Whenever I go to the Bristol Academy, I never quite know what to expect. One time I was refused entry because I had a bag of Pork Scratchings (evil British snackfood) on me. Another time, I was informed that my photo pass ONLY allowed me to take pics from the pit, during 3 songs. I was not then allowed to take any more from the crowd, despite the fact that every other bugger was doing so. Mind you, they’re not alone in that one, and no one has ever been able to explain why except for a vague shrug of the shoulders and a smug air of “Because we say so”. Tonight brings a new one, as I am informed that I have to wear earplugs to take photos in the pit, despite the fact that I would be technically only about 12 inches further forward than the crowd. Oh well, at least they supply the earplugs, which is good as it would be bloody tricky to take photos with my fingers in both ears. Seriously though, is this just UK madness, or do you get this crap everywhere? Write and let us know.
Anyway, I’m actually here to watch a gig as well as moan like a moany old woman, but even that doesn’t go completely smoothly, as we arrive too late to catch first band Sweet Savage. In fairness, we didn’t know they were going to be on, so apologies to them if they were any good. There’s no excuse for missing the main support though, as Doro is one Metal Queen who never disappoints her subjects. Perky and smiley as ever, Doro and her band benefit from a top notch sound mix and a highly appreciative audience.
The lady from Germany is a true metal powerhouse, with her tiny frame and massive voice dominating the stage with ease. They are allowed just 9 tracks to get the party well and truly started, and do so in admirable fashion. There’s a couple from the new album, including the anthemia “Celebrate”, mixed in with true old gems such as “Metal Racer” and “Burning The Witches”. Doro, as usual, punches the air more than a drunk boxer, with the crowd happy to play along, especially the traditional hardcore fan group who always seem to be placed front centre. The set finishes with a nice double whammy of “Breaking The Law”, with it’s slow intro belying the fact that it’s gonna kick Judas Priest;s version back to the Seventies, and the ever popular “All We Are”, which get’s it’s inevitable singalong. Doro looks as petite, pretty and polished as a ever throughout, with the band a well oiled machine. It looks like year 26 is gonna be business as usual for Europes favourite metal queen - long may she reign.
So to the main event, and it’s a pretty well packed (though not quite sold out) Academy that greets the arrival of the grand old dukes of British metal like the legends they are. Biff Byford has shucked off the trenchcoat I last saw him in, looking smart and fit, and from the first bellow it’s clear that age shall not wither him, and nor shall it take away any of his passion. From the off, it’s clear that Saxon are here to entertain us, and even though the earplugs I can tell that someone had turned everything up to 11, as usual. “Batallions Of Steel”, “Heavy Metal Thunder” and new track “Demon Sweeny Todd” start the ball rolling, and it just doesn’t stop from there on. Byford himself sounds incredible from start to finish, his unique voice hitting every note and managing every rock scream with aplomb.
The set itself is a real juggling act, and older fans (like me) are over the moon when “Never Surrender”, “Strong Arm Of The Law” and “The bands Played On” are included alongside more modern classic such as “Valley Of The Kings” and “Hellcat”. the band are tighter than a Scotsman a day before his dole money comes through, with Doug Scarrat and Paul Quinn sharing the solos out pretty equally, although I note that Scarrat seems to get the more technically widdly ones. Ever the traditionalists, Saxon deliver a double encore that blows the roof off. First, “Live To Rock”, “Motorcycle Man” and “Crusader” make their welcome appearances, and just when we think it’s all over they trot back on again to deliver “Denim Leather”, “747 (Strangers In the Night)” and the mighty “Princess Of The Night”. Doro comes back on to duet on “747”, which is nice, with both her and Biff egging the crowd on to sing their own hearts out. Eventually, after 90 minutes of superb metal, it’s all over. It’s simply staggering that Biff Byford can still do this after all this time, not least because of the effort it must take to deliver his vocal style. It really was a wonderful gig, helped in no small part by a great choice of support. Fookin’ marvellous.
Review by Alan Holloway, alan "at" rockunited.com