So i went back to check in to my hotel. As the streets were so busy with people walking & just looking at their mobile phones ( ! ) it took me a bit longer than i expected it would. Probably only had about 40mins at hotel before i had to go back to Corn Exchange as i needed to meet Saxon tour manager for 4.30pm. When i got back, the same group of lads were still outside. I asked them if any of there were doing the M&G w/Saxon. None of them were & they didn’t even know about the M&G. So i explained how the “top” of the “Pledge Campaign” (At the time i booked mine at least) included a “Golden Ticket” which can be used at any HEADLINE gig by Saxon & also a M&G with them before the gig. If you’re the kind of person who likes to see multiple gigs by a band & you’re into Saxon, i think this package is great value for money.
After a while i went in the foyer to try find someone to talk with about meeting the manager. I could see they were sorting out tonights merchandise & i caught the eye of someone who i beckoned to come to me. When i told her why i was here she said ” Oh , so you’re the guy with the Golden Ticket”. Once inside, she introduced me to Saxons tour manager & i was very surprised to find i was the only one there tonight with this special ticket ! So, yeah, i had the band all to myself. The band were already sound checking, but i think i got to hear most of it.
When they finished, Velby introduced me to the guys.
I had a real good chat with Biff. The first thing i asked him was “Will there be a UK Thunderbolt tour part 3 ? “. (Why? Because the venues they’re playing on the part 2 are all so far away etc). He said there should be a Pt 3 & even told me some of the venues they hope to play, but nothing is set in stone just yet. Either way, i’m sworn to secrecy to not let anyone one know which venues 😉 That was exactly what i hoped for venues wise. I also mentioned how many years ago i bumped into him in Boston (Biff lived in Boston & a few other places in Lincolnshire back in the late ’80s early ’90s). When Nibbs came over & i said i was from Boston, he asked if the “Rose Of Bengal” restaurant was still there. Apparently the guys often used to have curry there & it was their favourite place 😉 Oh yeah, something quite funny that Biff said (without any prompting from me) was that he called Boston, Bostonia! Ya see, even he realises the place is totally different to how it used to be 😉
After having a bit more of a chin wag, Biff said “We need to get a photo of us all”. I think the TM took a couple on my camera, then Biff gave him his mobile phone to take another pic to put up on Facebook 🙂 (Later on i found out that somehow they’d put the wrong name for me in that pic! So very briefly, i was “Martin”! I doubt anyone noticed as it was quickly edited to my real name 😉 )
The T.M. said i could come & go as i please. At the same time Biff said ” You can go anywhere…except for backstage…If you go there, we’ll shoot you !”. My reply was “It’s a good thing i’m wearing my bullet proof vest tonight then !” (Nigel seemed impressed with my sharp wit 😉 ). Anyway, decided i’d stay in the venue as it was pointless going back to the hotel. So i checked out the venue & watched the soundchecks of both Diamond Head & Rock Goddess.
During this time, some of the Saxon guys came back in & i had a great chat with Nigel. He’s a big fan of IPAs & told me about all the beers they can get from their local supermarket in USA. Was very interesting.
Later on, i realised i’d forgot to ask the guys to sign the booklet that comes with the DVD “Heavy Metal Thunder, The Movie”. When Biff came back into the hall i asked him to sign it. I also told him that the short clip from when they played Download ’08 was filmed by me. (At that show they played in a tent. It was so packed that hundreds couldn’t get in. Saxon were back on the up again for sure). He wasn’t aware, as everything was submitted via Coolhead productions, but he did say ” I do like bootlegs” 😉 In the end, i only manged to get autographs from Biff, Nigel & Doug…so looks like i’ll take that book next time i see them 😉 If you want to check out the short footage that i filmed at Download, which they included in the dvd, go to 2 hours 29 minutes & 20 seconds 😉
I carried on watching Diamond Head & Rock Goddess sound checking. Took a couple of quick snaps. Then the doors opened.
I found it hard to believe i’d never seen Rock Goddess live before ! Not even as a support act! Back in the day, i liked them, but somehow, i never got to see them live. I enjoyed their set tonight. I’m unsure, but i think on the opposite side to where i was sat, Denise Duffort (Girlschool) was there.
