Anne-Marie Hurst (ex-Ghost Dance), Rubella Ballet, Lilygun - Scala, London

London's Scala club played host to first capital gig in almost two decades from one of the top female artistes of the 1980's alternative rock scene Anne-Marie Hurst, with support slots from Lilygun and Rubella Ballet.

London's Lilygun were an act that's new to me. The group are fronted by Anna-Christina on guitar and vocals, with her trusty sidekick Piranha on bass duties making up the core of the band. The group delivered an entertaining support slot, producing dark rock with a bit of slap bass thrown in for good measure, with the main duo charismatic and interesting performers.

The last time punk band Rubella Ballet appeared on my rader was probably the early 80's. I believe that I once owned a copy of the cassette only album Ballet Bag but I've no idea what happened to it! The Ballet had strong links with punk anarchists Crass in their early days, supporting them on a few occasions over the years. I was lucky enough to catch a handful of Crass live shows but never with Rubella Ballet in support so their Scala set was my introduction to the band's live experience.

I'm not sure how many of the band members on stage were part of the 80's line up but I know dayglo clad lead singer Zillah Minx and drummer Sid Ation were there at the start. A few years may have passed since the band debuted but Zillah has managed to maintain a lot of her teenage energy, bounding around and spinning about the stage while her band members blasted out tracks from the group's back catalogue, the music treading a similar path as Zilla's contemporaries X-Ray Spex and The Slits. I actually found myself enjoying the set a lot, with final song "Emotional Blackmail" going down a treat.

Anne-Marie Hurst originally came to the attention of music listeners fronting Skeletal Family, one of the first wave of goth bands. The Keighley based group produced two albums and several singles before band in-fighting caused Anne-Marie to call it day in 1985, hooking up with ex-Sisters Of Mercy guitarist Gary Marx to form Ghost Dance.

Although I was a fan of several alternative rock bands in the early 80's, catching sets from the likes of Southern Death Cult, UK Decay and Theatre Of Hate during the period the Skeletal's completely passed me by, with the debut single from Ghost Dance my introduction to Anne-Marie's World.

My memory is not the best these days but I believe I caught the band live on a few occasions in the second half of the 80's, with a show at Glasgow (possibly Spitz?) ringing a strong bell. The band delivered several great singles over the years with "When I Call" probably my favourite but only managed to deliver one studio album in the form of Stop The World. It was a slightly patchy affair but the excellent title track still gets plenty of airings on my ipod. The band split up around 1989, with Anne-Marie taking a break from music for almost two decades.

My first thought when she took to the Scala stage was that she looked like she should be there as she looked great and seemed to be brimming with confidence! This was certainly no po-faced performance, more a celebration of a decent back catalogue with a look to the future too.

Anne-Marie was aided by great backing band including two ex-Skeletal Family members in the shape of Trotwood on bass and Stan Greenwood on guitar, and GD's debut single "River of No Return" opened proceedings.

The set pulled songs from both of Anne-Marie's bands, with GD single "Down To The Wire" and the Skeletal's "She Cries Alone" appearing early on. A largish crowd had appeared from the front of house bar by the time the band took to the stage and had seemed fairly excitable throughout the early numbers. Things moved up another level when the GD track "Last Train" appeared though, with a huge mosh pit forming, filling the majority of the downstairs auditorium.

Normally when you're squeezed at the front of the stage there's normally a bit of a buffer zone between you and the "dancers" consisting of the couple of people behind you but there was no such protection at the Scala! I usually manage to lightly push or elbow human projectiles away from me in these situations but I was very wary as I was holding my camera and could see my own forgetfulness causing me to lash out camera in hand in the near future, sending it sailing out into a mass of ex-goths, resulting in a trashed and trampled expensive piece of kit!

So after a couple more songs I packed it away, legging it to the bar to grab my first pint of the evening, returning to take in the rest of the set from a slightly safer position! It was a real treat to hear some old Ghost Dance favourites again, with "A Deeper Blue" and "I Will Wait" sounding especially strong towards the end of the performance.

Anne-Maries' set was too short for my liking but the crowd were treated to an encore in the form of sizzling renditions of Skeletal Family's "The Wind Blows", ending with Anne-Marie writhing about the ground and the band's take on the GD classic "Walk In My Shadow".

Hopefully Anne-Marie wont leave it for another couple of decades before returning to London. The Scala show proved she still has what it takes to really entertain an audience and the newer songs in the set were able to happily stand their ground with the oldies. I imagine there's plenty of fans out there unaware that she's gigging again but hopefully they'll be able to catch her live in the near future.

I don't know if there's a problem with performing under the Ghost Dance moniker but if not I'd certainly contemplate a short tour using the name to pull the punters in. I suppose she could go down the same road the lead singer of an 80's psychobilly band used in the 90's, and call the band I Can't Believe It's Not Ghost Dance!
Well, it worked for him! ...

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