Tonight, a packed out O2 Academy was treated to two extremely powerful sets by two bands that are very familiar with the almighty riff. The crowd was a curious mixture of old school fans, new fans brought on board by the hit Anvil documentary, and a surprisingly strong contingent of young fans that are only just discovering the rock and metal genre's many delights. The atmosphere in the venue was electric from the moment we got in, and by the time Girlschool took to the stage the place was almost full. The lights dimmed, the intro started, and a crowd that was already sweating awaited something fantastic.
We got it in spades.Girlschool have been around as a band as long as I've been alive, and that's a hell of an achievement. Kim McAuliffe and the girls have always generated an air of respectability in the rock scene to me, but while they may have their roots in another musical era, they can kick your arse hard. Their set was a raucous mixture of classic tunes and more recent pieces, which melded together well. Kim broke a string (“The first broken string of the tour”) and ended up playing one of Lips' guitars for a couple off tracks, leading to some delightful stage banter. Girlschool came across as perfectly at home on the stage, and for their whole set they owned the place.
The interlude is mercifully brief, and Anvil hit the boards with the instrumental 'March of the Crabs', stomping around as the crowd went insane. The band were clearly having the time of their lives, which I hope has been the case for the whole tour, as they've damn well earned this new popularity. The crowd kept on getting louder, and from where we were at the front, the band's grins were hard to miss. '666', 'Winged Assassin', 'This Is Thirteen', 'Mothra', 'Flying Blind', 'Thumb Hang' and more served a hugely appreciative audience some old school traditional metal. The slower numbers had a huge impact, which impressed me on a musical level due to the band operating as a three piece since the departure of 2nd guitarist Ivan Hurd a few years ago. Despite the single guitar in their live setup, they sound immense.
The onstage banter of Lips was at times both heartwarming and hilarious (much like the film was). Their appreciation for fans old and new was blatant throughout the whole set, and the energy they put into their performance would easily make thousands of young bands whimper. The set climaxed with the ubiquitous 'Metal On Metal' (including a fantastic singalong) and an encore of 'Jackhammer', and off they went to riotous applause. ever Even though many of the songs would be unfamiliar to much of the audience, the set was perfectly pitched and had everyone singing along by the second chorus. Personally I'd have liked to have heard 'Bombs Away' from 'This is Thirteen', but other than that it was perfect. Lips was in fine voice and beating the hell out of his guitar, Glenn 5 was showing off some very strong bass work (love the 12 string bass, man!) and Robb 'Robbo' Reiner was flat out astonishing during his drum solo.
Within a few minutes the band were amongst the crowd, chatting, signing and having pictures taken (Hence the three of me with the band you see here). Talking to them, it's very plain indeed to see that they are extremely grateful for the support of new fans and old, and I pray that they come back to these shores soon (hopefully with a new album! Are they still working on 'Juggernaut of Justice'?). Getting to talk to people that you admire will blow the mind of many fans, and despite my experience with talking to musicians, I couldn't help but act like a gibbering fanboy. Anvil delivered the goods that night- hard and heavy, just as we wanted it.
Huge thanks to the band for being so cool, Girlschool for such a great opening set, and the crowd for being so flat out energetic. What a night. If you ever get the chance to see them live, do it. Their show is worth every penny of the ticket price, and then some.
Here's hoping that next time around I can bag an interview with them for the magazine ;)
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