As Biff Byford explains from the stage, this date was intended as a warm-up for Saxon’s tour with Motörhead: “Sadly, the warm-up has become the only fucking show, so this one’s a bit special.”
Indeed. The 500-capacity Old Market House is the ideal venue in which to pin our ears back with two hours (“We shouldn’t really play for this long at our age,” chuckles Biff) of heavy metal thunder, while filming the proceedings. The setlist cunningly toggles between classic tracks and heavier post-millennial delights. Unlike some bands who sheepishly infuse their set with one or two token tracks from their latest record, Saxon are clearly proud of last year’s Battering Ram (“Our best-selling album since 1992!”) and air half of it, including tremendous moments like the title track and The Devil’s Footprint.
Sure, some of Saxon’s latter-day material is a touch generic, but like Judas Priest, they deserve admiration for updating their sound. The 50⁄50 split between old gems like Wheels Of Steel and more recent heavyweights like Sacrifice ensures the show never feels like a static museum piece. In a 2003 interview, Biff was asked how much longer Saxon could last. He replied: “We should probably stop in four or five years.”
During an encore packed with hits like Denim And Leather, Strong Arm Of The Law and 747 (Strangers In The Night), everyone present is deeply relieved he was kidding himself.