In the annals of Heavy Metal history, there are few bands that are referenced as much as New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’s own Saxon. They have long led the charge into glory on behalf of heavy music and after far too long an absence from the region they were doing a show in New York City. We made sure to be a part of this one.
Venue: B.B. King Blues Club (New York, NY)
Label: SPV Records
It’s been a long five years for the fans of the legendary Saxon who have not been around these parts for that length of time and after a small regional appearance in New Jersey they seemed to be locked into an endless run of festival appearances in Europe. I cannot say that I blame them because performing in front of tens of thousands must be far better than some of the smaller spaces that touring over on this side of the pond offers a band. Needless to say, tonight the band was back and believe it or not this was not a proper tour but the second of two scheduled appearances. One was in Texas a few days ago and now in Times Square, NYC the mighty British Metal juggernaut would arrive to a sold out B.B. King Blues Club. They would be supported this evening by the sole local opening act J-Rad, but with so many friends among the Metal faithful out in force to attend the show I bypassed their set entirely and spent the time outside sharing laughs and stories about the other shows we had all seen. As the time drew near for Saxon, the crowds exited their pre-gaming designations much to the dismay of the bartenders working the shifts during this time.
Saxon: The band’s new CD “Battalions Of Steel” is a rousing follow up to their “Lionheart” release of a couple of years ago and it finds the band still in tip top shape as defenders of the Heavy Metal way. As a matter of fact these two releases are so strong that they might eventually be cited as some of the bands best work in their storied history. They each do credit and justice to their time-honored classics and it was sure to make this evenings set rather interesting. I’ve been enjoying the latest album quite a bit so I was happy to find them opening up with the very rousing “Battalions Of Steel” – this number is really a call to arms for the Metal head and should be a track that you load onto your music player via the legal means even if you don’t feel like owning the whole album. Fronted by one of Metal’s truest warriors, the band finds Biff Byford leading the charge with long time guitarist Paul Quinn. These are the only original members in the lineup at the moment as both Graham Oliver and Steve Dawson actively tour under the moniker “Oliver Dawson Saxon”. Whether or not the future holds a configuration of more legacy members only time will tell, but tonight this didn’t matter since the voice and one of the main guitars were here to deliver the goods and the army of supporters that crammed inside the venue this evening were ready for action.
Truth be told I had never ever caught Saxon in action before this evening and that surprised me just a little because I did enjoy a number of their classic releases like “Strong Arm Of The Law”, “Power & The Glory” and the very well-known “Denim & Leather”. Fortunately for me the band would blend the set with older classics and sure to be new favorites from their latest releases. Biff was the well-dressed Metal gentleman this evening sporting a long coat that had to make the hot lights and room temperature all the more intolerable but if this was the case being experienced by the singer you sure couldn’t tell from the level of performance he was giving us. Rounding out the players with Biff and Paul were Doug Scarratt (guitar). Nibbs Carter (bass) and Nigel Glockler (drums). Nigel was actually a member of the band several years ago and had left for a few years before his return for these last couple of albums while Doug and Nibbs have been in place together for over a decade. The longevity of the lineup really allowed for them to deliver a really powerful set for this audience that was filled with a wide range of Metal fans in terms of their ages. There were your Old School supporters like my friends and I, but also a strong contingent of younger faces that I recognized from numerous shows covered in this same club.
The highlights were many this evening and as we said earlier Biff was totally interested in the crowd involvement tonight and would not only reach over the small space that separated the fans from the stage front again and again, but he would talk and joke with them from time to time. Each song was delivered efficiently and he really caught us all off guard as he introduced that next up would be a “nice slow number” which instantly thundered into “Hellcat”. He also inquired to the audience about anyone being in a band, and when someone replied that they were – the microphone was handed to them and the singer was told by the crowd member that the band didn’t have a name. When Biff had the microphone once again he said to this fan and those around him “so is that the name then; we don’t have a name?” It was rather amusing and purely done off the top of his head I am sure. I snuck a peek at the set list when taking photos early on and noticed that the set ended with “Live To Rock” but by the time that song was being delivered it was clear to me and everyone else that the show still had a lot of life to it. The encores began around this time with one of the bands oldest tunes in “Motorcycle Man” and the amazing “Never Surrender” into “747”. “Denim & Leather” got the crowd singing along loud but it was the rock solid execution of my favorite of all Saxon tunes “Princess Of The Night” that had the room singing the loudest ever. The band loved this response so much that they kept the tune going longer for a few more bars but this would be the last song no matter how hard we all begged for one more go from them. They seemed to have played for about two hours and this has not been something fans have seen done by the bands all that often these days and yet despite the lengthy set no one in the club was bored and instead were raring to go for more.
It was great to see such a packed house this evening at the venue because this was a band that had long done a lot of good for the NWOBHM and still showed that they pack a powerful punch with their music and show decades after forming. There were no t-shirts to be found by the time the set had reached its midway point and the response of “sorry we are sold out” was heard by more Metal fans than can be counted. I spoke to a lot of the fans during the exit and one told me how they managed to play every song that he had hoped to hear tonight and how strong he felt their recent material was when compared to their legacy repertoire. When it came down to it, this was written down in the Metal memory books as one of the best of the shows of its kind to hit our shores. I think this particular night was only rivaled by the Helloween/Gamma Ray show that took place here last year. We can only hope that these two short visits were enough to make the band realize that they need to set up a proper full US tour once again and lets hope that when they do that they bring a few up and comers that need the exposure instead of bands that we are seeing again and again.
1. Battalions Of Steel
2. Heavy Metal Thunder
3. Demon Sweeney Todd
4. Strong Arm Of The Law
5. Power And The Glory
6. The Letter
7. Valley Of The Kings
8. The Eagle Has Landed
9. And The Bands Played On
11. Dallas 1PM
12. 20,000 Feet
13. Wheels Of Steel
14. Live To Rock
15. Motorcycle Man
17. Never Surrender
18. 747 (Strangers In The Night)
19. Denim And Leather – encore
20. Princess Of The Night.- encore
Official Website: http://www.saxon747.com