Review by Paul Davis, photos by Rich Ward
Saxon returned to Wolverhampton for this rescheduled show, originally due to take place in December. Drummer Nigel Glockler suffered a brain aneurysm and although he is on the road to recovery, these new dates are a bit too soon for him to take his place on stage. Sven Dirkschneider (son of Udo and Glockler’s drum tech) has been standing in.
Saxon have never really been away but tonight’s support band Hell split in 1987 following the suicide of guitarist/singer Dave Halliday. They were resurrected in 2011 with renowned metal producer Andy Sneap on guitar. Back in the day Sneap was a regular at Hell gigs and was taught to play guitar by Halliday.
From the spoken word intro of ‘Gehennae Incendiis’ to the corpse paint and the barbed wire crown of frontman David Bower it’s all very theatrical. The keyboards that combine with the NWOBHM riffs of Sneap and Kevin Bower add to the dramatic feel. David Bower is very much ‘in character’ and it’s no surprise to find that he was (and still is) a Shakespearean actor.
‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ and ‘Land Of The Living Dead’ show that the devil does indeed have all the best tunes. ‘On Earth As It Is In Hell’ brings their set to a close with a 666 flag being passed to the front row.
Saxon’s ‘Warriors Of The Road’ tour is celebrating ‘The Holy Trinity’, their albums released in 1980/1981, Wheels Of Steel, Strong Arm Of The Law and Denim and Leather. All but seven of the songs on the setlist tonight come from those three albums.
Denim and leather is less in abundance than it was in the early eighties. However, we can still raise a glass to the power and the glory of Saxon. ‘Motorcycle Man’ is the opener and the first of many classic anthems. ‘Sacrifice’ is the most recent song performed tonight and a few songs in Biff Byford introduces the most recent addition to the band, “the young man on the drums”.
The classics keep coming relentlessly, ‘And The Bands Played on’, ‘Dallas 1PM’ and ‘20,000 Feet’ which Biff introduces as a slow song before reminding us that the song influenced a generation of thrash metal bands. The celebratory nature of the show means we get to hear something rarely played live and ‘Suzie Hold On’ is referred to as a “rave from the grave”. It’s hard to believe that this ‘holy trinity’ of albums were released in the space of seventeen months.
‘747 (Strangers In The Night)’ and ‘Princess Of The Night’, possibly the best song you’ve ever heard about a steam engine, are still fan favourites. As we come towards the end of the evening and think about the songs we have yet to hear, the encore promises much.
It doesn’t disappoint either, with each of the three celebrated albums represented by their title track. ‘Wheels Of Steel’, ‘Strong Arm Of The Law’ and finally ‘Denim And Leather’. If heavy metal had a national anthem then surely the latter would be it. Biff spoke during the encore about their history with this place, going back to their first appearance at the Civic in 1979 with Motorhead. They’re still going strong, a sold out Wulfrun tonight and long may they continue.