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Saxon / Fastway / Girlschool http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/02/cd/5e/Saxon-Live-18-1481918750.jpg Hot

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Saxon / Fastway / Girlschool - O2 Academy, Sheffield (UK) - 8 November 2016

The O2 Academy was already pretty full by the time that I arrived on very cold and wet night in Sheffield.

Girlschool, who boasted three original members – Kim McAuliffe (vocals and rhythm guitar), Enid Williams (vocals and bass), Denise Dufort (drums) – kicked off with 'Demolition Boys'. The band, completed by Jackie Chambers on lead guitar (Kelly Johnson having sadly passed away in 2007 from spinal cancer), played an eight song set that concentrated mainly on their early albums. Although I personally prefer their more melodic songs like 'Hit And Run' and 'Race With The Devil', the band seemed best suited to the heavier material like 'Come The Revolution', 'Take It Like A Band', 'Future Flash' and 'Watch Your Step'. The enjoyable set was brought to a close with 'Emergency'.

Fast Eddie Clarke was always my favourite band member from Motörhead, the cool, silent one. Similar to his time in Motörhead, he was happy to let the other band members take the limelight but, as the last surviving member of the classic line-up, he is held in great esteem by the fans and that was obvious by tonight's reception. All but one of this evening's songs came from the first two Fastway albums; 1983's self-titled debut and the following year's 'All Fired Up'. 'Misunderstood' and 'All Fired Up', from the debut, started the show with 'Another Day' from the debut up next. On vocals this evening was Toby Jepson who was in fine voice, although with his thick beard looked totally different to his days fronting the popular Little Angels. There was an airing for 'Deliver Me' from the 2011 album 'Dog Eat Dog' that Clarke and Jepson recorded together. The show continued with 'Telephone', the bizarrely titled 'Heft!', 'Feel Me, Touch Me (Do Anything You Want)' and crowd favourite 'Easy Livin''.

As the strains of AC/DC's 'It's A Long Way to The Top (If You Want to Rock 'N' Roll)' faded away, the British Heavy Metal legends came out, with all cylinders being fired on, with the title track of the last studio album, 2015's 'Battering Ram'. 'Heavy Metal Thunder' and 'Sacrifice' kept the throttle fully open. Biff Byford joked "This is one from many of our comeback albums," as the band launched into 'Solid Ball Of Rock'.

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The twenty song set (other bands take note) covered no less than eleven studio albums and spanned the band's thirty-seven year career to date. The last time I saw Saxon, a few years ago, it was the old classics that really caught my attention (probably nostalgia), but this evening the newer songs like 'Sacrifice', 'The Devil's Footprint' and 'Queen Of Hearts' more than held their own against the aforementioned classics.

'The Eagle Has Landed' was pure class, as was my favourite Saxon song 'Dallas 1pm'. Byford arguably sounded better today than back in the eighties, certainly he has better dress sense these days! He left has long tunic jacket on for the duration of the show and explained that this evening was the coldest that he had ever played!

By popular crowd demand the band went all the way back to their 1979 debut for 'Frozen Rainbow' with the main set brought to a conclusion with the NWOBHM classic 'Wheels Of Steel'.

The band returned to the stage, accompanied by Fast Eddie Clarke, for a cover of the Motörhead classic 'Ace Of Spades' (this tour was originally supposed to have been a co-headline one with Motörhead before the tragic passing of Lemmy). That just left time for '747 (Stangers In The Night)' and the riff-tastic 'Princess Of The Night', that ended a fantastic evening of classic British Heavy Metal.

Saxon, along with Def Leppard and Iron Maiden (whatever happened to those bands) were at the vanguard of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal but never seemed to get the recognition that their music clearly deserved. Fortunately, the Yorkshire Metal legends seem to be gaining a whole legion of new fans as well as retaining the old ones.

Mark Donnelly

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