Girlschool + Alcatrazz + Tytan
Saturday 11th February 2023
The Underworld, Camden, London
The reconfigured English American Heavy Metal band Alcatrazz teamed up with British heavy rockers Girlschool for an eight-date joint headline tour of the UK culminating in a gig at The Underworld, tonight. The current Alcatrazz lineup includes two original members in Jimmy Waldo – keyboards, synthesizers, and Gary Shea - bass, backing vocals, joining them is Joe Stump - guitars, Doogie White - lead vocals, and new boy Larry Patterson - drums.
Alcatrazz were formed in 1983 by ex-Rainbow vocalist Graham Bonnet, plus Waldo and Shea from American Rock outfit New England. The band have gone through several line-up changes over the years, leaving Bonnet as only member to be in every incarnation of Alcatrazz until his split with the band in 2020. The band's debut album, ‘No Parole from Rock 'n' Roll’, was released in 1983 and featured the relatively unknown guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen (Steeler). Joining them on drums for a short time was Clive Burr (Iron Maiden) soon to be replaced by Jan Uvena (Iron Butterfly) in time for the recording of the debut album. The ‘Live Sentence’ album recorded on their Japanese tour, followed in 1984. During the tour tensions erupted between Bonnet and Malmsteen which came to an ugly head when both came to blows live on stage! Malmsteen quit straight after and went on to form Rising Force and pursue a very successful and lucrative solo career. Steve Vai (Frank Zappa) replaced Malmsteen in time for the second album ‘Disturbing the Peace’, released on Capital Records in 1985. The band weren’t gaining a great deal of commercial success, so Vai left in 1986 for more lucrative work with David Lee Roth’s band. He was replaced by relatively unknown guitarist Danny Johnson, who recorded the ‘Dangerous Games’ album, released in 1986. The album failed to chart and with that the band decided to call it a day in 1987.
Bonnet reformed a new version of Alcatrazz in 2006 and continued with various lineups until 2014. In 2017, Bonnet re-united with original members Waldo and Shea for three shows in Japan, which also included Conrado Pesinato on guitar and Mark Benquechea on drums. The performances were recorded for the live album/DVD 'Parole Denied - Tokyo 2017'.
In 2019, Bonnet confirmed that he had once again resurrected Alcatrazz, with a new lineup featuring himself, Waldo, drummer Mark Benquechea, guitarist Joe Stump and bassist Beth-Ami Heavenstone. By January 2020, Beth-Ami was replaced by the returning Shea. Alcatrazz's first studio album in thirty-four years, 'Born Innocent' was released in July 2020. Just a few months after the release of the album, Alcatrazz announced that they had parted ways with Bonnet due to management conflicts and musical differences. Bonnet was replaced by his good friend and colleague from the Michael Schenker Group, Doogie White (Rainbow/Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force/Praying Mantis/Tank/La Paz). Bonnet recommended White as he has high respect for him as a vocalist and trusts him to do justice to the band’s legacy. Bonnet went on to resurrect The Graham Bonnet Band. The Doogie White led Alcatrazz wasted no time getting down to business releasing the ‘V’ album in 2021, with a new album, ‘Take No Prisoners’, set for release on the 19th May 2023 through Silver Lining Music.
Upon entering the dark depths of the hallowed Underworld in Camden Town, it was clear to hear that support band Tytan were nearing the end of their short set! Tytan were formed at the height of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal in 1981 by former Angel Witch rhythm section, bassist Kevin Riddles and drummer Dave Dufort. The band split in 1983 but reformed in 2012 and have been touring ever since. By all accounts they played a well-received set.
After a short break, Alcatrazz took to the stage and opened in suitably blistering style with the phenomenal ‘Grace of God’ from the 2021 album ‘V’. Doogie White was in charge and held court in his own inimitable style, patroling the stage and throwing shapes whilst glaring at the gathered throng with his emotive facial expressions. Sadly, keyboardist Waldo ended up being the sole original member on this tour as Shea was absent due to ill health. Fortunately, Danny Merton from Evyltyde stepped in at the last minute to cover bass duties.
