NWOBHM pioneers Saxon wrapped up their Thunderbolt tour at Newcastle City Hall. Rushonrock reports on a fitting finale to another landmark year.
There’s something about a Saxon show that takes you to the very heart of heavy metal’s enduring appeal. The genre’s unique DNA runs right through Barnsley’s finest and even five decades at the forefront of the scene hasn’t blunted the band’s NWOBHM edge.
Biff Byford might have been mildly disappointed to see so many empty seats towards the back of this famous venue – and many more on the balcony – but those who mattered were out in force. And credit to them after a busy weekend saw the Toon host Michael Schenker 48 hours earlier and Slayer the night before.
Denim jackets clad in myriad patches mixed with tousled leather and gleaming studs in a proud show of Geordie strength. This was both a glorious throwback and a pitch for unlikely longevity all rolled into one as Saxon mixed the very best of Thunderbolt with back catalogue classics the envy of their peers.
Earlier, new kids on the block Wayward Sons offered further proof that live music is alive and well. Fronted by the effervescent Toby Jepson, an experienced band of rock and roll brothers are on a mission to reinvent guitar music. It’s a brave ploy built for the long haul and a tactic Saxon and main support Doro have steadfastly avoided at all costs.
Theirs is a common approach founded in tradition – reinvention is anathema and only occasional tweaks are allowed. The new Doro anthems introduced to a furious 10-song set sound much like the old favourites: juxtaposing All For Metal with All We Are allowed Germany’s Metal Queen to transcend eras with reassuring ease and make a case for the old adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.
Whether Doro was fronting Warlock or striding out as a solo artist, the one constant has always been fist-pumping choruses soundtracked by piercing riffs. No wonder the frenzied mob clinging to the front of the stage was carried along on a wave of retro-fuelled emotion and all too happy to assist hard rock’s first lady with backing vocals and approving roars.
Doro did her job – and the fact that she’d already sold out of men’s tees prior to arriving on Tyneside suggests she’s been doing it very, very well. Next year’s UK headline shows – and a merchandise restock- can’t come soon enough.
Saxon, it has to be assumed, will be taking some well-earned time off in 2019. The Thunderbolt tour has been rolling on throughout the year but Byford and co. were far from jaded as they followed up a headline slot at Hard Rock Hell with an unapologetic lesson in NWOBHM history.
Proud as they are of the powerful Thunderbolt – the band’s latest record really doesn’t sound out of place set alongside those early 80s favourites – a two-hour set afforded Saxon plenty of time to trawl through the crushing metal classics that built a bullish reputation. Motorcycle Man and Strong Arm Of The Law made early plays for the highlights reel but Dallas 1pm was the first example of noteworthy nostalgia making its present felt. Wrapping up the main set with a rousing rendition of Princess Of The Night was the perfect move.
At a time when so many of the world’s biggest rock and metal acts are finally calling time on their storied careers, Saxon are still going strong with a relentless touring schedule and relevant new music driving the band’s enduring popularity. Never Surrender has never been more apt.
Images by Adam Kennedy