There’s something comforting just being in the same room as a load of ageing metalheads. There’s no judgement with belly-bursting t-shirts, musty cowhide, receding hairlines, a busted zip on your Wranglers and dodgy-looking choppers are all welcomed. The congregation of dandruff spreaders propping up the bar of the Olympia Theatre tonight is no different. They all have one common goal, to worship upon the altar of British Heavy Metal legends Saxon.
Saxon – 3Olympia Theatre, Dublin
3 March 2023
Words: Brian Boyle
Photography: Carl Foran
Few would argue against the fact that Saxon capture the true essence of British Heavy Metal. The Barnsley boys, who helped spearhead the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement in the early ’80s, are now fast approaching 50 years of service.
While they may be viewed as more pie and mash compared to the caviar and champagne of fellow countrymen like Iron Maiden, Def Leppard and Judas Priest, there is still massive love for the Yorkshire boys.
It’s been six years since they last set foot on Dublin soil, and boy, was it worth the wait.
After the low-key entrance, Carpe Diem (Seize The Day) came in like a Heavy Metal bulldozer, taking all in its sights. Then the familiar revs of Motorcycle Man shook the foundations of this legendary old Theatre and heralded the first of many classics on the menu.
What was to become a regular occurrence of the night, the first of many patched denim jackets landed on the stage. Proving a little snug for Biff’s larger frame, the slight figure of guitarist Doug Scarratt was happy to oblige and wore it with pride.
This was Saxon’s first gig since the 10 December 2022, but there wasn’t any sniff of the boys not being match fit. Never Surrender, Dambusters, and Heavy Metal Thunder were all full-blooded deliveries, but they were only getting warmed up. After a cheeky dig at the freeloading “royalty” in the guest boxes, a classic one-two of Crusader and The Eagle Has Landed had a unifying effect on the Saxon faithful. The latter also highlighted why the unassuming Paul Quinn could go toe to toe with any guitarist on the planet and reign supreme.
Two more big guns in And The Bands Played On and Power And The Glory continued to feed the anthemic vibe that was pulsing through the room.
One of the most recognisable faces in Heavy Metal history, the 6ft plus Biff Byford still cuts an imposing figure. Never one for running around like a keystone cop jumping off monitors, his commanding strides are all that’s required. And there’s no greater sight than when he’s doing it to the hallowed Wheels Of Steel and, in the process, live-streaming it around the world.
There are not many acts that would give you a six-song encore, especially after just giving you a heavy-hitting sixteen, but Saxon do. The Pilgrimage kicked it off, far from a highlight, but it didn’t have to be. Everyone knew what was coming.
Strong Arm Of The Law, 747 (Strangers In The Night), as usual, did the business and had bassist Nibbs Carter seriously testing the durability of his neck muscles. And still the denim jackets rained down. Biff held one aloft and roared, “this is what we’re all about”, which prompted the seriously elevated drummer Nigel Glockler to bang down the opening beats to Denim And Leather. Fists and heads went in all directions. Middle-aged men stripped to the waist and waved their t-shirts in fits of wild Metal abandon.
Saxon are about as fashionable as wood turning, but they don’t give a flying fuck, and neither do their fans, for this is the effect their music continues to have on them.
10.55 pm and still time to raise the roof one more time with a fresh-sounding Princess Of The Night. An unbelievable shift for a band with a combined age of nearly three and a half centuries. Classic Metal at its very best. Young bucks take note, this is how you do it.
You can read the Sweet Savage report from the evening, here.