When asked about NWOBHM, thoughts are immediately turned to the likes of Iron Maiden, Saxon, Tygers of Pan Tang and Girlschool. A name that should have been on most fans lips would be Tokyo Blade. The band has shared stages with the likes of Metallica, Dio, Blue Öyster Cult, and Scorpions. On this night Brofest, Newcastle, UK had “the Blade” as the festival headliners and they had the honor of closing the festival on Sunday. Tokyo Blade formed in 1980 at the very height of the NWOBHM era as Killers. The band played a lot of gigs and recorded two demo tapes before changing their name to Genghis Khan in 1983. The reason for the name change was that the band learned that there was another band from Switzerland using the name Killers. Lead vocalist Alan Marsh‘s previous band had been called Genghis Khan and since that band had split they decided to use it. Soon the renamed band recorded another 11 track demo which came out in 1983. A shop in Salisbury called Rod Records financed a 7″ single with 4 songs. As 1983 proved to be a busy year the band went through another and final name change to Tokyo Blade, mainly because the members of Alan‘s original Genghis Khan didn’t like that the band used the name.
The classic line up of Tokyo Blade was born in 1983 and that recorded the classic cult debut album. The band was made up of lead vocalist Alan Marsh, guitarists Andy Boulton and John Wiggins, bass player Andy Robbins and behind the drumkit was Steve Pierce. This album has by the time these lines are written reached cult status and many fans would say the band reached its height with album number two Night of the Blade which came out in 1984. Before that, in early 1984 an EP called Midnight Rendezvous was released. Already by 1984, Andy Wrighton had replaced the straying Robbins on bass. This was not all that would happen during the eventful 1984. Just before the album was to be released and mainly due to label pressure it was decided Alan Marsh was not a strong enough frontman and he was replaced by the American Vicki James Wright of glam band Johnny Crash. Vicki, who had the David Lee Roth stage persona the label was going for, retracked Alan‘s vocals on the already finished album. In 1998, the original recording of Night of the Blade finally saw the light of day with Alan Marsh on vocals. The album is called Night of the Blade – The Night Before upon its release.
These two first albums and the Midnight Rendezvous EP are the source of the entire setlist for Tokyo Blade on this night which is, of course, expected with Alan back in the fold. With so much animosity and so many years being split apart, it’s almost a religious moment to see the whole classic line-up including Marsh, Boulton and Wiggins, Wrighton and Pierce grace the same stage in Newcastle. I never thought I would witness this and it almost bring tears to my eys when they hit the stage around 10 pm. They start with the surprise opener “Death on Main Street” from the Midnight Rendezvous EP. Alan‘s voice seems to be in great shape. The whole band seems to be enjoying themselves on this night as they plunge into “Someone to Love” from Night of the Blade right after they finish the first song. Wiggins and Boulton trade solos throughout the gig and they move forward with another Night of the Blade cut called “Dead of Night”. The band has another batch of surprises up their sleeve when they play “Lightning Strikes” from the rare EP by the same name. Alan Marsh does not really do a lot of talking which is great and the emphasis is put on playing as many numbers as possible given that there is a 23.00 hours curfew imposed. Alan says that they are now going to do a song they haven’t done in a long time and they kick off “Highway Passion” from the Midnight Rendezvous EP. It’s a big surprise that the EP is so well represented in the setlist on this evening so while they’re still at it, they fire off “Mean Streak” as well. Every song seems well rehearsed and the rhythm section of Wrighton and Pierce provide a perfect bottom end to every song.
After the EP treatment with a couple of surprising numbers, we go back to Night of the Blade with “Love Struck”. It’s a pumping, mid-tempo rock song that surely has its rightful place in the setlist. Up next is the fast-paced “Fever” which turns up the heat and pace with a big crowd cheer as they finish the song. We’re heading towards the end of the gig with the band now moving into classic songs that sort of “have to be played”. “Sunrise in Tokyo” is up next and the fist is in the air, pumping to the beat of this classic cut. We go on with “Killer City” which is a fast-paced rocker. Looking at the setlist it looks like two songs have been blacked out to keep the curfew. There can only be one song left and Tokyo Blade leave us with “If Heaven is Hell” which is definitely one of the strongest songs of the band’s whole carreer. The performance is great, the sound and the visual presentation is top notch and the focus is on delivering thundering classic metal songs instead of talking. In total this is a stunning performance by a classic band that is a worthy headliner of Brofest 2017. This is a gig that brought memories that will stay on for a very long time. What we need now is a new album from this classic line up – the first one in 33 years.
Tokyo Blade setlist at Brofest:
Death on Mainstreet
Someone to Love
Dead of Night
Sunrise in Tokyo
Night of the Blade
If Heaven is Hell