Thunderbolt and Lightning in Cardiff
Saxon’s 22nd studio album, Thunderbolt, was unleashed on the public earlier this month and it has been receiving rave reviews, and they are starting their tour in support of it with a handful of UK dates before heading off to the continent. The first date sees them at Cardiff’s Great Hall, and with support from Diamond Head and Rock Goddess, a road trip is a no brainer.
First up are Rock Goddess, who have been back together with their original line up of Jody & Julie Turner and Tracy Lamb on bass since 2014. Looking at them it’s difficult to believe that their debut album was released more than thirty years ago. Songs from that eponymous album still feature as a core part of the set, but that’s to be expected with the likes of ‘Satisfied Then Crucified’ and ‘Back To You’ being staple NWOBHM classics.
Despite the relatively early start, the venue is fairly full for Rock Goddess’ set and the band seem to feed off the good response that they receive from the audience. Newer songs ‘Back Off’ and ‘It’s More Than Rock N Roll’ prove that they still have the same attitude and ethic as back in the day. A brief half hour set is long enough to impress and no doubt earn a few new fans.
It’s surprising that Diamond Head have not shared the stage with Saxon more regularly throughout the years as they are an ideal pairing. They are afforded a slightly longer stage time and waste none of it by starting with a rip roaring ‘Helpless’ before leading quickly into ‘Bones’, one of the highlights from their return to form self titled album from 2016 which stretches but also shows off the incredible vocals of Rasmus Bom Andersen.
Although they have a new album in the bag, we don’t get to hear any of the tracks from it tonight. They are also playing as a four piece tonight with second guitarist Abbz recovering from recent surgery. The remainder of their set is an energetic romp through their greatest songs taking in ‘Lightning To The Nations’, ‘The Prince’ and ‘Heat Of The Night’ before Tatler induces a frenzy amongst the denim and leather clad brigade as opening chords to ‘Am I Evil?’ resound around the hall.
With the atmosphere still electric from Diamond Head’s set, the crowd’s appetite is truly whet, so it takes very little from Saxon to whip them up but the intro and build up to opener ‘Thunderbolt’ is a magnificent way to start a show. The equally heavy ‘Sacrifice’ follows affirming the heavier edge to more recent Saxon classics, before another new song, ‘Nosferatu’, is aired which get the thumb up.
The consummate frontman Biff holds court over both band and audience as he leads us through just under two hours of classic metal. The passing of time has shown what an incredible body of work Saxon created in such a relatively short period of time considered as their glory years; ‘Motorcycle Man’, ‘Strong Arm Of The Law’, ‘Power And The Glory’ and ‘Dallas 1PM’ barely scratch the surface of bonafide classics all released over the space of couple of years but still all sounding as fresh and vibrant today as they did in the ’80s.
Tonight’s show is being filmed, making use of the University’s media department, and specifically for a new video for next single, ‘Sniper’, which sees Biff change into a Welsh Guard’s uniform for continuity with footage captured earlier in the day (busby fortunately omitted). More new songs keep the set varied; ‘Secret Of Flight’ is typical of Saxon subject matter, and their tribute to Motorhead in ‘We Played Rock N Roll’ goes down a storm.
Biff thanks the crowd for making it such a great first night, as he explains that there is often trepidation with a new set of songs and crew in making the show work. Of course, nobody believes him that they would be anything other than glorious as they head into the home straight with ‘Strangers In The Night’, ‘Crusader’ and an irrepressible ‘Princess Of The Night’.
Encores of a frantic ‘Heavy Metal Thunder’, and sing-a-long anthems ‘Wheels Of Steel’ and ‘Denim & Leather’ leave the crowd sated and with sore throats. Saxon rarely disappoint and tonight in Cardiff has been no exception – a fabulous night of not only nostalgia but also reaffirming the relevance and vitality that all three bands still offer to old fans and new.
You can catch Saxon later in the year when the return for the second part of the Thunderbolt tour.