Review and Live Photos By Robert Cavuoto
Heavy metal was alive and well at the Newton Theater in New Jersey on Friday night September 22nd where veteran rockers Saxon put on an explosive show. Back in the 80’s when the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was in full swing, Saxon was a musical force not to be reckoned with. They have been going strong for almost 40 years, and tonight they are brought their brand of Heavy Metal Thunder to this small town.
At European festivals, Saxon plays for tens of thousands of people, so to see them in this inmate theater setting was a thrill. Though the stage was smaller than they are used to, there was no shortage of energy on it.
Saxon and UFO are currently touring North American for 18 shows from September through October; hard-hitting bands that capture the true essence of metal. Tonight was the opening night of the tour and Biff told me before the show, “It could be a good one, or it could be bad, you never know? We will just have to wait and see.” Well, tonight’s show was certainly great by the crowd’s reaction. If the band had any opening night glitches, they went unnoticed by their rabid fans.
The band opened with “Battering Ram” off of their 2015 release and then proceeded to put on one of the best 70-minute metal shows that I have seen in a long time. No gimmicks, no videos, no fire or smoke – pure unbridled metal. Some of the classics that were performed were; “747 (Strangers in the Night),” “Power and the Glory,” “Dallas 1:00 pm,” “Princess of the Night,” “This Town Knows How to Rock,” and “Wheels of Steel” as the encore. Noticeably missing was “Denim & Leather” and “Crusaders;” though both were on the setlist for the night, just never played.
Biff told the crowd that if they didn’t like the set list to blame the winner of their Facebook contest who picked it. I thought it was the perfect balance of newer and classics like, “Battalions of Steel,” “Broken Heroes,” and “Dogs of War.” Fans got a treat with “To Hell and Back Again,” a song Biff told us they don’t play very often.
As you would expect, Biff Byford was the charismatic and entertaining ringleader of the evening; dazzling the crowd with his powerful vocal ability making all the classics sound flawless. He is the strength of the band. Paul Quinn on guitar is the mastermind riff maker that has helped propelled Saxon’s career. Though lower key on stage, he is the lynchpin to ensuring that Saxon’s signature sound is perfectly captured night after night.
Guitarist Doug Scarratt who has been with the band for 20 years was quite the showman. He worked for the crowd with his black ESP Les Paul and dueled it out with Paul on many of the leads.
Nigel Glockler on drums and Nibbs Carter on bass laying down the backbeat to the pounding rhythms. Though Nibbs was located in the right corner of the stage, he still commanded a lot of attention with his animated style of play and “wind-milling” his hair without missing a beat.
Biff announced Saxon will be back in the states again very soon but on a larger scale, he just couldn’t announce the details just yet. Tonight had to be one of my favorite and most memorable concerts in a long time. Saxon played like they still cared about the music and being onstage. Tonight they gave us an invigorating performance at the Newton Theatre!