There was a moment, just before the New Wave of British Heavy Metal imploded onto the power ballad mainstream, when Girlschool threatened to be really huge. Effortlessly trampling down those critics who compared them to nothing more than an adrenalined Runaways, rejoicing in the patronage of Motorhead, and already cutting their own distinctive swathe through the predominantly male world of UK metal, Girlschool may have functioned best on the tiny club and pub circuit but, at their best, they took no prisoners.
The first half of this disc takes us straight back to that era, with the short set that was many listeners' first exposure to the band. Recorded in the comparative intimacy of the BBC's own Paris Theatre, and opening with their trademark rerouting of ZZ Top's "Tush," following through with "Midnight Ride" and Kelly's showcase "Breakdown," and onto the closing "Emergency," it's a breathtaking performance, marred only by the slightly fuzzy sound that suggests it may have been recorded straight from the radio.
The Tokyo show, two
years later (and a couple of notches higher on the hi-fi scale), has its
moments, too, although the band's early rambunctiousness has certainly
faded, together with the sense that Girlschool really were heading out
on a magical musical limb. Fairly standard rent-a-rock riffing was the
order of the day now, and though they still throw a handful of old-style
stompers into the mix, there's little to distinguish Girlschool from any
other metal band of the age. They're still loud as hell, though, they
unfurl choruses like other bands shake their heads, and anybody looking
to remember when the New Wave really was "new" could do a lot worse than
stop off here. -
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