Note: Sources said that the early start got in the way of Girlschool and Fastway sound checking, hence the problems.
It was another rainy day in Glasgow, Scotland and we were back at the 02 ABC to see the one and only Saxon. We were standing in a queue of fun sociable people of many age groups. Everyone appeared to be in good spirits, despite the fact that we were being drenched by that cool sticky rain.
The trip down on the bus had been a complete pain in the backside. The bus was full, cramped and had the heating on in a temperature that most definitely did not warrant the use of a heater. On top of that, our trip was delayed after the bus was condemned half way due to smoking tyres (that is literally all the information we received from the Stagecoach staff). Apparently this bus driver knew this was a problem the day before and only decided half way to Glasgow the day after that it had become an issue, you have to wonder about people.
Anyway, back to the concert. This was a special occasion as the events box office gave us permission to take my young son, this being his second concert. What better way to give him his first real taste of metal than a Saxon concert! We had a good laugh with many fans outside the concert hall as they applauded our decision to enlighten our child in the ways of metal. This kind of banter needs to take place at concerts more frequently. Too many people are now taking things too seriously, looking for fights or only turning up to get a “mosh”. Unfortunately the goodness of the crowd didn’t last too long as there were notable arse wipes in the crowd. We witness two nasty fist fights and a very nasty looking “mosh” pit, one that looks like it was arranged by a group of middle aged skin heads who had nothing better to do. Some people just can’t grow up, such a shame.
The venue itself is still one of my favourites in Scotland and the show last night did nothing to make me think otherwise. The staff let us in a little early so they could take us to our reserved seats on the balcony. In order to take the sprog in with us we were given the rules that we kept him from the bars and stayed outwith the general crowd. If it meant my son could see one of the greatest metal bands in the world, I think that is a fair rule. Our reserved seats were (ironically) between both the venues bars with a cracking clear view of the stage and a very good sound. We certainly didn’t lose out being up in the rafters, that much is certain.
So far the night was going well, we were sat looking forward to seeing the opening band and they didn’t disappoint. I have been listening to Girlschool since the days when I was my sons age and my mum rambled on about their dealings with Motörhead. These women have been a main stay in the rock scene for so long that it was a genuine honour to see them live in concert. Unfortunately their set was a fairly reduced one but they still managed to throw out some great heavy tunes, much to the amusement of the crowd. Their sound was a little lacking, it didn’t do them any favours. But the audience swarmed the stage as soon as they heard the band fire up and I’m glad that they did. If there is any way to fire a crowd up for the night, this was the way to do it. We got treated to the likes of Hit And Run, Take It Like A Band, Race With The Devil and their closing, Emergency. It was only eight or so songs, but it was great fun never the less.
The support came from “Fast” Eddie Clarke’s ’80s group Fastway. These guys were a little different compared to the other two bands, a little more blues rock with a definite ’70s hard rock sound. The vocals came from the very talented Toby Jepson, a very underrated singer of Little Angels fame. It was fun hearing Clarke play in person, his guitar still has the vicious bite from his Motörhead days. The band were really good, very tight and I loved Jepson’s voice, he came across strong and was hitting some impressive high notes. It is just a shame that the band suffered from sound problems, much like Girlschool. Their set was a little longer but dragged on a little due to the fact we couldn’t hear any of the drums with exception of the snare drum. A bit of a waste of a good set if I do say so, especially considering it was not the bands fault.
The noticeable sound issues were quickly rectified as soon as Saxon hit the stage. The sound was cranked all the way up and you could hear every single detail. The drums were thunderous whilst the guitars had a lovely crisp, clear but heavy sound. Within the opening seconds, you just knew that these guys meant business. Saxon opened up their set with the soon to be classic opener from their latest album, Battering Ram. This tune is very powerful on CD but hearing it live (alongside the rest of the newer material) is a completely different thing. You can instantly hear (and feel) why they call this heavy metal. The band powered on through songs like Sacrifice and Stand Up And Be Counted. These songs are lesser known tunes but they are up there with Saxon’s best. There were plenty of Saxon classics like, Solid Ball of Rock, And The Bands Played On, Strong Arm of the Law and Dallas 1pm. As good as it was to hear these oldies live, I was more delighted to hear more recent tunes like Lionheart, Chasing The Bullet and Let Me Feel Your Power. As much as I adore the bands classic material, songs from The Inner Sanctum, Sacrifice and Lionheart deserve their fair share of stage time.
Saxon played two encores, both to an outrageously loud crowd. The first encore opened with a guest appearance from Eddie Clarke to play Ace of Spades as a tribute to Lemmy Kilmister. This song blew the roof off the venue as every rock fan sang along to the lyrics, chanted Lemmy’s name (and Eddie!) and rocked out accordingly. The end of the set came with the songs, 747 (Strangers In The Night), Denim And Leather and Princess of the Night. These four songs back to back were a fair wallop and a great way to round off the set.
The overall performance was purely world class as far as heavy metal bands go. There are very few bands (especially in Saxon’s age group) who can blast their music out with this much power and volume without coming over as contrived or like they’re making up for something. The in between song banter was a good laugh and Saxon’s main man Biff Byford had the crowd singing, clapping and chanting along to every song on the set list. There is a seriously lack of crowd participation in the modern metal scene and it always has me wondering why. Not only did it stop the crowds attention wondering else where but it makes you feel like a part of the performance, never mind the fact that it is simply just bloody good fun.
I have always regretted that I never got round to seeing Saxon sooner then I did. But this is my second Saxon show in two years and these guys are without a doubt one of the best touring bands out there. The musical ability and professionalism are purely first class and you get more than enough for your money. It is a shame that we didn’t get better sound for the support bands but it was a genuine honour to see both groups perform either way.