I don’t think i ever saw Diamond Head with their classic first line-up. Seen them open for a few bands over the years, but never headlining. Also have seen Tatler jam with Metallica a couple of times (Lars was a big fan of NWOBHM). I’d imagine that most of the (younger) crowd would only know the name Diamond Head because Metallica covered a few of their songs. I think there’s only Brian Tatler left from the original line-up. Again, i enjoyed their set which started & finished with a couple of classics, namely “Helpless” & “Am I Evil”. For the time they had tonight, it was a really good set. They played “Helpless”, “Bones” (?), “In The Heat Of The Night”, “Lightning to the Nations”, “It’s Electric”, “The Prince” and finished with “Am I Evil”.
Both bands nicely warmed up the crowd, so we were all waiting for Saxon to get up on the stage to show everyone how it’s really done !
I’d really enjoyed the day, but then something unexpected happened : I fire alarm went of & we had to evacuate the building !
Initially, it seemed everyone (including the security) was a bit confused as to what was happening. I didn’t even attempt to go down the stairs for about 5 minutes as there were so many trying to get out, it came to a standstill ! I was also surprised at how long it took the security downstairs to open the side doors aka Fire Exits ! It took a while to get everyone out & it was quite a sight to see hundreds of people gathered outside….plus a fire engine! Thankfully, there was no fire & we were soon allowed back in. (I’ve since heard from a friend who was also there, that before the evacuation, he was pretty near the back of the hall, but once back in, he was much closer to the stage. Well played my friend 😉 But the flipside of that is i’m pretty sure some people who might have been on the front row after queuing for hours, might not have got back to their original positions )
Once everyone was back in, it didn’t take long before the intro, “Olympus Rising” was playing over the PA. They went straight into “Thunderbolt”. Afterwards, Biff said they’d got the go ahead from the venue to play the full show, even though it would be past the initial curfew (Personally, i think they still would have done it even if the venue hadn’t given them permission 😉 ) . So, i have to say good on Saxon for playing the full set tonight.
Next up, we get “Sacrifice”. Following that is one of my fave tracks off “Thunderbolt”, namely “Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz)”. I love how dark & heavy it sounds. Next we get a couple of songs from back in the glory days. “Motorcycle Man” & “Strong Arm of the Law”. It brought back memories of the first time i saw Saxon at De Montfort Hall, Leicester way back in December 1980 ! I would have been 14 years old then 🙂 Something else to do with “Strong Arm Of The Law”….when i bought the vinyl back in the day, there was a big sticker included, which i put on my bedroom door (still living at my parents house then obviously) it’s still on that door to this day
Next up it’s “Battering Ram”. Oh yes, we like it hard & heavy ! It was cool to hear “Power and the Glory” again. But i must confess, when that album was released i was a bit pissed off with Saxon as they went chasing the American dollar.That year, i think they only played one UK gig, which was at Leeds Queens Hall. A horrible venue, even though it was a good line-up of bands.
We’re then brought back to the present day, with a couple of songs off “Thunderbolt”. “Sniper” & “The Secret of Flight”. I think that “Thunderbolt” is the best album they’ve made in a long time.
“Dallas 1pm ” is one of my all time favourite Saxon songs. The lyrics about the assassination of JFK really work well.
“Never Surrender” is another great blast from the past
We get a couple more from Thunderbolt & of course “They Played Rock n Roll” is dedicated to Lemmy & all of Motorhead. Next we get the song that describes when they played Castle Donington festival back in 1980; “And the Bands Played On”. It was quite a hit single back in the day.
The show finishes with 3 absolute gems from their glory years where the lyrics are about Planes, Knights & Trains ;”747 (Strangers in the Night)”,”Crusader” & “Princess of the Night”.
They encore with “Heavy Metal Thunder” & the great sing a long song “Wheels of Steel”.
The night finishes with the song that brought us all together, “Denim and Leather”.
What a fantastic day/night this has been. This is what i’m living for…
I knew that a couple of friends i’d met on the road would be at the gig, so i hung around for a while afterwards to see if i could find them & have a chat. Couldn’t find them though 🙁 (Hopefully meet next time Hannah & Mark). Bought myself a t-shirt, then walked back to my hotel. Damn it was cold !