CONCERT REVIEW: Girschool – Alcatrazz – Lillian Axe Live at The Gramercy Theatre

Girlschool is currently traveling around the United States on what they are calling their Final North American Tour Part 1. Recently, they made a stop at The Gramercy Theatre on 23rd St in Manhattan, and what a stop it was.

The Gramercy Theatre is an old movie house owned by Live Nation with a capacity of 650 and is the sister venue to the larger Irving Plaza. It lies just under two blocks east of Madison Square Park and the original Shake Shack. Plenty of other food options lie in any direction, but food in the venue is limited to a couple of bags of chips or candy. Walking through the entrance brings you two options; downstairs to the right are bathrooms, merch sales, a coat check, a bar and lounge and straight ahead are a set of double doors leading to the performance space. Inside is a bar on either side, stadium-style seats to the rear, and a set of box seats house left. The stage is well elevated and tall ceilings provide for excellent lighting and sound. Live Nation has clearly spent some money making this one of the best small performance venues around.

It would be unusual for any band to tour alone, and Girlschool brought two powerhouses with them, the first of which was Alcatrazz. This was the original band of Yngwie Malmsteen from 1983 to 1984, and was subsequently replaced by Steve Vai. A bit of an internal rift has resulted in two Alcatrazz bands and we were treated to the one containing Gary Shea and Jimmy Waldo. They are touring to support their most recent album Take No Prisoners (Silver Lining Music). The lead single “Don’t Get Mad Get Even,” features guest backing vocals from Girlschool which makes them a perfect fit for the tour.

Having been home to two guitar players known for their playing ability, the band’s style is guitar- heavy. The set starts with a guitar solo and you can hear the influence of Yngwie and Vai in their playing. With a sound that is a cross between Dio and Deep Purple, with a bit of eighties Hair Metal thrown in for good measure, the set opened with a furious tune, “Little Viper,” and didn’t let up from there. A true highlight was “Don’t Get Mad…Get Even,” a straight-up hard rock song that got the crowd moving. If you are looking for a solid heavy band, these guys are it and worth seeing wherever they are and this was just the opener.

Lillian Axe was next to the stage and kept up the energy level already set down. With a lead guitarist and founding member named Steve Blaze, you know it is going to be a hot performance. Some bands play a recording as they walk out but these guys played their own song “Breathe.” It starts slowly with piano and builds until everyone explodes into their first song, “Misery Loves Company.” Their sound is reminiscent of a Prog-rock version of Dokken and their energy is unmistakable. Closing the set with “Show A Little Love” left the crowd wanting more but time to move on to Girlschool.

They are the longest-running all-female Rock band and it immediately becomes clear why when they take the stage. Founded in England in 1978 they are a bit Punk, a bit Metal, and a bit New Wave. Girlschool is often associated with Motorhead and even covers “Bomber” during their set. Like Lemmy, they do have strong London accents, but they are much more easily understood when speaking. While it is hard to avoid comparisons to The Runaways, Girlschool took the concept and definitely made it their own. Founding member and lead vocalist Kim McAuliffe addresses the crowd often and clearly enjoys every moment on stage and the interactions it brings. The other remaining original member is Denise Dufort on drums who makes her part look easy and almost effortlessly lays down a monster beat. Tracy Lamb plays a bass that looks to be almost as big as her and Jackie Chambers rounds out the quartet on a powerful lead guitar.

The lights dim and sirens sound off as the Sirens start singing their songs. Dancing on stage they tear through a twelve-song set with one more as an encore. Their energy and raw sound keep the audience moving. As they progress from song to song, Girlschool only gets stronger and by the time they are done, there is no doubt that they are at the top of their game.

Since this is only part one of their final tour it can be assumed that they will be back and missing the show would be a mistake. In the meantime, there are a couple of festival dates in Europe that would be worth the effort just for Girlschool alone.

Girlschool set list:

  1. Demolition Boys
  2. C’mon Let’s Go
  3. The Hunter
  4. Guilty As Sin
  5. Future Flash
  6. Kick It Down
  7. Nothing To Lose
  8. It Is What It Is
  9. Up To No Good
  10. Race With The Devil (The Gun cover)
  11. Bomber (Motörhead cover)
  12. Emergency


Screaming Blue Murder


Buy Girlschool music and merch here: