35 years on since their album debut and the mighty Saxon return to their roots. The “Tiv” was a regular watering hole for bands in the eighties and it seems that life has come full circle. A series of club dates were announced ahead of the band’s scheduled tour with Motorhead last November, a sort of warm-up if you like. But now that the tour has been put on hold twice whilst Lemmy gets fit, all credit to Biff and the Boys for keeping their promise.
But first a word about our support tonight, the Northern Irish melodic hard rockers Stormzone. One of GRTR!’s favourites for many years and who supplied a track for our Rising Stars CD several years back. There’s something about melodic invention that is as much a part of Irish music as a damn good pint of Guinness. And, in part, there was a trace of Lizzy-style guitar harmony in this band’s footprint. Tracks from the new album ‘Three Kings’ and previous such as ‘Death Dealer’ went down very well and Stormzone certainly deserve wider attention.
The Barnsley Battalion opened their set with a rousing ‘Sacrifice’ from the current album and Biff was soon in control, ultimately reminding us that we were essentially in a 1980s time-warp. But where Saxon score over many of their contemporaries: they are not averse to mixing things up across the years. The inclusion tonight of a couple of songs from ‘Crusader’ reminded us of that album’s 30th anniversary this year.
Biff emerges in fine voice, in fine spirits, and playful humour, and is very much on the side of the fan calling the rest of the band “bastards” for omitting three key tracks from the set list. Whilst they did eventually play ‘And The Bands Played On’ they did leave out ‘Motorcycle Man’ and ‘Never Surrender’. Bastards.
However no clear candidate emerged from his interjection with the audience about their special request suggesting that the audience was either over-awed or over-lubricated. A stellar version of ‘Dallas 1 pm’ compensated.
For me, as previously, the real turning-point in a near two hour set was ’747 (Strangers In The Night)’ – one of the greatest ever heavy rock songs, always brilliantly executed, and topped tonight by a vicious Paul Quinn solo.
From then on it was almost like heavy metal auto-pilot with the climatic salvo of ‘Wheels Of Steel’, ‘Crusader’ and ‘Denim And Leather’. Throughout – and literally from the starting gate – Nibbs Carter impressed with both his very musical bass and his headbanging.
Tonight was a chance to cherish and savour again one of heavy rock’s finest in a more intimate setting. In harder times, maybe more “bigger” bands will revert to smaller venues. It must have seemed a world away from Download or Sweden Rock for the band themselves, but quite wonderful nevertheless and – for a brief moment in time – maybe we had indeed re-captured a little bit of our mis-spent youth.
Review by David Randall
Photos & Gallery by Simon Dunkerley
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
1. Sacrifice 2. Power and the Glory 3. Heavy Metal Thunder 4. Battalions of Steel 5. I’ve Got To Rock (To Stay Alive) 6. Stallions Of The Highway 7. Lionheart 8. Solid Ball Of Rock 9. Dallas 1 PM 10. And The Bands Played On 11. Night Of The Wolf 12. Sailing To America 13. Rock ‘n’ Roll Gypsy 14. 747 (Strangers in the Night) 15. Strong Arm Of The Law 16. Wheels Of Steel Encore: 17. Crusader 18. Denim And Leather 19. Princess Of The Night
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Power Plays w/c 16 September (Mon-Fri)
BLOCK BUSTER Losing Gravity (Frontiers)
WATCH ME BREATHE Don’t Think I Haven’t Thought About It (The Label Group/INGrooves)
FIRES OF FREYA Take A Bow (indie)
BLACK STAR RIDERS Underneath The Afterglow (Nuclear Blast)
STOMPIN’ HEAT Shiny Curly Red Hair (indie)
Featured Albums w/c 16 September (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 THE DEFIANTS Zokusho (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 CORELEONI II (AFM Records)
14:00-16:00 TONY McLOUGHLIN True Native (Fuego)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
BAD COMPANY Company Of Strangers (1995)
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