Photos: Paul Tadday

Words: Bec Helvete

Some line-ups are once in a lifetime. With three huge New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) acts, this is most definitely one of those line-ups. Even the freezing weather didn’t deter this crowd. The front bar is packed as we wait for the main doors to open, a sizeable crowd coming early to ensure they don’t miss a moment. When this gig was announced it garnered major excitement. Even with a line-up change it was clear this was going to be one of the biggest gigs of the year. The excited, ever-growing crowd proves this. The three headlining bands have been around for over 40 years, each band forming their sound in the days of what is now known as the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal.” All three bands have a huge fan base of dedicated followers, who are all out in force tonight. The crowd is a good mix of young and old. As the doors finally open after a small delay, the crowd pours excitedly into the band room. The front few rows fill up quickly while the merch desk and bar are swarmed. Almost as a reward for waiting in the cold,  the night kicks off straight away with the opening band launching into a killer set within minutes. The excited crowd is ready.

Maniaxe are a three-piece Melbourne band well known in the local scene. With their distinctive brand of fast and heavy Thrash Metal, they have a well-deserved reputation of playing an amazing set every time. Tonight is no exception. They immediately launch into a blistering set full of new and old material that quite a few in the crowd are already familiar with. The set is tight and well rehearsed, yet full of raw energy and passion. The drums are blistering and pounding, unrelenting in their pace. The thumping yet intricate bass provides a depth to each song. The guitar playing is on point, complex and wild, inducing the entire front row to headbang. Maniaxe are talented and very fun. You can’t help but be drawn into their set. They were the perfect opener for this gig, working the crowd into a frenzy and setting a high standard, earning easily the wild applause after each song. Their amazing set draws more people to the front of the stage and earns them more fans. It’s not easy opening for such a stellar group of bands and Maniaxe absolutely crushed it.

After a quick changeover Tank grace the stage. Tank are a punk-tinged Metal band with soaring vocals formed in Britain in 1980. The announcement of them being added to the bill garnered as much excitement as the original announcement. Headliners in their own right, they launch into a set that is a highlight of the evening and one of the best shows to grace a Melbourne stage. The first thing that hits you are the vocals of David Readman. Operatic yet raw, Readman’s vocals grab you and don’t let go. He interacts with the audience expertly and his enthusiasm is infectious. He is the quintessential frontman. The guitar work of Mick Tucker and Cliff Evans is what made Tank famous, and tonight we have front-row seats as to why. Each lick and solo personifies that early Heavy Metal sound and penetrates deep into one’s soul. They play each note perfectly and shred like guitar gods. The bass playing of Randy Van Der Elsen and the drumming of Bobby Schottkowski provide the perfect rhythmic backdrop to each song, each man playing with fury and passion. The band draw the audience into chants and fist pumping, creating that rare atmosphere where the band and audience are one. I don’t use the term ‘show stealer’ lightly, but I am using it here. Tank stole the show and left the audience chanting for more.

The pace tonight is unrelenting. After a small break to quickly grab a drink, Raven take the stage. Often called ‘athletic rock,’ they were key in the early NWOBHM movement and an early influencer of the Thrash Metal genre. After seeing them perform, it is clear as to why. Lead vocalist and bassist John Gallagher is electrifying. His mic headpiece allows him to take control of the stage and stir the crowd into a further frenzy. His soaring vocals have a huge range and drive home the classic lyrics. Lead guitarist Mark Gallagher shreds like a madman, his solos personifying that early Thrash-like sound. Drummer Joe Hasselvander sets a furious pace, his drumming like rolling thunder. It is quickly apparent why Raven are considered legends. The crowd sings along to each song with passion, the familiar strains given new life as many hear these classics live for the first time. Raven excel live, taking their set to the next level. A pit breaks out and it is amazing it took this long. The feedback between band and audience intensifies. As the set ends the crowd chants for more; they would have easily listened to Raven all night.

But of course we have one more band to go and we wait with anticipation. Girlschool are renowned for their punk-tinged Metal and many in the crowd have been waiting for this moment. Often associated with fellow early Metal Brits Motorhead, Girlschool are legends in their own right. The band burst onto the scene in the early 80s, grabbing attention with their heavy sound and all-female line up. It has taken them over 40 years to get to Australia and the crowd is more than ready. They walk onto the stage to rapturous applause and the vibe only gets more wild from there. The band launch into the first song with enthusiasm and bravado, making it clear the set that follows will be a once in a lifetime show. They do not disappoint. The set list is filled with classics such as Hit and Run, Take it Like a Band, and Take it All Away. Lead singer / guitarist Kim McAuliffe plays her heart out with a high energy performance that proves exactly why she is a legend in the scene. Her vocals are amazing, melodic with a dirty edge that drives home every song. McAulliffe is a founding member along with Denise Dufort whose performance on the drums is phenomenal, guaranteeing that Girlschool’s trademark upbeat sound hits its mark. Jackie Chambers kills it on guitar, each riff working the crowd into a frenzy along with the frenetic bass playing of Tracey Lamb. Song after song heightens the energy of the crowd who go absolutely wild.

Girlschool’s set was perfect, played with the kind of talent and enthusiasm that takes decades to master. The crowd around the stage is wild, the pit in full swing. Bodies crash as everyone sings along with passion. McAuliffe’s cheeky onstage banter works the crowd into a further frenzy. As the set draws to a close the crowd begs for more. The encore is inevitable but the audience still goes wild as the band walk back on for one more song. Raven’s John Gallagher joins in on vocals for a once in a lifetime performance that is not to be missed. As the set draws to its conclusion the crowd show their love loudly, chanting for more. As the houselights come on, people enthusiastically turn to each other to rave about what they have just seen. The show is quickly branded one of the best shows of the year. Honestly I couldn’t agree more. Each band raised the stakes and each band proved why they are legends. Other than some early issues with the sound, there was not a single low point in the whole show. Every band was mind blowing. Every single one. If you missed out on this line-up, you missed out on a once in a lifetime experience those present will be talking about for years. This reviewer is still buzzing from this show, and I know I am not the only one.

Last night was the last show for this line-up, but Raven and Girlschool have some solo sideshows coming up in Sydney and Adelaide. Don’t miss out and grab your tickets now!