A couple of years ago Biff announced from the Assembly stage that he was so impressed with the venue and the audience that he promised to bring the band back on the next tour. Many things get said within the buzz and excitement of a live show but true to his word here they are treading the Leamington boards for the opening show on the very next studio album tour.
As with their previous visit this was another quality value for money, three band bill with to open (almost local boys as they hail from Birmingham) Redline with a set full of driving, riff laden, crashing heavy rock in the tradition of Judas Priest, and tonight’s headliners Saxon, and vocalist Kez Taylor has some set of lungs.
Rockers like the storming ‘Battle Cry’ and ‘Some Kinda Mean’ had the evening’s early comers nodding their heads in approval, and they saved the best to last with a rip roaring ‘King of the Mountain’ a monster of a track which has massive exposure as is the official anthem for ‘The Isle of Man TT’ TV coverage.
Next up to entertain us The Quireboys and boy did they do that performing one of the best support sets I have ever seen, their sound now as always a glorious mix of the swagger of The Rolling Stones and The Faces injected with extra rock and the bonus upfront of one of the true showman of rock and roll Spike.
Combining old favourites and a couple of new tunes (new album out later this year) the set raced by with never a dull moment, they kicked off with the wonderfully sleazy ‘Tramps and Thieves’ followed by the groovy, flowing ‘There She Goes Again’ and from the off Spike is a human rock and roll dynamo, strutting his stuff all over the stage and swinging that mic stand every which way and loose.
The new material performed was impressive and in the good old Quireboys tradition ‘Mother Mary’ was a powerful ballsy ballad and ‘Too much of a Good Thing’ had an added a touch of AC/DC power boogie.
The pace drops slightly for a wonderful heartfelt ‘Mona Lisa Smiled’ which Spike says even made our Biff cry, on this number Spike really hits a Rod Stewart vibe.
As Spike says they have to play ‘Hey You’ and why on earth not, punchy, catchy as hell, and what a chorus which of course was echoed around the hall by the crowd.
To finish, with heaps of honky Tonk piano and Spike on harmonica a pulsating ’7 O’ Clock’, a glorious set I will remember for a long time.
Saxon are a quality act who always deliver which is why for this opening night of the tour the hall is packed as the metal legends roar onto stage and open with two belters from their just released new studio album, ‘Sacrifice’ the title track with the twin lead guitars battling it out and ‘Wheels of Terror’ a slower paced stomping rocker.
First of the many classics in the set next a rip roaring ‘Power & the Glory’ the title track of an album celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
I was really impressed that apart from the ever present complete classics (you know what they are!) the back catalogue numbers were different from their last Assembly show and had me cock-a-hoop as they included two of my personal favourites their supercharged version of the Christopher Cross penned ‘Ride Like the Wind’ and the dramatic ‘Dallas 1 PM’ complete with soaring Paul Quinn guitar solo.
A charged up ‘To Hell and Back Again’ was introduced with the story behind the lyrics, the band received fan mail from a convict on death row in the USA, and a dynamic ‘Never Surrender’ with one of their best ever riffs rocked the audience into submission.
Quite early in the set a St George flag was thrown on the stage and of course the always patriotic Mr Byford draped it over the drum riser.
Must admit I was surprised when I noticed an acoustic guitar on stage during the set up (surely a mistake!), but no we had an ‘acoustic’ number at a Saxon gig: ‘Requiem’ a moving tribute to those rock and rollers we have lost.
Biff on fine form all set, head banging with hair flying (actually the whole band were guilty of this!) and he controlled the crowd to perfection, prompting plenty of fist pumping and sing-alongs, even having a split the room singing contest mid set and the whole band look like they still get a real buzz out of performing.
The last two numbers of the main set were surely two of the top rock tracks of all time ’747 (Strangers In the Night)’ and the explosive ‘Wheels of Steel’.
The encores started with a scorching new number ‘Warriors of the Road’ a racing (sorry!!) tribute to Formula 1 motor racing and then to finish the evening back to the classics with a pulsating ‘Strong Arm of the Law’, then the band’s tribute to their legion of fans ‘Denim and Leather’ and finally the atmospheric ode to the steam train age ‘Princess of the Night’.
A triumphant set by one of the top rock bands around, just about a faultless performance, bags of energy, sound spot on, a set list perfectly weighted with new material and classics, a strong set by openers Redline and a knockout set by The Quireboys, not bad for a Thursday night in Leamington Spa.
Review and photos by Andrew Lock
More from the Sacrifice tour:
Gig review (Oxford Academy, 5 May 2013)
Gig review (Glasgow ABC, 21 April 2013)
Gig review (Nottingham Rock City, 20 April 2013)
Album review (Sacrifice)
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