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Assembly, Leamington, 9 April 2011

Saxon, photo by Andrew Lock

This was without doubt the best all out rock show I have seen at this magnificent venue, two strong support acts and one of the all time great NWOBHM bands playing a blinder. with a stage set up that could easily grace venues many times the size and all in front of a packed hall of enthusiastic rockers of all ages, this show was also the opening night of Saxon's UK tour.

First up Crimes of Passion a 5 piece classic heavy metal band with lead vocalist Dale coming over like the UK's very own Dave Lee Roth, striking all the rock star poses and full of charm, a quality set of metal in the vein at times of Iron Maiden.

Fury UK, photo by Andrew Lock

Next up a real power trio Fury UK with a set full of hard hitting riff filled numbers and spectacularly fast guitar solos, these guys really are a headbangers delight with for me a sound with again touches Maiden but also possibly The Almighty and Metallica.

The band's latest album A Way of Life was released in 2010 and they opened their set with two scorchers from that album 'I See Red' and 'Fall From Grace' both tracks that do not let up for a second, a quality rock outfit and easy to see why they have been chosen as a support act for high profile shows including Michael Schenker and of course tonight's headliners.

Saxon, photo by Andrew Lock

Saxon of course have one of the best rock front men of all time at the helm in Biff Byford who surely ranks alongside Lemmy as one of the most loved characters in British rock music and also a fellow Godfather of British heavy metal, also in the ranks from the very beginning, the sensational lead guitarist Paul Quinn.

The stage set up for Saxons arrival was a sign of things to come, the huge drum riser that put Nigel Glockler right in the action and not hidden away as with some bands, a spacious stage area for plenty of movement, the mammoth Saxon backdrop and the obviously huge lighting set up.

The set started with two numbers from their soon to be released 19th studio album Call To Arms and from the sound of 'Hammer of the Gods' and 'Back in '79' the Yorkshire rockers are back with another top class rock album, the new material also fitted perfectly alongside the much loved classics.

Saxon, photo by Andrew Lock

Classic number one was a storming 'Never Surrender' from the 1981 album Denim and Leather, this album was well represented in the main set, with (the does what it says on the tin track) 'Play it Loud', 'And the Bands Played On' their tribute to the 1980 inaugural Monsters of rock festival, the headbangers anthem 'Denim and Leather' and a charging 'Princess of the Night'.

The other album to be heavily featured in the main set and possibly their best ever album was Strong Arm of the Law including breathtaking runs through two of their fastest rockers 'To Hell and Back Again' and '20,000 ft', both showcasing Biff's as powerful as ever vocal delivery, these two tracks also full of top draw guitar work form Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt, and the bass lines of Nibbs Carter.

The main set also included the heavy brooding rock of 'When Doomsday Comes' from the Call to Arms album to be released this May and a belting 'Solid Ball of Rock' from the album of the same name.

I have rarely witnessed a crowd as responsive, hands pumping the air for most of the night (at one point a first for me I saw crutches being punched in the air!), singing along at every opportunity and generally having a really good time.

Encores, and what encores, starting with 'Crusader' title track of their 1984 album and introduced by Biff as their biggest track in Japan, tracks from Wheels of Steel the album that launched them into rock legend in 1980 were also left for the encores with two of the all time rock classics '747 (Strangers in the Night)' and 'Wheels of Steel' itself either side of a charged 'Strong Arm of the Law'.

Possibly because of the fantastic crowd response to the show the band seemed to return to the stage for two unplanned encores 'The Eagle Has Landed' from The Power and the Glory album and then finishing in style with a thunderous 'Motorcycle Man' complete with the famous motorbike guitar effects at the start.

What a gig, so many standouts, the huge show with excellent lights and sound, Biff's fun and games with the crowd, the look on peoples faces as Saxon started to play yet another classic number, the huge responsive crowd, and not least the music with two quality supports and Saxon firing on all cylinders.

Review and photos by Andrew Lock

Gig review (London)


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