Find us on Facebook!

To keep updated like our page at:

Or on Twitter:

Or E-mail us at:

Monday 21 November 2022

A View From The Black Of The Room: Saxon & Diamond Head (Live Review By Simon Black)

Saxon, Diamond Head – St David's Hall, Cardiff, 14.11.22

Much as I love the acoustics in halls like this (designed as they are for theatrical performances and classical music without the benefits of amplification), they’re far from ideal for Metal gigs. What they give with one hand to an old fart like me in terms of chronic tinnitus not taking three days to clear and a nice comfortable view of a well elevated and lit stage, they take away in terms of atmosphere. Let’s face it, for a line up like this, nothing beats a hot sweaty club of a few thousand capacity like Nottingham’s Rock City. Sadly we don’t have one of those of suitable size in Cardiff for bands’s of this pedigree.

Diamond Head (7) consequently are opening to a relatively sparse crowd who are not particularly keen on getting out of their chairs to lend any support, underlining once again the criminal neglect that this band have experienced over the decades. Given their influence and despite some of the shocking business decisions in the past that shaped their career, they really do deserve better in terms of recognition and contribution. And a bit of love wouldn’t go amiss.

Vocalist Rasmus Bom Andersen goes for broke regardless, and delivers a bolshy and boisterous performance, determined to drag the audience out of their lethargy. He may not succeed in actually dragging half of them out of the venue’s bar before their short eight song set finishes, but he does whip up some support from the ones in the auditorium with a set split evenly between the material this line up has been releasing since the eponymous 2016 release and the older material that Lars Ulrich made famous for them. 

Despite giving a fairly sound performance, there is sadly no way of avoiding the reality that these older songs were written and arranged for a singer with far less talent and range than Anderson, and consequently do sound better when Hetfield et al brutalise them – as Anderson is a powerful, clean and strong singer. That newer material, however, worked ten times better, got a better reaction from the punters even though they had never heard them before and deserves the opportunity to be exposed more widely. Leave the past in the past chaps, and keep looking forward…

Which would seem to be the ethos Saxon (10) adopted tonight too.

Now, this is a band that I have to confess to having seen a fair few times over the years. And there’s a reason why I rock ‘n’ roll up time and time again (even if you exclude the numerous festival line-up’s I’ve seen them at too) and that is because they absolutely deliver each and every time. To be honest you can put them in front of an army of twenty thousand Bloodstockers or a tiny club of five hundred, as they will scale their performance to fit the venue and tonight we get a more theatrical performance such as I have not seen from them since the 1990’s. 

OK, not on the scale of thirty foot aluminium eagles, but plenty of space to move, some rostra to make nice silhouettes on and an expensive light show for Biff and the boys to pose against, tongue very firmly in cheek. This worked given the constraints of the venue and with a bit more bluster injected into their performance, they got people on their feet for most of their set (albeit mainly in the lower half of the venue). Announcing that they were recording the show also shook off any residual apathy and Cardiff responded as it always does to such an news - very fucking loudly.

What was not expected at all, was the set list…

Saxon have been as guilty as every other established act of pandering to an audience’s demands over the decades, which let’s face it is not to have more than a slight peppering of anything from whichever album is the most recent and to ride the wave of nostalgia for the songs that everyone knows and loves for the bulk of the set. And let’s face it, they do that in their own way too, making the crowd a part of it by giving them a couple of options and playing whichever gets the largest roar. It’s a great way of making the audience feel involved, although I guess open to manipulation, given no-one is ever going to choose Ride Like The Wind

Not quite tonight, however.

We get three songs from the fabulous most recent opus Carpe Diem, with which the opening track opens the show but at least half the set also came from material from the last two decades, leaving many of the regular Saxon attendees slightly wrong-footed, since I don’t suppose many of them have actually bought a new album recorded before 1990. But for old hacks like me who have kept up, and the die-hards who buy everything and keep the band alive, this was a fabulous set choice, because most of this material only got brief airings when it was the current release way back when and probably hasn’t been aired live since. And let’s face it, the prospect of another live album with less material pre-1989 makes since, considering there’s been at least a dozen of them in the last forty years.

What that set list showed though is how strong and consistent is their writing over the years, and despite that unfamiliarity, the audience rolled with it and roared the house down. Holding back a few classics for the end the before the usual game of “let’s pretend the show’s over”, the audience’s patience was rewarded with two sets of encores delivering that more familiar material. The band were on top form tonight, and despite Biff’s voice sounding a little strained at times, he had the audience in the palm of his hand and kept that interaction with the front rows going despite the stagier setting, creating an intimate feel despite the distance between punter and stage. 

Extra marks in audience participation are awarded beyond the usual breaking the fourth wall handshakes for borrowing someone’s battle vest for Denim And Leather - which bless him he did return having autographed it, even if it did get given back to the wrong side of the crowd.

You always know what you are going to get with Saxon and that’s a solid night of bloody decent old school Heavy Metal, from a band that seem to be more immune to the ravages of time than the crowd. Playing a very different set list was a master stroke, and proof that old dogs do still have a few new tricks.

No comments:

Post a Comment