Zep groove.
Hit And Run, causing the first big singalong of the set, the whole audience encouraged to join in on the chorus by McAuliffe before the title track of their last album, Guilty As Sin, shows the girls still have ferociously sharp teeth. A snarling Take A Bite and thunderous Kick It Down displays the power that Dufort can bring to her unforgivingly punished drumkit, the latter’s crushing punch enough to splinter bone.
Having helped out on certain dates of the tour, The Agony’s Nikola Kandoussi joined the quartet for the rest of the set, her vocals and guitar playing fitting hand in glove with the band as they tore into Screaming Blue Murder and Take It Like A Band, threatening to bring the walls down.
With the unbelievable rush of covers Race With The Devil and Bomber bringing a wave of beer and nostalgia-soaked rapture, it was down to the ringing riff of Emergency to wrap things up before the inevitable and much-demanded encore.
With a closing pairing of Take It All Away and ZZ Top’s Tush, the final notes faded into the night on a wave of deafening cheers and applause, the band taking their bows at the end of a tour that showed without a doubt that rock ‘n’ roll is the pulse that keeps us alive and kicking. Magnificent.
Another band once screwed over by the machinations of the business, Alcatrazz rose phoenix-like from the flames, their popularity never truly waning, and this current line-up is arguably the best they’ve enjoyed since those heady early days.
Here was a band to never rest on their laurels, and judging by their set on the night, they’re as fired up and passionate as they’ve ever been, the reaction to them on this tour a welcome reminder that rock is alive and well.
With a new album on the horizon and a raft of self-penned classics, the set balanced both old and new but also took a big nod to vocalist Doogie White’s history by throwing in numbers by Rainbow and Michael Schenker. An odd move, maybe, considering the quality of their back catalogue unused for the tour, but these covers were a welcome addition to the set that brought an added warm glow of nostalgia to the already heated environs of The Underworld.
With the full-pelt racing start of opener Grace Of God bringing some in-your-face hard rock, the quintet were off and didn’t hold back once, Jimmy Waldo’s sparkling keys and the quicksilver fretwork of Joe Stump set to dazzle.
Jumping from this track of their last released album to one from their debut, Too Young To Die, Too Drunk to Live, still sounds as epic as it ever was, its many layers and mighty hook potent. The grandiose intro and dancing, machine gun riff of Rainbow’s Wolf To The Moon let White demonstrate why he was chosen by the mercurial Blackmore for the job of fronting the rock titans before the lure of the lute was stronger than the white Strat, his vocals hitting the peaks with ease.
With their romp through Schenker’s Take Me To The Church and the urgent riff and great melodic passages of recent single Turn Of The Wheel, the band whipped the packed masses up even further before the new track Don’t Get Mad…Get Even launched things further into the atmosphere. Sadly bereft of touring partners Girlschool, who did backing vocals on the recorded number, it’s nonetheless an anthemic stomper that features a chorus that White assures will haunt us for many days to come.
With further highlights in the form of the rampaging Sword Of Deliverance that saw Stump melt faces and frets alike and a moving and emotional cover of Temple Of The King that closed the set, Alcatrazz showed that they’re still one of the most entertaining and vital bands on the scene.
First to bat, Tytan were the epitome of heavy-duty hard rock that mixes grunt with class, their material perfectly balancing steamroller heaviness with subtle touches. Led as always by the avuncular bass legend Mr Kevin Riddles, the band ripped into their half-hour set with an almost indecent relish, the blistering riffage played with a glint in their eyes.
Quite how things totally fell down the cracks for them when they first appeared in the early 1980s is still a mystery, their undoubted quality marking them out as ones to watch, but issues with the line-up and their record company cruelly put paid to things at the time. With their rebirth a decade ago, it was time to make up for lost opportunities, and with their growing profile and watertight unity due to almost constant touring, it seems like they are finally getting the recognition they deserve.
Certainly, the band were welcomed like old friends. The likes of Money For Love, with its classic NWOBHM feel and the Iron Maiden-ish with a more aggressive punch of Fight The Fight, got the crowd instantly moving.
With the unstoppable rhythm section of Riddles and drummer Garry Bowler like a freight train, Andrew Thompson’s keys adding their own flavours and the guitar of Chris Borsberry firing out steely riffs, it was just down to powerhouse vocalist Tony Coldham to provide the icing on the cake, his pipes a thing of wonder.
It was a teeth-rattling, life-affirming way to kick off the evening, and by the time they reached monstrous Tytan classics Blind Men And Fools and Ballad Of Edward Case, the long-held promise of a night to remember was well and truly being carved in stone.