Saxon - Shepherd's Bush Empire 2008
London - April 23
The story of this show's existence goes back to the London date of 2006's 'A Night Out With The Boys' tour where Saxon found themselves playing at the Astoria on St. George's Day purely by chance. Indeed it made everyone, audience and band alike, realise how under-hyped St. George's Day is that no one knew until it was mentioned that night. So, based on that quirk of fate they decided this year they'd do it intentionally.
For this one-off show they brought good friends Girlschool with them as special guests who, aside from a few of the older rockers in the building, did not impress, and the recently returning Sweet Savage who's short but heavy grooving set showed a re-discovered enthusiasm that the modest crowd seemed to connect with.
To make the night special for the fans Saxon joined forces with Metal Hammer magazine to run a setlist competition. Fans needed to submit a complete setlist of Saxon songs they were connected to England, justifying each choice. The winning setlist would win a Saxon St. Georges Cross guitar, which Doug Scarratt played for one song, and would be played, subject to one or two changes, on the night.
The winning setlist was outstanding, featuring many rarely played songs and some big songs which haven't featured in Saxon sets for a few years. The band added the never-before-played Sixth Form Girls and Attila The Hun, requested by a fan in Croatia, but otherwise stuck to the chosen set, moving Crusader to the very end.
The number of recent songs chosen was both surprising and pleasing with as many as five from Lionheart and five from The Inner Sanctum. Disappointing that the Dogs of War, Metalhead and Killing Ground albums were again not represented but inclusions like Warrior, Iron Wheels and The Thin Red Line went some way towards making up for that.
The band were impressively tight for a setlist they've both never played before and are never likely to play again, with vocalist Biff Byford sharing several jokes and special announcements with the audience. The first of these was that they had finished recording their as-yet-untitled new album the previous day and it would be out in time for their UK tour with Motörhead in November. The second was information so new even the rest of the band at that point didn't know; they had been confirmed for the 2008 Download Festival (albeit the wrong day as far as most metal fans are concerned).
Adorned with a ridiculous number of English flags thrown up by the audience, which Biff tried his hardest to get hung up on every part of their stage set-up (which included ramps and walkways either side of Nigel Glockler's drum kit) they continued through several England-related songs without pause in most places, finishing with a string of big hits and new songs culminating in a second encore of Crusader during which an eager fan who had clearly been waiting all night for his chance jumped on stage in a full medieval knight costume, draping his cape over guitarist Paul Quinn's shoulders before departing.
The lack of an event t-shirt disappointed many, but the show certainly didn't. A true one-off set delivered in the classic Saxon style, everyone left happy, knowing they'd seen something special.
“ impressively tight ”
Setlist: Princess of The Night / Let Me Feel Your Power / The Return > Lionheart / Never Surrender / Iron Wheels / Jack Tars > English Man O' War / The Thin Red Line / Witchfinder General / Sixth Form Girls / Warrior > Battle Cry > Man And Machine / I've Got To Rock (To Stay Alive) / Attila The Hun / And The Bands Played On / The Power And The Glory // State of Grace / 747 (Strangers In The Night) / Denim And Leather / Ashes To Ashes // Crusader
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