CD Reviews

Saxon - 'St. George's Day Sacrifice - Live In Manchester' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     March 17, 2014    
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Saxon are as forceful, relevant and downright fun as ever.

For a band who have spent much of the nineties and early noughties in the doldrums as far as the UK mainstream Rock press was concerned, the turn round in fortunes of the Barnsley Big Teasers, Saxon, has been nothing short of remarkable. I remember not that many years ago, heading along to King Tut's (a glorified pub in Glasgow) to see them put on a storming, although hardly packed out, performance in an amazingly tight sweaty venue. However a decade or so on and the same band visited the same city to play a sold out hall some four times bigger. On that very same tour in 2013 they also recorded their St George's Day show in Manchester and present it here in all its 'Power And Glory' (an album this tour also celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of!), with a superb mix of Saxon old and new. In fact it is testament to the form this act currently find themselves in, that during a two hour plus show they crammed in an impressive six songs from their latest album 'Sacrifice', with not one of them sounding out of place alongside classics such as '747 (Strangers In The Night)', 'Denim And Leather', 'Crusader', or 'Princess Of The Night'. In fact 'Made In Belfast', 'Sacrifice' and 'Stand Up And Fight' are all genuine highlights.

Singer Biff Byford must have spent literally years on stage and it shows in his confident marshalling of the crowd and – especially considering his vintage – impressive vocal display. This is not a singer who needs to sidestep the high notes, or alter the key of the songs to rest his vocal cords or spare his blushes. But then his band-mates are no slouches either, Nibbs Carter and Nigel Glockler hammering down the rhythms with authority, Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt peeling of classic riffs and solos at will.

It is the less celebrated Saxon moments which really make their mark on this excellent sounding live effort, 'Rock And Roll Gypsies' and 'Broken Heroes' are classy and considered (by UK Metal standards), 'Conquistador' is a latter day tour de force, while 'I've Got To Rock (To Stay Alive)' and 'Ride Like The Wind' both add a commercial streak not often heard in the Saxon canon. However, always a band who aim to please their fans, the long loved standards get pride of place, 'And The Bands Played On', 'Strong Arm Of The Law' and 'Wheels Of Steel' still sound as vital and fresh as ever.

While there was a period in their history were it didn't seem so assured (in the UK anyway, mainland Europe never bowed to fads), Saxon are again deservedly recognised as a British institution. 'St George's Day Sacrifice' however illustrates it is no nostalgia trip, Saxon are as forceful, relevant and downright fun as ever. Revel here in their power and their glory!

Steven Reid

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