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London Astoria 15 May 2007

No-one can call Saxon has-beens, not with the marvellous new album The Inner Sanctum. Never mind that Harvey Goldsmith tried to make a fool of them (remember the football incident?), the Astoria was packed out again and on the evidence of the music, quite rightly so.

First off were Chokehold, a decent heavy metal band verging on thrash. Vocals a little rough, but some great guitar work.

Masterplan were promoting the excellent new MK II album, I was given a copy on the night and I am looking forward to giving it another spin. The set was extremely heavy melodic power metal; tight loud and, just great. The drummer and his solo just blew everyone away, worth seeing for him alone. Guitarist Roland Grapow produced a decent solo, and the keyboards fitted in well.

The crowd were roaring long before Saxon hit the stage, but when they did the place erupted. Opening with two tracks from the new album, the second track 'Let Me Feel Your Power' is as classic trad metal as Saxon get and shows they don't need to rely on past glories, on record or on stage.

Singer Biff Byford, ever the crowd pleaser and perfect front man, pronounced London 'The capital of the fucking world!' which we all knew anyway, but it brought a cheer or at least a smile from almost everyone.

A blast from the past in 'Motorcycle Man' before 'If I Was You', the current single and the track Harvey Goldsmith had the band remix. Anyway, the album version is a damn fine tune in its own right and, being about gun/knife crime, an intelligent and relevant song too.

Nibbs Carter's pounding bass line opened 'Strong Arm Of The Law'; Saxon at their anthemic best.

And given some of these guys are at least in their mid 50s, their energy and power is absolutely fantastic. Stamina too, this set totalled 22 songs and 2 hours.

'We Will Remember' was dedicated to the late great Tommy Vance, with a great solo from guitarist Paul Quinn, followed by '20,000 Ft', another early track.

Don't underestimate the early to mid 90s, 'Dogs Of War' one of many tracks they could have played that will deafen you and still have you chanting the chorus.

'Witchfinder General' was a rare treat, and 'To Hell And Back Again' announced as also being the title of the forthcoming DVD.

'Red Star Falling' was another of many tracks from The Inner Sanctum. It's worth mentioning that the crowd didn't have a problem, the tracks fitted in perfectly, and the band certainly didn't. In fact it's good to see genuine confidence in the new album. With a catalogue like Saxon's, there are plenty of failsafes they could have fallen back on but clearly don't need to.

Two classics that are always welcome; 'Princess Of The Night' and 'Crusader' and you really can't go wrong. Don't believe me? Check them out, I dare you.

The main set then closed with 'I've Got To Rock To Stay Alive', which will be the new single.

The surprise opener of the first encore was 'Atilla The Hun', the 8 minute closing number of the new album. Now that really is confidence. And what makes Saxon a dream live band is that they're confident but not cocky, and they are also coherent, professional and structured. What they do they make doing fun and a pleasure, it's not forced.

Then in true encore fashion it was back to the anthems for 'Heavy Metal Thunder', '747 (Strangers In The Night)' and 'Wheels Of Steel'. The latter two had their sing along parts and were split by a Doug Scarratt guitar solo.

Second encore - the band weren't letting us off lightly, gave us 'And The Bands Played On' and the NWoBHM anthem 'Denim And Leather'. Another track from The Inner Sanctum and the band said goodbye with 'Power And The Glory'.

One of the best and hardest working trad metal bands still on the circuit. Definitely still fit to boogie.

Review by Joe Geesin


Album review

Album showcase gig

GRTR! Best of 2007

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