Another day, and another band on another anniversary tour. This time it’s Saxon, celebrating their 35th year, and lucky enough to have three bona fide classic albums on which to focus.
The material is drawn largely from the famed Barnsley trilogy: Wheels Of Steel, Strong Arm Of The Law and Denim and Leather. We hear Suzie Hold On, 747 (Strangers in the Night), Motorcycle Man, Dallas 1pm (by audience request), a brutal Heavy Metal Thunder, And The Bands Played On, a sublime Princess Of The Night and the various title tracks. Despite their vintage, all sound as fresh as newer songs like Demon Sweeney Todd or Sacrifice.
The sound in the O2 Academy is perfect, allowing the talent of the musicians to shine through. How Nibbs Carter plays bass as well as he does while running around and headbanging like a teenager is a mystery, while drummer Nigel Glockler plays with the power and precision of a man half his age. Doug Scarratt is a man who should definitely feature on the underrated guitarists lists, as his solo on Heavy Metal Thunder in particular proves.
Over on the other side of the stage, Paul Quinn makes his Les Paul sing without appearing to make any effort at all. And it’s amazing to think that Biff Byford is 63 years old now: his voice is sounding as good as ever, and his range and power on the slower songs — particularly Frozen Rainbow and The Eagle Has Landed — are just incredible to witness, especially five weeks into a tour.
There can’t be many rock fans who don’t know a Saxon tune or two, and if you like the studio versions then you really need to see them performed live — it’s as simple as that. Saxon are a band comfortable with where they are now, and the tour is an enthusiastic celebration of their classic material. Long may they play on.