SAXON concert review – Glasgow, Scotland, 21 November 2022, by Kieran James
stood in the dark and the band played on”
It wasn’t a normal gig, as this Saxon show had been
delayed for months due to endless Scottish lockdowns and postponed at least
twice. We were the diehards who refused to get a cash refund. Now, two years
older, the excitement of the crowd was massive as Diamond Head left the stage
and people came into the hall from the historic Barrowland Ballroom bar one
floor below. I would put the crowd at 400 or 500. The fact that it was a cold
Monday night and in such a historic venue aided the perception that we were the
diehards, the survivors. My 16-year-old daughter was there, and it was her
birthday. It was a special type of crowd, very few guys under 40, very few
women. A football crowd looks more mixed and diverse by comparison. Biff Byford
was in cheerful and chatty mood, happy to have lasted through Covid and
grateful to the crowd who were there. The enthusiasm and musicianship were
high, and we got what we expected - all the famous songs played pretty much how
they sounded on the studio records.
The band opened with “Motorcycle Man” and then followed it with the classy “Carpe diem” title track from the new album, a catchy and fast-paced number which many in the crowd recognized. About four songs were played from the new album, and the crowd mostly just stood quietly and listened carefully to these new ones. The crowd really got wild and happy three or four songs in with “Wheels of steel”. A 50-year-old guy near us in blue dress shirt and thick-rimmed black glasses, there by himself it seemed, was pumping his fist in the air and shouting out every word. It was amazing to see and hear 50-year-olds shouting out words to songs from their teenage years. All the old guys’ battle jackets had patches on of mostly British bands from the 1980s, so it was a giant time capsule and the unrenovated and historic venue added to that feeling. Was Bible John’s ghost in the crowd?
The songs that got the best receptions,
not surprisingly, were the famous songs from the early 1980s era: “Never
surrender”, Strong arm of the law”, “And the bands played on”, “The eagle has
landed”, “Power and the glory”, “Razamanaz”
(as a tribute to Scottish band Nazareth), “20,000 feet”, “Dallas 1pm” (complete
with radio broadcast sound effect), and, later in the set, the obligatory “747
(strangers in the night)”. “Dogs of war” was played from the 1990s era, and we
also got “Heavy metal thunder” and “Solid ball of rock”. I would have liked to
have had “Suzie hold on”, “Hungry years” and “Sixth form girls”, but we can’t
have it all our own way.
The gap before the encore, when the hall darkened, was quite convincing, and a few were disappointed, thinking that the show was over. The encore was powerful and impressive – “The Pilgrimage” (a somewhat surprising choice, from the new album), “Denim and leather” of course - and then people began to leave thinking that nothing could surpass that as a fitting finale. As we sat on the seats on the stairway landing, the last song “Princess of the night” was played, a fitting ending for those already pouring out of the venue. The crowd departed into the cold quietness of a Monday night, some looking for taxis, others walking back to the city-centre and others still entering the pub next door. A fine night, it was just a bit sad that the band has few younger followers and few women fans, or at least few were at the venue that night. They never made it huge, like Iron Maiden and Metallica, or even Judas Priest, but they kept a humble, hard-working, North-of-England attitude churning out quality albums year after year that fewer and fewer and people listened to. Biff seemed to be looking straight at me sometimes when he talked, to the crowd, but I guess everybody thought that. The band made the 1980s a happier and more empowered experience for a lot of troubled teenagers, and they made us happy again this night 40 years on. We gave them what might be our last thank-you and vice-versa. Life is not fair - they should have been massive. But, this way, they stay our secret (by Kieran James, 7 Dec. 2022).