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Thursday, 4 December 2014

Another Point Of View: Saxon (Review By Paul)

Saxon – Bristol 02 Academy

The Musipedia crew headed en masse across the bridge to yet another Bristol gig, this time for one of our favourite bands, Barnsley’s finest, the mighty Saxon. Here at Musipedia Towers we were disappointed to learn a few weeks ago that Northern Irish power metal outfit Stormzone had pulled out of the opening slot and instead had been replaced by German outfit Beyond the Black.

Beyond The Black

Given the links that Saxon has with Germany, it was unsurprising that a German band were given the opportunity to providing the initial warm up. Hitting the stage shortly after the doors opened they delivered a short symphonic metal set, with most of the focus on female vocalist Jennifer Haben. The Mannheim based outfit had an interesting image, with Haben in leather trousers and boots and chiffon robe flowing, whilst other members of the band were kitted out in muscle vests and shorts! Apparently the band made their live debut at Wacken earlier this year and whilst their set was pretty routine symphonic metal, the band gave it a really good go and appeared to be having a good time on stage, something that always makes you warm to them a little more. A solid start to the evening. 7/10

Hell

Next up was a band much more familiar to us, the resurrected kings of NWOBHM, Hell. This band is a firm favourite of the Musipedia gang, and as usual they were on excellent form. Kicking off with Age Of Nefarious, Hell delivered a fiery (sorry) set with the twin guitars of Andy Sneap and Kev Bower shredding away. Frontman David Bower is the obvious focal point for the band but given the cramped stage, the theatrics for which he has become renowned were limited. However, his presence at the front of the stage was as captivating as ever with his vocal delivery continuing to impress with every viewing. The set comprised of tracks from both albums, The Oppressor following the set opener whilst Something Wicked This Way Comes eased towards set closer On Earth As It Is In Hell. Having seen the full spectacle of Hell at BOA last year, in the smaller venues it is the music that has to do the talking and with two full albums to choose from, Hell don’t have a problem. I appreciate that they may not be to everyone’s taste but the reaction from the Bristol crowd suggested that they certainly impressed the majority of those present. 8/10

Saxon 

Saxon need no introduction. Regular readers will have noted my long standing affection of the first band I ever saw back in 1982. The lyrics to set closer Denim And Leather mean a huge amount to me as it describes those first steps into the world of heavy metal over 30 years ago. Yes, we did queue for tickets through the ice and snow; we did listen to the radio every Friday night (the much missed Tommy Vance and his Friday Rock Show to be precise) and we did wear denim and leather (and some of us still do!). 35 years after their first release, Saxon can still compete with the best. It is fair to say that the past five or so years have seen a massive surge in popularity for the band, with the audience containing a huge mix of ages. Our party had two generations with ages from 19 – 48. So why are Saxon so damn good? Well, it is mainly the songs, with classic after classic filling their first few albums. Opener Motorcycle Man set the pace, closely followed by their most recent release, the excellent Sacrifice. Despite being billed as an evening of old school music from Wheels Of Steel, Strong Arm Of The Law and Denim And Leather, Saxon chose to liberally sprinkle the set with tracks from a range of other albums as well. Lionheart, Solid Ball Of Rock, Power And The Glory and I've Got To Rock all got rare airings, and stood shoulder to shoulder with the stone wall quality of And The Bands Played On, a vicious Heavy Metal Thunder and 747.

However, to have the songs you also need the musicians and in Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt Saxon possess two damn fine guitarists who unleashed solo after solo as the evening developed. The solid and powerhouse drumming of Nigel Glockler (no drum solo too - bonus!) is complemented by the energetic enthusiasm of bassist Nibbs Carter who must burn calories by the bucket load as he charges around the stage. And then you have the main man, Biff Byford. Is there a finer frontman in rock? Apart from Robert Plant few vocalists have the presence on stage like Biff. His long hair flows as he swaggers around the stage, his banter is pitched exactly right and his voice can still carry a note. Calm and measured during The Eagle Has Landed and Crusader, and anthemic during main set closer Princess Of The Night and genuinely endearing all round, Biff is the very essence of British Heavy Metal. He’s also as fit as a butcher’s dog; compare him to the husk of a man that Lemmy has been reduced to. Biff also acknowledged our Welsh flag on the balcony, which buys the band an extra point in this review. Although the set lost a little momentum in the middle section, with a couple of real oldies, Suzie Hold On and Frozen Rainbow struggling to maintain the momentum, the encores of Dallas 1PM and the inevitable Denim And Leather ensured the evening climaxed on a real high.

A set that lasted just shy of two hours, with huge energy and effort expended from a band who had been on the road for six weeks (with five days off), Saxon once again proved that there are few who can compete with them in the live arena. I’d be more than happy if Paul Gregory rectifies what he should have done this year and gives them the Friday night headline slot at BOA 2015. I know it won’t happen … but it would be bloody brilliant if it did. Then we could see the Eagle rise on British soil once again. 9/10

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