The time seemed about right for an Alcatrazz classic in the form of ‘Too Young to Die, Too Drunk to Live’ from the 1983 debut album 'No Parole for Rock ‘N’ Roll'. Jubilantly raucous and chuggingly mischievous! A treat for Rainbow/Doogie White fans came with the sensational ‘Wolf to the Moon’ from the 1995 Rainbow album ‘Stranger in Us All’ - Doogie spent three years with Rainbow from 1994-1997, recording one studio album and one live album with them. Back to the 2021 'V' album for the rampantly effervescent 'Turn of the Wheel' before the brilliant ‘Take Me to the Church’ from the 2018 Michael Schenker Fest ‘Resurrection’ album delighted our ears - Doogie recorded two studio albums and one live album with Michael Schenker's Fest between 2018 – 2020.
Time for a new song in the form of ‘Don't Get Mad…Get Even’ from the forthcoming 'Take No Prisoners' album to be released in May. The album version features a guest appearance form Girlschool. Sadly, the girls didn't join the band on stage for this performance. The track is a top-notch ballsy anthemic rocker that went down well with the attentive crowd. Another treat for Rainbow/Doogie White fans followed with the superb ‘Ariel’ from the 1995 Rainbow album 'Stranger in Us All'. Doogie gets to shine with his powerfully emotive and deeply soaring vocals. A sublime performance all round. A highlight from that album and most definitely a highlight of the set!
Back to the Alcatrazz 1983 debut album 'No Parole for Rock ‘N’ Roll' for the turbo charged ‘Jet to Jet’. A dynamically fluid performance from the band. Doogie is an expressively versatile vocalist who is more than capable of nailing all the vocal intricacies and inflections required of the song which he does with great aplomb! ‘Sword of Deliverance’ is another hard-hitting gem of a track from the 2021 'V' album. Dramatically strong, drivingly anthemic and seriously heavy to boot! Another highlight of the set.
The potent 'Too Late for Tears' was yet another track played from the 1995 Rainbow album ‘Stranger in Us All’. This gig was shaping up to be as much a Doogie White career appreciation set as it was about Alcatrazz, but that was fine by me! The penultimate song was the outstanding ‘Vigilante Man’ from the 2015 Michael Schenker's Temple of Rock album 'Spirit on A Mission', another excellent track from Doogie's illustrious career - Doogie was an integral member of Michael Schenker's Temple of Rock from 2011 - 2016 releasing three studio albums and two live albums with them.
To close the triumphant set, we were spoiled with a juicy rendition of the Rainbow classic ‘The Temple of the King’, originally from the 1975 album 'Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow’. A good ol' crowd sing-along dedicated to the great Rainbow/Deep Purple rockers that have sadly left this mortal coil. All hail Ronnie James Dio, Jimmy Bain, Jon Lord and Cozy Powell!
Girlschool headlined the nights festivities and proceeded to smash it! The current lineup includes Kim McAuliffe - rhythm guitar, lead and backing vocals (1978-present), Denise Dufort - drums (1978-present), Jackie Chambers - lead guitar, backing vocals (2000-present) and Tracey Lamb - bass guitar (1987-1991, 1993-2000, 2019-present). For this tour the girls were joined by special guest guitarist and vocalist Nikola Kandoussi from Prague's heavy rockers The Agony.
Girlschool were founded in 1978 from the ashes of Painted Lady, a Hard Rock band originally formed in 1975 by school friends Kim McAuliffe (rhythm guitar, vocals) and Dinah Enid Williams (bass, vocals) from Wandsworth, South London. Joining McAuliffe and Williams were Kelly Johnson on lead guitar and Denise Dufort on drums. In 1978 the new line-up changed their name to Girlschool - taking it from 'Girls' School', the B-side of the hit single ‘Mull of Kintyre’ (1977) by Paul McCartney and Wings. Their first single, 'Take It All Away' was released in 1978. The single caught the attention of Lemmy from Motörhead which resulted in them being offered a support slot on Motörhead's Overkill tour in 1979. Motörhead's manager Doug Smith became their manager and signed them to Bronze Records. The 1980 debut album 'Demolition' reached number twenty-eight in the UK Album Chart. The follow up EP 'St. Valentine's Day Massacre', a studio recording team-up with Motörhead contains the cover of Johnny Kidd & The Pirates’ song 'Please Don't Touch' and two self-covers, with Motörhead performing Girlschool's 'Emergency', and Girlschool playing Motörhead's 'Bomber'.
