O2 Academy, Bournemouth


Back in the day, circa 1984, I used to have a poster of Saxon adorning my bedroom wall alongside, AC/DC, Iron Maiden and Motorhead. Those four bands were the foundation of my love of Heavy Metal, although nowadays all the bands are regarded as “Classic Rock” God I feel old. I can remember racing around on my mate’s motorbike with “Motorcycle Man” and “Wheels of Steel” running around my brain as I opened up the throttle.

Back to the present and now having seen the Barnsley boys many times over the years I can say that my original passion for their music has diminished not one iota. I’m not alone in this either, judging by the crowd at the O2, it is true that there were a lot of people of my age in the old Opera House but there were also quite a few young faces in the crowd enjoying every moment of the Heavy Metal veterans set.

The evening kicked off with a very young band from Germany called “Beyond the Black”. They have only been going since the beginning of the year and I read on the internet that their first gig was at Waken Open Air, they haven’t even released an album yet and yet they are on the Saxon tour! I guess it’s not what you know anymore as I thought that their female fronted symphonic power metal was OK but has been done before, and better, by bands such as Lacuna Coil, Within Temptation and Nightwish. Maybe I can’t judge too harshly though as I didn’t catch the whole of their set, as evidenced by the fact that there are no photos with this review after I missed the first three songs photo pit rule. But fair play to them that they have achieved so much in so little time. They do have a very good front woman in Jennifer Haben, she has a magnificent voice and a towering stage persona and uses it to great effect.

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Next up were Hell and having started their careers at roughly the same time as Saxon in the 80’s they were probably ahead of their time as they never really took off then, but over the years their old recordings gained cult status and as a result they are now back in the public eye and being lauded for their performances. Their power metal with thrashy black overtones went down well with most of the crowd but washed cold with the rest. They produced a theatrical show that showed off their music in the best way possible. The operatic vocals of David Bower reigned over the satanic themed imagery of the songs and the rest of the band, including Sabbat’s Andy Sneap were as tight as John Holmes condom.

But everyone was here to see the mighty Saxon deliver the goods and that they did. The crowd took a song or two to get going but once they did the band fed off their energy and we were treated to a 35th anniversary set, chock full of classic tracks from the bands hefty back catalogue.

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Frontman Biff Byford owned the stage and worked the audience like the professional that he is. Unlike some of the bands from his era still doing the rounds, he can still hit the notes and sounds just the same as he always did. The Guitars of Paul Quinn and Douglas Scarratt are immense and the riffs that they blasted out were greeted by the Dorset faithful like returning old friends. The strong arm rhythm foundation of Nibbs Carter’s bass and Nigel Glockler’s drums kept the whole thing steady and gave us a thumping beat that led to many a sore neck in the morning. Without a doubt Saxon are one of rocks classic bands that aren’t just cashing in on past albums glories, they mentioned that a new album was under way and as the success of 2013’s Sacrifice showed, these guys can still pen a mean tune.

Great band, great songs and a fantastic gig – nuff said!

Intro: It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll) (AC/DC song)
Motorcycle Man
Power and the Glory
Solid Ball of Rock
Strong Arm of the Law
Forever Free
I’ve got to Rock (To Stay Alive)
And the Bands Played On
Frozen Rainbow
Heavy Metal Thunder
Suzie Hold On
The Great White Buffalo
The Eagle Has Landed
To Hell and Back Again
747 (Strangers in the Night)
Princess of the Night

Wheels of Steel
Denim and Leather
Outro: Limelight (Rush song)



Words and Photos: Dan O’Gara.

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