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SAXON
London, Astoria 2 October 2004

Phew! What a night this was. I’ve never seen the Astoria so packed, despite the very early kickoff. With NWoBHM stalewarts Saxon on stage just after 7:30, the place was absolutely heaving (with people off all ages) and the atmosphere electric. And this band, the original Biff Byford led Saxon, really were on form. To say hotter than hell would be both clichéd yet a major understatement.

The full extended setlist gave scope for plenty to keep everyone happy. On their last visit here we got one or two songs from Killing Ground; this time we got six tracks from the brilliant new Lionheart album, with the title track opening proceedings tonight.

Both guitarists Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt duelled immensely all night, producing solo after solo, riff after riff. Yet each Saxon song is distinct. Nothing ever merges or runs into one another, no murkiness; the sign of a great band and Saxon have continued to play brilliantly throughout the 90s and 00s.

After ‘Lionheart’ we get ‘Power And The Glory’ and ‘Motorcycle Man’ which the capacity crowd thoroughly enjoy. And what is also obvious is how much the band enjoy it. The smiles and natural energy and enthusiasm shine so bright you can’t help becoming absorbed and leaving the gig shaking with pleasure.

A few surprises in the set list, but with almost every era covered every fan was treated to quite possibly one of the gigs, no, THE gig of the year. And ‘Dogs Of War’ and ‘Unleash The Beast’ have to be the best undiscovered metal from the 90s. No question. Shame about the lack of ‘Solid Ball Of Rock’ but that’s only a minor quibble.

Biff’s long hair trails behind him as he swoops around the stage, the long leather jacket (that looks like a cloak) does too, but it comes off after four songs the place is that hot. And for your added entertainment, drummer Nigel Glockler appears for ‘747 Strangers In The Night’ and ‘And The Bands Played On’. As Biff jokes, he only appears when the band are being filmed!

Meanwhile Jorg Michael fills the drum stool nicely. Bassist Nibbs Carter is a great find and high octane performer too. This might sound blasphemous but he’s probably the best bassist Saxon ever had.

‘Broken Heroes’ adds a nice touch, from the vastly underrated Innocence album, and ‘Heavy Metal Thunder’ is introduced as a slow song you can relax to. Yeah right!

Amongst the banter several banners are thrown onstage by the crowd, which Byford takes time to open up and hold to the crowd, with some being hung on the drumkit. The ‘England’ George Cross he promised to take to Cardiff and Glasgow, to much laughter.

Another spotlight was Biff pointing out his wife and kids, which the entire audience waved and cheered too.

The only distraction of the night was the guitar solo, but ‘Wheels Of Steel’ was a great encore, with the usual crowd chanting, and ‘Princess Of The Night’ rounded proceedings off perfectly. Like the whole set, it was tighter than Kylie’s hotpants with a perfect sound and very loud. And they played for well over 2 hours. Now THAT’s value for money.

Phew indeed!

Setlist:

Intro/Lionheart
Power And The Glory
Motorcycle Man
Beyond The Grave
Flying On The Edge
Never Surrender
The Eagle Has Landed
Searching For Atlantis
747 (Strangers In The Night)
And The Bands Played On
Man And Machine
To Live By The Sword / Unleash The Beast (medley) acoustic intro / 20,000 Feet
Broken Heroes
Strong Arm Of The Law
Heavy Metal Thunder
Dogs Of War
Dallas 1pm
Crusader
Encore:- guitar solo (Doug Scarratt)
Wheels Of Steel
Princess Of The Night

Review: Joe Geesin


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