By Mark Gromen
Hard to believe this is the same outfit that headlines German festivals to 60,000 or more, as BB Kings can’t even hold a thousand and there was ample room on Friday the 13th of September. Never matters how many people are there, SAXON give their all (as witnessed by the sweaty troupe that exited the stage, nearly 90 minutes later). It was, however, by their own standards a rather “short” show, just fifteen songs, including ‘Princess Of The Night’ encore and four tracks off the new Sacrifice CD.
Second night of a rather expansive North American tour, the opening strains of ‘Sacrifice’ greeted the band’s entrance, Biff Byford in military waistcoat that belied the heated, intimate club gig. No photo pit/barricade to keep the punters at bay, as the boisterous pressed right up against the stage. another newbie, ‘Wheels Of Terror’, preceded the sing-along ‘Power And The Glory’. Throughout the evening, Byford, part teacher/part preacher taught the multi-generational gathering about when certain songs were released and baptizing the faithful, dousing them with bottled water. While Byford paces from side to side, the guitar tandem of Doug Scarratt and the perpetually hunched over, bandanna and eyeglass wearing Paul Quinn are almost statuesque. ‘Heavy Metal Thunder’ saw bassist Nibbs Carter, easily the most animated member of the band, wildly pinwheeling his hair.
The evening’s setlist was chosen by a fan, via Facebook. ‘Made In Belfast’ was followed by a call for requests. Cue numerous titles being shouted simultaneously, the graying frontman entertaining a few, before ultimately settling on ‘Crusader’, the majority of the lyrics being sung by the fans. Continuing his reference material, the always light-hearted Byford said, “This one was from…could have been ’94 or ’95. Who gives a shit?” Not the usual intro to ‘Dogs Of War’, sees Carter, legs splayed wide as the crowd claps along to the easy parts. Scarratt began the speedy ‘Motorcycle Man’, punctuated by Byford’s piercing whistles, when he wasn’t splashing water on those down front. ‘Rock N Roll Gypsy’ is rarely heard outside Europe. The North American debut of a moody ‘Guardians Of The Tomb’ was next, followed by the touching ‘Dallas 1PM’.
Byford mentioned the hot & sticky setting, saying “It’s heavy metal. It’s not supposed to be comfortable.” The singer turned the mic stand around, towards the singing crowd, then walked it away ’747 (Strangers In The Night)’ is all the more poignant, given our location. “Glad to see fans from the 80s,” commented Biff. “Sure there are some unborn babies in the room too!” ‘Denim & Leather’ saw Byford demand some headbanging, as the senior citizen led by example, the rest of the band joining in, with synchronized movements. For the chorus, he thrust the mic into the audience. Prior to the set closing ‘Wheels Of Steel’, Byford’s hand cupped his ear, chants of “Saxon,” reached the lanky frontman, The singer offered, “We go to Canada tomorrow.” Cue chorus of boos. “There’s nothing wrong with Canada,” he countered. “We’d take you with us, but we’d never get across the border!”.
Only Quinn, Byford and drummer Nigel Glockler were initially onstage to start the ‘Princess Of The Night’ encore, truly the final song of the evening. Long live SAXON, something special.
More photos from New York City can be seen here.
Check out fan-filmed footage of ‘Crusader’ below: