Words by: Robert Sutton
Images by: Robert Sutton Photography
Saxon are finally back playing live with their ‘Battering Ram’ tour after unfortunately having to cancel their planned tour at the beginning of this year with Motorhead and have just finished off ten dates in the UK before moving into Europe, which will keep them on the road ’till just before Christmas . Their London date was at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on the 5th November.
Support for the evening was from ‘Girlschool’ and ‘Fastway’.
Girlschool: Were formed back in 1978 and it says that they are the longest running all-female rock band, still active after more than 35 years, so that in itself is quite an achievement..and coupled with the fact that they have released over a dozen albums over this time says that they are well worth going to see again live..even though it must be over thirty years since I last saw them!!..
Well they look a little older than when I last saw them..(and I think they would probably say the same about me!!), but they have not lost the charisma and charm that they had all those years ago..what a trip down memory lane and a chance, once again, to re-live some of those great moments and memories from long ago. What a great set with them playing the old stuff and also two tracks from their latest album ‘Guilty as Sin’ which was released last year and proving that their new material is just as good as their songs from thirty years ago. Excellent performance really enjoyed this set.
Fastway: Originally formed by ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke from Motorhead and Pete Way from UFO, but now consisting of Eddie (guitar), Toby Jepson from Little Angels (vocals) , John McManus from Mama’s Boys (bass) and Steve Strange (drums) . ..Billed as ‘a group that doesn’t play together very often’. I think after tonight’s performance they need to reconsider this statement and play more often…With the super vocals from Toby and Eddie in charge of the great solo guitar slots and with them playing only Fastway songs, I cannot see why they should not be out touring a bit more often. Well, another ‘Wow’ from me,
Saxon, were supposed to be out touring at the beginning of the year with Motorhead, but only managed the one show in Brighton. Now in memory of Lemmy they have got together with Girlschool, who were always known for being a regular support act for Motorhead and Fastway, which includes ‘Fast’ Eddie from Motorhead it was time for Saxon to hit the road again with a Never Surrender approach to playing live.
With the show sold out, the downstairs area was a sea of Denim and Leather clad rockers packed in as tightly as they could to try and get as far forward towards the stage as they could manage.
The band opened the set off with ‘Battering Ram’ itself from their new album of the same name, released last year and then played ‘Let Me Feel Your Power’ from their seventeenth album ‘The Inner Sanctum’.
It was virtually nonstop headbanging from there on in, with Nibbs Carter (bass) leading the way on this score for the band. Doug (guitar) was putting his usual ‘life and soul’ into his performance and both Paul (guitar) and Nigel (drums) providing a great solid backbone for the band. Biff (vocals) gave his usual faultless performance but did have to stop himself from rambling on a little bit too much when talking to the crowd at one point.
They finished their standard set off with ‘Wheels of Steel’ and my word with the band and just about the entire audience singing at the top of their voices to this one I think Shepherd’s Bush Empire may just have to check that roof again as I ‘m sure it was nearly blown off!!…After which the band said their good nights and then left the stage.
They were, however, soon back and their first song of the encore was to be their tribute to Lemmy and bought on stage ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke from Fastway to play ‘Ace of Spades’ with them. What a great tribute this was and being played with the only remaining member of what was to me the legendary line-up of Motorhead. They followed this with ‘747 (Strangers in the Night)’ before once again leaving the stage.
It was not very long before they returned again and this time finished the night off by playing two of their classics ‘Denim and Leather’ and ‘Princess of the Night’.
I have always said Saxon never put on a bad show and tonight’s was no exception. Yes, you know what you are going to get..but we did get a few lesser-played songs tonight to mix it up a bit, and with such great tracks to choose from you know it’s going to be a great set..Not much in the way of effects, except for a few blasts from the smoke jets throughout the night….(and I’m not even sure they really needed them)..they gave us just about two hours of thoroughly enjoyable Heavy Metal Thunder music from a truly Great British band.
1: Battering Ram
2: Let Me Feel Your Power
4: Solid Ball of Rock
5: Never Surrender
7: Stand Up and Be Counted
8: The Devil’s Footprint
9: Strong Arm of the Law
10: Killing Ground
11: The Eagle Has Landed
12: Queen of Hearts
13: And the Bands Played On
14: Dallas 1pm
15: Wheels of Steel
16: Ace of Spades ( Motorhead cover) with ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke
17: 747 (Strangers in the Night)
18: Denim and Leather
19: Princess of the Night