Raven, Girlschool, Alcatrazz, Airforce @Newcastle Trillians, February 15 2024

Denim pressed. Leather aired.

Studs tightened and frayed backpatches repaired.

Tatts touched up, piercings polished and hair — for those still clinging onto some — straightened, it was time for Newcastle to go back in time.

Back to an era when Geoff Barton was the voice of heavy music.

A time when Tommy Vance shaped the playlist of rebels everywhere.

When wide-eyed kids like Lars Ulrich dreamed of banging heads with bands like Raven.

And a period when razor-sharp riffs and ear-bleeding solos were the currency of kids pissed off with punk and seeking something harder than rock.

Trillians was sold out and sweating buckets as four bands synonymous with trad metal revived the glory days… and then some.

And if you were lucky enough to grow up during NWOBHM’s glory days — or became a student of a golden era decades later — this was the only place to be on an unseasonably mild February night.

Babies of the bunch Airforce got the party started behind Portuguese powerhouse Flavio Lino.

Formed in 1986 — when Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris introduced his former drummer Doug Sampson to guitar hero Chop Pitman — the Londoners enjoyed a decade-long run as mainstays of the UK metal scene.

But with the nuclear-lunged Lino flooring audiences the world over there’s never been a better time to enjoy maximum-volume renditions of Heroes, Band Of Brothers and Sniper.

Alcatrazz launched the careers of both Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai

And it’s never easy for the latest custodian of the band’s historic axe to emerge from the shadows of two genre greats.

But Berklee professor Joe Stump did just that — shredding his way through a faultless set alongside classic rock royalty Doogie White.

If keysman Jimmy Waldo provides the early 80s authenticity then his hired hands deliver the tried and tested talent — new(ish) tune Sword Of Deliverance was one of the sharpest songs of the night.

Girlschool have been going for 46 years according to founding member Kim McAuliffe and nobody’s going to argue with the band’s pocket rocket frontwoman.

‘New girl’ Jackie Chambers (24 years into her stint as lead guitarist) is on hand to fact check any of her band mate’s hazier memories.

But when it comes to bona fide heavy metal bangers, this classy quartet remembers every last note.

It’s an added bonus that fist-pumpers Guilty As Sin and It Is What It Is stand tall alongside any of the ‘classics’ — the latter a hard-hitting highlight from last year’s WTFortyfive long player.

Headliners for the night Raven took Metallica on their first tour across the US back in the 1980s and the two bands have remained close ever since.

Newcastle’s most famous Gallaghers since Hughie (ok, so the ex-Toon striker was a Gallacher, but you get the point) celebrate half a century this year.

And these days brothers John and Mark come armed with a volley of new tunes from albums including 2020’s Metal City and last year’s critically acclaimed All Hell’s Breaking Loose.

Demand for this homecoming show was so great that Raven booked a second Trillians gig 72 hours later and no doubt the hardcore Raven Lunatics will have been back for more.

Those in situ midweek had their brains melted by Hell Patrol, On And On, Crash Bang Wallop and more. 

Still nifty at 50, it’s impossible to imagine a heavy metal scene without Raven’s self-confessed radgies.

So we won’t.

Images by Mick Burgess