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SAXON, Shepherds Bush Empire, London
23 April 2011

Photos by Noel Buckley

Saxon, photo by Noel Buckley

A thoroughly enjoyable St George's Day Massacre started, for some, at 4pm when 20 or so fans (Myself included) were allowed to watch the soundcheck, and spend some time with the band chatting, getting autographs, photos and etc.

The band raised over £2000 for charity over the tour and will be taking the idea on the world tour. But also chatting with the band, who have a lot of time for their fans, it's just one of many reasons I love them so much.

An uncomfortably hot day, some refreshment was in order and I was able to catch up with fellow GRTR! scribes Mark and Noel and Classic Rock's Dave Ling before the show.

Fury UK, photo by Noel Buckley

Sadly the usual delays in the queue meant that we missed the first couple of Fury UK songs, but they have come on well since I last saw them. A hard metal take on some classic metal riffs – the odd hint of Dio to the guitars here and there. The band have a new album out and are about to tour Europe – going from strength to strength.

Wolfsbane have, after a couple of one-off reunions, fully reformed. With a new EP available from their website and album under way, it's full steam ahead.

Wolfsbane, photo by Noel Buckley

This manic 4 piece (drummer in a sparkly suit playing madly) had a lot of fun despite a sound problem or two, but Blaze Bayley did his best to get the crowd going. The new track 'Did It For The Money' went down well, as did the classic 'All Hell's Breaking Loose Down At Little Kathy Wilson's Place'.

Saxon, photo by Noel Buckley

All fears of attendance being affected by the Easter weekend were put to the sword when Saxon took to the stage, Saxon in London on St George's Day is now fast becoming a successful tradition and the number of George Cross flags on display proved that.

From the opening number 'Hammer Of The Gods' (the opening track of the forthcoming new album) the band were as blistering as the crowd's response.

The second track 'Heavy Metal Thunder' saw the first of three George Cross flags thrown onto the stage and dutifully draped over the drum kit by singer Biff.

Saxon, photo by Noel Buckley

The perfect frontman, Byford not only sings well but he talks with the crowd, he connects with everyone, he holds stage, band and crowd as one. It's hard to believe he's now 60, he sounds, looks and acts in better shape than some singers half his age.

'Never Surrender' was the first of several tracks from 1981's Denim & Leather, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary; 'Play It Loud' from the album getting a rare airing too.

Back to the new album for 'Back In 79' which, like other tracks from the 00s, fits in to the live set seamlessly despite being significantly different on record.

Saxon, photo by Noel Buckley

The band rocked, bassist Nibs Carter is a real powerhouse and drummer Nigel Glockler on fantastic form too. Guitarists Doug Scarratt and Paul Quinn both soloed and traded riffs with aplomb.

It's amazing that Saxon can mix new and old so well, mix things up in every set list perfectly, and they still managed to miss out the 90s completely.

Saxon, photo by Noel Buckley

There really was a moment for everyone, from the modern metal and progressiveness to the early 80s singalongs of 'Wheels Of Steel' and '747'.

And tracks like 'When Doomsday Comes' proved that the new album ‘Call To Arms' is going to be popular.

I was able to chat with the whole band, as well as Blaze Bayley and Fury UK after the show, which rounded off a damn fine evening.

Saxon Setlist
Hammer Of The Gods/ Heavy Metal Thunder/ Never Surrender/ Motorcycle Man/ Back In ‘79/ Got To Rock To Stay Alive/ Dallas 1pm/ Call To Arms/ Atilla The Hun/ Demon Sweeny Todd/ Battalions Of Steel/ And The Bands Played On/ Man And Machine/ Eagle Has Landed/ Play It Loud/ When Doomsday Comes/ To Hell And Back Again/ Denim And Leather/ Princess Of The Night
Encore 1 - Crusader/747 (Strangers In The Night)
Encore 2 - Bass solo / Strong Arm Of The Law/ Guitar solo / Wheels Of Steel

Review by Joe Geesin

Photos by Noel Buckley

Gig review (Leamington)

Mark Taylor writes:  For the forth year in a row Saxon played on St.George's Day and - what with it being on a Saturday, on a sorching Bank Holiday weekend and on top of that it just so happens to be fellow GRTR! contributer Jim Rowland's birthday - today had a feeling of 'El Classico' all about it.

The entertainment started early in the afternoon next door at the Aussie hangout the Walkabout. Upstairs Fury UK were playing an acoustic set in aid of the 'Help For Heroes' campaign. The three piece played some new numbers from the 'A Way Of Life' album and sounded pretty nifty too with 'Children Of The Sea' thrown in for good measure.

After an auction of goodies there was some tomfoolery antics from Metal Ed giving us some AC/DC classics. I listened outside at the front whilst chatting to old and new buddies whilst soaking up the sun.

The street was full of Saxon fans as well as QPR fans who were also in the Walkabout who had just seen there team earn a valid point towards promotion with a game against Cardiff which was shown on the big screen.  Everybody was in a good mood and the beer was going down fine.

By now the skies had turned a little grey and the rain came down followed by a rumble.  Yes there was heavy metal thunder in the air.

We adjourned to an Italian restaurant across the Green to celebrate Rowland's birthday where our party was sitting opposite and only a roll throw away from Saxon guitarist Doug Scarratt.

Once we had filled ourselves and shared much jovial banter it was time to catch some of the newly refomed Tamworth terriers Wolfsbane. The hairlines may have receded and the waistlines thickened but the original four piece were still a blast. Couldn't believe it myself, but the last time I saw Wolfsbane was at the old Marquee Club in Wardour Street all the way back in 1987.

Saxon are one of the first bands listed under the term 'Heavy Metal' and what a pulsating set they delivered. It was the best I've seen from the band at this venue and with a cluster of classics at the end of the set, Saxon blew the roof off the Empire.

With a great headbanging set like that, there was no way was the night was going to simply end there. The O'Neil's pub on the other side of the Empire was ram packed with Saxon fans sharing stories of the night.

Once the boozer was closed I dragged Rowland and his partner Zelda back to my gaff for some more Saxon and plenty of Deep Purple.  It was a long night with myself finally crashing out not too long before 7.47am (I was no longer a stranger in the night). The following day ,we sat in the sun- Woah!....And the bands played on.

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