SAXON - Eagle Lands, Takes Bite Of Big Apple!
March 31, 2017, a year ago
Lightning might not strike the same spot twice, but the venerable NWOBHM legends Saxon touched down at BB Kings, just off Times Square, on back-to-back nights: March 29th & 30th, BraveWords in the house, for both shows. With the advent of internet-posted setlists for every date, fans can see what's being played (and sometimes take the surprises out of the equation). While there is a structural skeleton to the current crop of dates, not really supporting any specific release frees Saxon to play whatever they (or the night's audience) desire, as there are plenty of moments where anything can/will be aired.
Both shows were sold out, meaning sardine packed conditions. On the initial night, the venue's plush leather booths were augmented by free standing tables, lining what traditionally is the dance floor/standing room area, facilitating one way only traffic throughout the entire club. The second, no less cramped night, was more raucous, a Saxon friendly evening, missing the seated UFOggies. Phil Mogg will be 69 in two weeks, while Biff Byford is 66 and guitarist Paul Quinn will join him, by year's end. So their fan base is at least as old as they are, if not older! Strange to see this musical juggernaut as an opening act, in such a small setting, after witnessing shows in front of nearly 100,000 outdoors, in Germany. Size doesn't matter, regardless of the stage, Saxon give it their all.
"Battering Ram" and "This Town Knows How To Rock" get the fans energized, Byford acknowledging each side of the crowd, while bassist Nibs Carter thrashes like an animated Bevis, bending backwards, bass overhead. The dichotomy stage left and right is striking, Carter a bundle of energy, Quinn a study in quiet reservation, occasionally getting so "excited" as to punch the air. "Sacrifice" sees the blond frontman stationary, center stage, headbanging in place. Unlike some nights at BB Kings', there's no simulcast on the screens that flank the stage, but there's no space for a Saxon backdrop, the band playing in front of the club's blue crest. "Power And The Glory" gets a huge response, Quinn aiming his guitar, as if it were a rifle, as the song ends. The first night, "Chasing The Bullet" was a real surprise (given the myriad of possibilities), Byford getting a few people to pogo, while slapping the hands of others.
A slower, blue lit "Eagle Has Landed" gives Byford a chance to snap selfies for those in the front row. The pace is pedestrian, until Quinn gets a solo showcase, towards its conclusion. "Dallas 1PM", is always welcome, the singer gesturing his index finger to accentuate the poignant chorus and Quinn playing the guitar vertically. Now was time for the audience to select a song, "for Lemmy", from four choices: "Heavy Metal Thunder", "20,000 Ft.", "Motorcycle Man" or "To Hell And Back Again". Unable to choose between the din created for two of them, we got the later pair the first show and just Byford two-finger whistle aided "Motorcycle" ("Guess there's a lot of bikers in the audience") the following night. Doug Scarratt gets a moment to shine, open chords (mimicking a revving two-wheeler) to start the aforementioned, crowd sung anthem. The other guitarist kicks off "To Hell And Back Again".
The telltale notes announce "Crusader", Byford asking, "Will you sing it with me?" as sporadic skyward thrusting fists are noticeable around the room. As Quinn adds his fist, Carter passes the bass headstock overtop the fans. His sweaty stringy hair plastered to his face (at his age, undoubtedly happy just to have ANY, given the bald and gray domes watching the proceedings), Byford jokingly asks for requests, adding, "Maybe tomorrow," before adding, "Being as I'm the boss, tonight, 'Wheels of Steel." During the proper set ender, he ventures into the wings, as Nibbs invades Quinn's stage left.
"Strong Arm Of The Law" is the first of a quick, but classics laden encore. Been called for (from the crowd) all night, so finally it's time for "Denim And Leather", synchronized, forward bending stage movements, under red lights. On both occasions, "Princess Of The Night" sent the faithful home happy (OK, guess "some" stayed to see UFO too).
On Thursday night, Biff teased they could play "Broken Heroes", but (sadly) the attendees were having none of it, only getting the Nibbs begun "Eagle Has Landed". The singer was in a more jovial (playful) mood, telling the seated supper club crowd to, "Finish up, eat your eggs." When someone up front posed a question, Byford countered, "I'll be the judge and jury." Later, he asked, "Can you take it? We've got defibrillators." They were clearly enjoying the second evening, often appearing four across the front of the stage. There were a couple of chances, most notably "Stand Up And Be Counted" being added (at the expense of "Chasing The Bullet"), the mentioned, but unaired "20,000 Ft." (in place of "To Hell And Back") and encore starting with "Never Surrender", rather than "Strong Arm Of The Law". Could have tried a few more alterations, what with some paying to see the guys twice and getting a double dose of 11 of the 14 tracks, each night, but Saxon remain as viable now, as they were 30+ years ago and there's not too many bands you can say that about, especially in a club setting, in NYC!