Against the odds, Girlschool came on and put on a damn good show. Sweet
Savage had borrowed their equipment and run down the batteries in the
tuner, and there had been no time for a soundcheck either. St. George may
have slain the dragon but he couldn't conquer these gremlins. That said,
when they got going, "C'Mon Let's Go" is always a crowd pleaser.
Guitarist Kim McAuliffe and bassist Enid Williams shared vocals, while
Jackie 'Jax' Chambers produced some great solos. Denise pounded the drums
as hard as ever. Girlschool make rock'n'roll fun, they play with honesty,
a smile, a touch of anthemic glam, and a few laughs between songs too.
Even Jax's drumstick induced broken nose couldn't stop them.
Sadly the set was limited to 30 minutes, so the early hits had to suffice;
"Hit And Run", "Screaming Blue Murder", "Race With The Devil" (a storming
single) and "Emergency" amongst others, this was a very retro set but
equally thoroughly enjoyable. Someone please give them a headline slot!
They deserve so much more than the 8 songs they had here, and the crowd
Few metal bands (or any bands ever) are more proudly English than Saxon
(yes I know they've had a German drummer once), in name and musical style.
Yes there's some irony there, but you know where the band are coming from,
right down to their love of English Breakfast Tea. Who better to headline
a St George's Day gig? Well, no one. Saxon are more English than curry and
And only Saxon could open a set like this with an intro tape of
"Jerusalem". Probably the only situation you'll get a hall full of metal
fans singing a hymn.
This was a themed St George's Day gig, with the set list chosen largely by
fans through the website. So some new songs, and many classics not played,
but 19 songs and nearly 2 hours saw Saxon rock the house with hits and
classics alike. Something to please everyone no matter what classic
"Princess Of The Night" was the perfect start; uptempo with memorable
lyrics and melody got the crowd and band going. This was followed by "Let
Me Feel Your Power", the first of several tracks from Saxon's latest opus
The Inner Sanctum. Not only is it as heavy as Saxon get, but it went down
well with fans young and old.
Bassist Nibs Carter opened "Lionheart" with a keyboard intro, then "Never
Surrender", again mixing new and old to good effect. "Iron Wheels", "Jack
Tar" and "The Thin Red Line" all got rare airings. Strange setlist indeed
but highlights the strength of the Saxon catalogue.
Guitarists Doug Scarratt (who I had nice pre match chat with) and Paul
Quinn exchanged riffs and solos like brothers.
Bassist Carter is ever enthusiastic and full of energy. All three
acknowledge the crowd, bringing everyone in. But star of the show is
always frontman Biff Byford. His onstage persona, intersong banter and
humour match his great voice and professionalism. Although at one point he
nearly misses an intro as he meticulously draped one of five Union Jacks
thrown onto the stage over the drum set.
"Witchfinder General" is always good live, and "Sixth Form Girls" was a
surprising choice; it was the first time ever it had been played live but
fitted in as if it had always been there.
Back to the new album and "I've Got To Rock To Stay Alive" and the lengthy
"Attila The Hun" followed, but at no point did they lose the audience.
Precision NWoBHM at its very best.
Two old classics "And The Bands Played On" and "Power And The Glory"
finished the main set to much applause.
"State Of Grace" opened the first encore, another powerful track. And two
of the band's all time greats in "747 (Strangers In The Night)" and "Denim
And Leather". As always, Biff keeps talking, making band and crowed feel
together like one big family.
The last number here was "Ashes To Ashes", which was the only weak song in
an otherwise strong set ('classic' or otherwise). A chat, kiss and cuddle
with Jax Chambers during this song more than made up for it though.
Back on stage to finish with "Crusader", a very English topic if a tad
politically incorrect. And as a closing effort, the band left the stage to
"Land Of Hope And Glory". Amazing.
The only let down of the evening wasn't that they didn't play "Wheels Of
Steel" (which, let's face it, isn't the band's best song and is a trifle
over played), but that a few fans left moaning that they didn't, slating
both band and gig, and coming across as a tad pathetic to be honest.
Personally I would have loved "Unleash The Beast", "Dogs Of War", "Solid
Ball Of Rock" and "Rockin' Again" but you only have to look at the
strength of what they did play. This is Saxon in 2008 and they still sound
Review by Joe Geesin
Photos by Noel Buckley
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