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 !
First band tonight was Girlschool. I’ve been seeing them live since 1982, with my first gig at Leicester De Montfort hall. In the mid ’80s i traveled to a bunch of places around the UK to see them. Tonight, it’s going to be a short set, 30 minutes or so. Personally, i’d sooner see them switch positions with Fastway & get a longer set. I guess it’s down to “politics”. Whatever, they played a great little set. They kicked off with “Demolition Boys” , from the debut album “Demolition”. Then went into the title track of their second album ” Hit & Run ”
It was quite funny when Kim asked if anyone remembered “Rockstage”. That was a tv show where they broadcast gigs from the Theatre Royal,Nottingham in the early ’80s. Girlschool were featured on the same show as Motorhead which was broadcast in 1981. The general consensus was “…you really are far too young to remember it aren’t ya !? “.
Kim dedicated the song ” Take It Like A Man ” to Fast Eddie as this was the last night that Fastway would be on this tour. Next they played ” Future Flash”. That’s always been one of my all time fave songs of theirs. Enid then gets to sing the oldie ” Watch Your Step “. The show finishes with ” Emergency ” (what else could it be ? 😉
Next up it’s Fastway. Whilst there’s no denying there’s some legendary musicians in the group, it was a band i could never get into back in the day. Tonight i also thought Fast Eddies guitar was too loud. “What?” you’re saying? It can never be loud enough ;-). Or maybe it was more a point of Tobys vocals seemed a wee bit too low in the mix? Either way, i’m sorry to say that everything just seemed to merge into one.
Finally it’s Saxon. What a band & what a career they’ve had all these years ! The one constant during those times (even if there were a few weaker albums) is you know you’re gonna get a great live show ! They always play nice long sets & often change the set lists along the way. ( A good example being, i heard it was very cold in Sheffield & the audience requested ” Frozen Rainbow “…the band played it 🙂 )
I’m not going to list all the songs they played, but you can be sure they covered stuff from all through their career. Interesting choice of intro tape ; ” It’s a long way to the top (if you wanna rock n roll)”. I’ll always associate that with Twisted Sister from back in the day 😉 When intro finished, they brutally hit us with ” Battering Ram ” followed by a nice fast one ” Heavy Metal Thunder “.
Stand out tracks for me tonight were ” See The Light Shining “(change to set list) ,”Strong Arm Of The Law ” & ” Princess Of the Night “.
They played something like 21 (?) songs tonight. Such great value. As a footnote, it’s great to see that Saxon are (yet again) on the rise. Many dates have either sold out or been very close to selling out. Good on ya guys 🙂 Denim & Leather brought us all together…
EDIT 11-1-18 : With the news of Fast Eddie Clarke passing away, i thought it suitably apt to upload this song
An early start on the train to London, to meet Rob. He drives us to the festival (Thanks mate). Weather is fantastic ! We get our wristbands ; VIP ones i won via Saxon FB page, & i ask for it to not be too tight ( Rob says “He suffers from bad circulation!”) The reason for not being tight is i’m only going for the Saturday & Rob & Ady will do both days….so i can take it off easy & Ady can use it tomorrow 😉 (Not that i’d told him…i’m just good like that 😉 ) Have a quick look around the festival site. It seems a very nice size. First band we see are No Hot Ashes. I’d seen them before & my opinion hasn’t changed 😉 Then it’s Toseland. They go down pretty well, but leave me a little cold as i find it rather formulated & have seen it all before. (sorry). Next it’s FM. Simply quality. You know what you’re gonna get. Then it’s the mighty Saxon. Such consummate pros. Easily the best band of the day for me so far. Then it’s B.O.C. It’s the 3rd time i’ve seen them & i still just don’t get them. I suggest to Rob we go to the other stage for Anathema. Great choice. It felt so much better than last night in Sheffield & the audience seemed more into it. I made a right schoolboy error though as my camera battery died 🙁 So from then onwards, no video, just a couple of photos. Back to the main stage for Scorpions. Great set list. Make it Real, The Zoo, Coast to Coast! Then some real oldies jam “Top of the Bill/ Steamrock Fever/Speedys Coming/Catch Your Train” It then dipped a bit. The whistling song !! Thank god they brought it back up with Blackout , Rock you like a Hurricane etc ! Over all, a great day. Oh yeah, forgot, we had some great burgers & sweet potato fries. Expensive, but well worth it 😉
Took a while to get out the car park, but, as Rob knows his way around Maidstone, we went a different way to the other cars & cut off some journey time. By now i was truly knackered & was dozing off in the car. As i said, i think i could have fallen asleep standing up i was that tired. Hell, i even managed to sleep in the same room as a heavy snorer 😉
P.S. On Sunday morning Rob made some Bacon & Egg butties. I really shouldn’t have stayed as i got to the train station with literally 1 minute to spare before my train left ! That could have been a very expensive butty ! Also, all afternoon, i had the most evil eggy farts 😉