One of my work mates was asking what I was up to at the weekend and I told him that I was off to see Saxon, Girlschool and Fastway; “Wow…Fastway…as in Fast Eddie from Motorhead..that Fastway? And Saxon and Girlschool? Wow”. He mentioned it was quite a throwback to yesteryear, and even though I agree that this bill could have been from 20 or more years ago, the fact that Glasgow O2 ABC is sold out tonight still shows that these bands are not only still relevant but thriving. As one of my friends mentioned Saxon are like a fine wine in that they just seem to get better with age. Indeed the quality of the albums Saxon has been releasing recently has been right up there with their classics. While some bands rely on their past glories, release mediocre albums, and count on an existing fan base that will buy just about anything they put out, Saxon instead seem to be on a roll releasing some of the best material of their career.
First on stage tonight are Girlschool. I’ve never seen them before, and even though I arrived early and was near the front of the queue outside the venue, I was only just in time to catch the start of their set. Unfortunately the combination of a very early start, the doors were 6pm, and the fact that people were probably still outside in the queue when the band started, meant that there wasn’t a huge crowd to see the band kick off tonight’s show.
It’s amazing to think that Girlschool were actually formed back in 1978. They still look and sound great after all these years and still look like they’re enjoying themselves on stage. They play a short set tonight drawn mainly from their first two albums, Demolition and Hit and Run, and their latest Guilty as Sin. Founding member and singer Kim McAuliffe has a great rapport with this Glasgow audience and chats between numbers: “Tell you what, what’s all this 6 o’clock business about? We’re just out of bed”. “I’d like to dedicate this one to Lemmy” Kim tells us just before the band launch into “Take It Like a Band”. Girlschool’s brand of punky rock ‘n’ roll is a hit with the crowd as they clap, nod, and sing along. The band finish up with “Emergency” and I overhear a nearby fan’s comment on the show which sums it up perfectly: “Awesome”.
I’d imagine the majority of people come across Fastway’s music because of it’s connection with Motorhead and “Fast” Eddie Clarke. For me however, as a teenager who used to rent out VHS video tapes from the local corner shop, it was because of the 1986 horror movie “Trick or Treat” which they did the soundtrack for. If you’re into 80’s horror it’s worth checking out. Good movie, cool sound track and also features some cameos from Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne. So 30 years later I actually finally get to see these guys live.
There’s a huge cheer, from the now packed venue, for the band as they take to the stage. Fast Eddie, dressed in black leather waistcoat and cowboy boots, smiles at the crowd. He’s still got the old Fender Stratocaster that he had back when he was in Motorhead, with it’s natural coloured body and gold pick-guard, and of course the ubiquitous Marshall stacks behind him. His guitar tone tonight sounds incredible and his playing is on top form. It’s a joy to listen to his guitar solos and he even plays some bluesy unaccompanied guitar before a couple of the songs tonight. Toby Jepson (ex-Little Angels), who first appeared on the 1990 Eat Dog Eat album, is really a talented and under-rated vocalist. The last time I saw him was in Dio Disciples and he blew me away then and tonight, dressed in blue denim and straddling the microphone stand, he still impresses. Toby really shows off his vocal prowess on numbers such as “Feel Me, Touch Me (Do Anything You Want)” where he sings some impossibly long notes a cappella. The band play a selection from their back catalogue but, disappointingly for me, nothing from the Trick or Treat album which introduced me to the band all those years ago. They do however play a great set of classic bluesy rock tracks finishing with fan favourite “Easy Livin'”. Hopefully we’ll see them again soon, as the set just felt too short, but the best gigs always do.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen Saxon but I’ve never seen them do a bad gig. They are one of those bands who consistently put on a great show and I expect tonight will be the same.
The lights dim and I’m surprised to hear “It’s a Long Way to The Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)” as an intro tape. It’s a great warm up however as the Glasgow crowd sing along as they wait expectantly for the main band of the night to come on. Saxon don’t disappoint as they explode onto the stage with the high energy modern classic “Battering Ram” from their new album. It’s a great opener and has the pit at the front of the stage jumping. Unlike some of his contemporaries Biff’s voice is as strong as it’s always been and he shows no signs of slowing down. “OK first sell-out on this tour…it’s going to be a good night…this is Sacrifice” says Biff before they play one of my favourite songs of the night. It’s a real fists in the air number and I love the vertical smoke plumes that accompany the chorus on this one. I don’t know where bass player Nibbs Carter gets his energy from; he’s non-stop all night and moshes his way though the entire set. The guitar solos from Paul Quinn and Doug Scarrat are, as always, mesmerising. I’m hard pushed to pick any favourites from the set tonight as there are too many classic tracks to chose from but if I had to pick one it would be “And the Bands Played On”. I defy anyone to listen to that track and not feel the need to raise your arms in the air and sing along.
While you normally know what to expect from a Saxon show they managed to throw another surprise our way. “In January we were supposed to be touring with Lemmy…so please welcome back to the stage Fast Eddie Clarke…this is Ace of Spades”. It’s a storming version and a great tribute to a true icon in rock music who is very much missed.
Saxon as always deliver the goods, a set of absolute classic metal tracks, expertly played. Who could ask for anything more. Awesome gig from a band who has no right to still be this good after this length of time. Tonight’s show was a sell-out so if you’re thinking about catching them on tour I’d advice you to get your tickets soon to avoid disappointment.
All photos by Lara Vischi (ishootmetal.com)