The second studio album 'Hit and Run' released in 1981 proved to be a huge success reaching number five in the UK Album Chart. The triumph of their second album made Girlschool a rising attraction in the British Hard Rock and Heavy Metal scene, ensuring headliner slots in medium-sized arenas in their sold-out UK tour. Their 1981 tour culminated in a prestigious Friday night headlining slot at the Reading Festival. A third album 'Screaming Blue Murder' was released in 1982, but it didn’t do as well as the previous two, so they decided to evolve their sound to appeal to a wider audience with the release of the 1983 album 'Play Dirty'. The album was a huge let down and failed to chart. To make matters worse lead guitarist Kelly Johnson quit the band prior to a massive US tour.
The band battled on with an ever-changing line up and sporadically releasing albums throughout the late 80s and early 90s including 'Running Wild' (1985), 'Nightmare at Maple Cross' (1986), 'Take a Bite' (1988) and 'Girlschool' (1992). As luck would have it in 1993 Johnson returned to the band, staying for a further six years before leaving in 1999 due to suffering spinal cancer. Over the next eight years she kept in contact with the band and made several live appearances with them before sadly passing away in 2007.
A new chapter for Girlschool started in 2000 with the arrival of lead guitarist Jackie 'Jax' Chambers and by the return of bassist Enid Williams, who finally rejoined the group after eighteen years. The ninth studio album '21st Anniversary: Not That Innocent' was released at the beginning of 2002. The first album to feature compositions from the new line-up was 2004s 'Believe'. The eleventh studio album 'Legacy', released in 2008, celebrates the 30th anniversary of Girlschool, making them so far the longest running female Rock band in the world! 2011 saw the band re-record their 1981 classic 'Hit and Run'. The new version of the LP, titled 'Hit and Run - Revisited', was released in 2011 to celebrate the original album's 30th anniversary. Their thirteenth, and so far, last studio album, 'Guilty as Sin' was released in 2015. By 2019 bassist Enid Williams decided to stand down from band commitments, Tracey Lamb would return for her third stint with the band (1987-1991, 1993-2000, 2019-present). Current rumors suggest Girlschool are readying a new album for release later this year.
The band hit the stage prompt at 8:45pm, storming in with the raucous ‘Demolition Boys’ from the 1980 debut album 'Demolition’, quickly followed by three bangers ‘C'mon Let's Go’, ‘The Hunter’ and title track ‘Hit and Run’ from the 1981 ‘Hit and Run’ album. Hot footing it up next was the title track of their last studio album from 2015 ‘Guilty as Sin’. A down and dirty stomper that fitted in nicely with the older numbers. ‘Action’ was a curious highlight from their 1988 ‘Take a Bite' album. Two more thunderously vivacious tracks from the ‘Hit and Run’ album ‘Future Flash’ and ‘Kick It Down’ were scintillatingly ear-splitting! Back to the 1980 debut album ‘Demolition’ for a full throttle stomp through ‘Nothing to Lose’ before the title track of the 1982 album ‘Screaming Blue Murder’ smashed in with enough clatter to burst a few eardrums!
The time had come for their special guest guitarist and vocalist Nikola Kandoussi to make an entrance, clad in leather and exuding youthful Punk Rock energy in abundance. She handled lead vocals on ‘Take It Like a Band’ from the 2015 ‘Guilty as Sin’ album. Her voice was lustrously raspy radiating with expressively gritty overtones. Clearly enjoying every minute dueling guitars with Jackie and Kim and having as much fun and hilarity as possible, she remained on the stage for the rest of the set. If Kim ever decides to leave the band, God forbid, then this lady could fill the front woman’s shoes perfectly. In fact, Nikola did actually front the band earlier in the tour when Kim had to sit out a couple of gigs due to illness. Glowing reports suggest she nailed it!
On to the final furlong of the set with the adrenalin soaked ‘Race with the Devil’ from the ‘Demolition’ album before diving headlong into a stonking version of Motorhead's 1979 classic ‘Bomber’. The sold-out crowd were getting a bit lively at this point with spontaneously uninhibited pogoing evident! The roaring maelstrom came to a frenzied head with the blazing intensity of ‘Emergency’ before culminating in the rumbling swagger of ‘Take It All Away’, both from the 1980 ‘Demolition’ album. To wrap the evenings proceedings up the band exploded into a rather spirited rendition of the ZZ Top classic 'Tush'. Clearly having a ball and playing their socks off, Girlschool have still got the fire!
Steven C. Gilbert