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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Saxon live at Blondies, Detroit – Gig review

Saxon live at Blondies, Detroit – Gig review
'Call to Arms Tour' – Show date: Oct. 9th, 2011
Blondies Nightclub, Detroit, Michigan. Photo: Alun Williams 

So here we go as we venture into deepest Detroit, to find a venue I’ve never been to before that a few people have said to me, ‘I wouldn’t go there if I were you!’
Well, I do go there with an old mate who’s a fellow Brit who also remembers seeing Saxon back in those glorious 1980’s years, for some really great shows and then it seems like me, after the band started going through some serious internal bust ups, they were not the same and seemed to - if you will – take a heavier even darker at times, direction. Shame …

To be honest, I feel really guity tonight as I cannot remember the last time I had even played a Saxon album, but I had missed seeing them live, for so many years that I just had to go ..., then I heard the new album 'Call To Arms' and I was pumped!
The new album, I've got to say is really special and I'm so glad I've given them another chance.
Album review on the way, but for now ..., Saxon is in town, we have a rock show! 

I always thought when Saxon were being touted alongside both Def Leppard and Iron Maiden as leaders in the then, ‘New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’ (N.W.O.B.H.M.), that they certainly deserved to be given the right backing that others were and they were doing the roadwork - a hell of a lot more than many others - but then something happened that prevented them going to the next level ... 
Call it what you will, wrong label, lack of belief, commitment by those outside the band themselves or whatever. For me though, they did deserve better and that’s possibly what led to more stress internally for the band. Again, huge shame …
I will say though, that it seems that after numerous line-up changes – Almost like UFO! – frontman and always present main man, Biff Byford and Paul Quinn (Guitars), the other original player have pulled back in long time favorite drummer, Nigel Glockler, to join longtime bassist (Bass pedals / keyboardist) Nibs Carter and lead player since 1996, Doug Scarratt. The band in more recent times are getting stronger and stronger across Europe and look now towards trying to crack the US market, once more.

So here we are at Blondies, Detroit … It’s not a big venue, it’s a far cry from the thousands the band has played to at Donington Monsters of Rock, Download, Sweden Rock Festival and many other big European gigs they’re used to and it probably holds like 300 – 400 people tops. Tonight it’s around half full, but the fans that are here tonight are clearly well versed in their Saxon history and for Dave and myself it’s good to see the response for our fellow Brit’s performing here tonight!

The band kick off – After what seems like a five minute intro track - with ‘Hammer of the Gods,’ the killer opener from their latest excellent new album ‘Call To Arms,’ which is clearly a winner with this lot here tonight!
‘Heavy Metal Thunder’ next raises a big smile on both my face and Dave’s, great memories come flooding back!
It’s ‘Never Surrender’ next and they are not stopping for any breather at all, as one song rolls into the next pretty much and this is so good to hear live again after so many years. Top drawer lads!
Initially it seemed the vocal mix hadn’t been quite there, but now it is and the band is on top form too.
This looks like it’s going to be an excellent gig tonight … With the exception of no AC in the building … Phew! Sweat box city indeed, reminds me of the old Marquee club on Wardour Street, back in the day!

 Doug Scarratt and Biff Byford (Saxon). Photo: Alun Williams

Another new one in ‘Chasing the Bullet’ next which sounds a little like ‘Wheels of Steel’s’ younger brother. Good stuff indeed, as the crowd here clearly agrees by their response and the feeling is likewise for classic Saxon in the shape of ‘Motorcycle Man,’ next.
What a great evening this has turned out to be, these guys are most certainly on their game!

Biff Byford, Doug Scarratt and Paul Quinn. Photo: Alun Williams

 Side stage view, focus on Nibs Carter. Photo: Alun Williams

A new song is introduced next, in ‘Back in ‘79’ and Biff has the crowd all clapping along with this one and the audience is eating out of his hands. It’s certainly more like the ‘Biff Byford show’ if I were honest, even with the strong guitar work and poses by other band members, Biff is in total control tonight.
The band have also got the set list well organized, one old one then a new one and so on, with the title track of new album ‘Call To Arms’ performed next which once again is another chance for the audience to clap along from the start and the balance of old and new material is working well. I’ve got to say, the new album’s material is certainly their strongest – IMO – in years.

Saxon's crowd at Blondies, Detroit ... Passionate or what?! Photo: Alun Williams

Biff tells us next that, “I wanna go back to 1986 and sing a song about some girls we knew. It’s called ‘Rock and Roll Gypsy!’
Yes, you guessed it, it goes down a storm too as they all have been doing for the whole evening so far.
Back to the new album again for ‘Mists of Avalon’ and this one – That I heard for the first time driving to the show – is an instant new favorite, certainly in my books. It’s a very classy, slick number and once the crowd roars with approval!.
The old songbook is revisited with ‘This Town Rocks’ and I have to say, for his years in the game, Biff voice has held up very well and is still sounding good tonight and the new songs fit in so well with the older tracks, as it seems the band must feel with the amount they are including tonight. ‘When Doomsday Comes’ is a more than perfect fit in the set list, no question.
Saxon just seem to be racing through the set to get as many songs to us as is possible and more classic Saxon is next with ‘Denim and Leather.’ I can’t believe that I first heard this song thirty years ago! A great trip down memory lane tonight!
 Saxon live on stage at Blondies, Detroit. Photo: Alun Williams

‘Survival Against The Odds’ precedes classic and a personal favorite ‘Princess of the Night,’ which closes the set in killer fashion.
The band leave the stage very briefly before coming back with ‘Crusader,' then ‘747 (Strangers in the Night)’ and ‘Power and the Glory,’ and depart again.
The crowd could not be happier right now and seriously as I mentioned before, the band is well on their game.
It’s a small venue, it’s not a packed house but it’s like Saxon are on a mission to prove to all comers, big crowds or smaller ones, that they are not phased, never deterred and always playing for the fans and themselves.
The evening is not done though and Saxon return once again to finally wrap things up with possibly their two best known songs – Certainly to my knowledge of UK performances. – in ‘Strong Arm of the Law’ and ‘Wheels of Steel.’
I for one have been totally impressed, Dave too and by the reaction of tonight's audience, I'd say around 150 other folks in Blondies tonight! It’s been over twenty five years since I’ve seen Saxon and I must say, they are sounding better than ever!
Buy the new album and most certainly, check the band out live you’ll enjoy it!
Rating: 5 out of 5
Official band website:



 

2 comments:

  1. I was at that concert and the author was spot on although I would add this. Poor Nibbs had to play behind those wood pillars on the left all night so it was sad to not see the action player all night. He peeped his head out when Doug would move over. For all purposes these photos are good but they never catch the vibe as to how it was going all night. Saxon got this crowd, all of them going wild. I know there are new fans for sure.Standing in front of Doug was so awesome. We all love Paul but Doug was so awesome. Doug may be mild mannered but put a guitar in his hand and he is A beast. Biff's voice was superb and Paul a maestro. It also showcased the best drummer in rock period in Nigel. I have met all of them but him. Saxon really shined tonight. As always. Marty Walker

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  2. Thanks Marty, glad you liked my review. Appreciate you posting too. I agree about Nibbs too, he and Biff are so crucial to the band.
    The venue sucked for lighting, so very hard to get great pictures. Harpos is sadly much the same. My pics from the Schenker and Dio Disciples shows, much the same.
    It was a great night though, been many years since I'd seen them last.
    Are you going to the Flint gig next Friday night?
    Keep on rockin' Marty!

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