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Saturday, 4 May 2013

Another Point Of View: Saxon (Review by Paul Hutchings)

Saxon at O2 Academy, Bristol 28 April 2013

Many readers will know the anticipation I was experiencing for this gig. After popping my gig cherry 31 years ago, Saxon will always be incredibly special to me.

Redline

Openers Redline, formed in Birmingham in 2006, took to the stage to a reasonable crowd. Unfortunately they proceed to play 30 minutes of mediocre hard rock which did absolutely nothing for me. Vocalist Kez Taylor did his best and demonstrated a reasonable vocal range, but the rest of the band had absolutely no stage presence. This, combined with some appalling dress sense (when were red camouflage trousers ever popular?) meant interest quickly waned although there was a fascination watching them akin to rubber necking at a car crash. I’ve researched them on the web and found a comment which stated “if you want something to compare them to, simply classic hard rock like Chariot with some heavier moments of journey thrown in!” Well, that sums it up nicely. 4/10

The Quireboys

Now, whatever you think about Spike and the boys, one thing they don’t lack is stage presence. Whilst many of my party were not particularly keen, I actually really enjoyed them. The Quireboys have been around since the early 80s and I’d actually forgotten how many of their songs I knew. They’ve always been in my peripheral vision, but I’d forgotten songs like Tramps and Thieves, Mona Lisa Smile and This is Rock n Roll were actually theirs. As they crashed through a nine song set, their main influences of The Faces and The Black Crowes were clear. Keyboard player Keith Weir was superb, enhancing their real rock n roll approach. The twin guitars of Paul Guerin and Guy Griffin added real swagger to their songs and the rhythm section of Dave Boyce and Matt Goom anchored the sound. What struck me most was how much fun the band were having, wide grins on all of their faces and Spike enjoying some banter and storytelling with the very healthy audience. By the time that they got to the final three songs, the sing-a-long Hey You, Mother Mary and their chart hit 7’O’Clock the crowd were really engaged. The complete opposite of Redline, The Quireboys had experience, style, charisma and presence. They were thoroughly enjoyable and great to watch. They would have had a 9 but for the fact that they teamed up with Joe Elliott as Down ‘N’ Outz. That will always get a demerit in my book. 8/10

Saxon

And so to the main event: House lights dimmed, and the intro track on Sacrifice, Procession played out to a capacity crowd. Saxon launched straight into Sacrifice followed by Wheels of Terror from the new album. The crowd were in fine voice, with new songs welcomed as keenly as the old classics. Classics? There aren’t many bands around today with a back catalogue of classics like Saxon. Tonight these included The Power and The Glory, Heavy Metal Thunder, Motorcycle Man, Conquistador, And The Bands Played On, Rock n Roll Gypsy and one of their most famous, the cover the Christopher Cross track Ride Like the Wind. Biff was in fine form, earning bonus points by acknowledging that there might be “few in from Wales” which was met by a massive roar from the large Welsh contingent in the audience. I always forget how heavy Saxon are live, but Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt’s guitars soon reminded me, with some brilliant soloing and riffing. Nigel Glockler’s drumming was effortless and combined superbly with Nibbs Carter’s bass lines to keep the momentum. Saxon played a very healthy number of tracks from the new album, all of which came across well in the live setting. Guardians of the Tomb, Night of the Wolf, Stand up and Fight were well appreciated. I did have to laugh at the sight of Paul Quinn with a double neck six and 12 string guitar for Made in Belfast though; He isn’t Alex Lifeson that’s for sure. You know what you get with Saxon, and sure enough, apart from the tedious drum solo which lasted about eight minutes, the rest of the set ws stuffed full of old school brilliance. Wheels of Steel, Dallas 1PM and 747 led to a killer encore of Strong Arm of the Law, Denim and Leather and finally Princess of the Night, which I’m not ashamed to say brought a little tear to my eye. A night of solid old school British Heavy Metal, performed by a band that mean so much to many UK metallers. Roll on Steelhouse. It’s going to be blinding! 10/10

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