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Folk influenced melodic death metallers Suidakra are perhaps a slightly odd choice of opening band on what is otherwise a retro-metal billing. However, I personally welcome variety on a lineup, and this German act provide just that tonight. With a crisp and clear sound through the PA, the lively quartet have nothing to lose in presenting their up tempo, hard hitting tunes to a more 'mature' audience although, unfortunately, most present for their set are evidently here just for Saxon and Anvil, choosing to remain static throughout. A small section of the crowd do seem quite taken with Suidakra's music, and by the time they reach closing number 'The IXth Legion' there are a small number of fists pumping the air so have perhaps won over a minority. Throughout their half hour set, the band deliver an array of infectiously catchy songs with succinct metal bite and boundless energy. A mightily impressive live act, Suidakra exit the stage to wide applause. Fantastic stuff. Hopefully they'll make it back over to the UK soon with a full headline show. (MH)
Monday 9th November 2009
Rock City in Nottingham, UK
Had I written anything about Anvil pre-2008, I would have felt the need to include a little exposition of their activities during the past few years as many older rockers had presumed the band long defunct, whereas the younger metaller would probably be entirely unaware of the Canadians' existence. However, since the advent and mass popularity of Sacha Gervasi's acclaimed documentary movie 'Anvil! The Story of Anvil' any such exposition would be superfluous to what most already know so I can quite assuredly state that, in 2009, Anvil are a band who require absolutely no introduction. At least to most. And even those who have yet to experience the movie, the buzz is such that the entire metal/rock community, and beyond, are now fully aware of Anvil and what they do. And what they do is purely about having fun, which is evidenced on Rock City's stage this evening in abundance. Charismatic and candid enunciator Lips, undoubtedly the driving force behind Anvil's unfaltering, perpetual quest for rock stardom, appears onstage with a huge beaming grin from the offset, and remains smiling for the majority of the band's 45 minute set (along with a whole range of mad facial expressions). He announces songs by yelling into his guitar pickups and even plays his axe with a vibrator at one point (an erstwhile gimmick from the 80s), but all with a discernible sincerity as he looks to be genuinely having fun performing, often glancing across to exchange smiles with co-founding member Robb Reiner. There are no pretensions here, rather unmitigated metal merriment. And it's a sheer pleasure to witness Reiner's highly skilled drumming first-hand, reaffirming my belief that he really is one of the scene's most underrated, talented sticksmen (his drum solo is perhaps a little too long and misplaced in only a three quarters of an hour set, although it's still fairly awe-inspiring to witness). Music-wise, they have a fine sound and mix through the PA and open with short instrumental piece 'March of the Crabs' which segues into '666' before airing the likes of 'School Love', 'White Rhino', 'Mothra' and 'This is Thirteen'. Preceding set closer 'Metal on Metal' (which is introduced as the "national fucking anthem of metal"!), Lips states how very happy Anvil are to be playing in the UK as it's where metal originated. He also informs the crowd it's the most fun they've ever had on tour, and that Biff is one of the coolest guys he's ever met. You can't help but be affected by the man's genuine enthusiasm and optimistically effervescent outlook, and it's pleasing to see that Anvil are, at last, living their dream...and loving every minute of it, as are the audience judging by the hugely positive crowd reactions. In fact, I notice a number of people leave after they finish their set, so some were apparently in attendance just for the Canadians. This was my first time of seeing Anvil live and, to be brutally honest, I hadn't expected them to be this good. However, through their years of experience, they indubitably know how to put on one hell of a show. Amazing stuff. Surprisingly so! (MH)
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Reviews by Mark Holmes & Dave Crewe; Photography by Mark Holmes
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I think it would be fair to say that Saxon must be one of the most underrated metal bands around today and have probably been unfairly overlooked by many including me since their heyday in the early 1980s. After 1984's ‘Crusader’ my knowledge of the band has been limited, particularly when the mainstream UK media decided to ignore them. Fast forward to over 20 years later and a reality TV show helped me get back into the band once again. Yes, 2007's Harvey Goldsmith's ‘Get Your Act Together’ did showcase some Spinal Tap-esque moments such as the dodgy glam photo-shoot and the Hillsborough air guitar disaster but the show also highlighted the fact that the band could still cut it live. Appearances at the 2009 Sonisphere and Bloodstock Festivals and 2008's Download have certainly raised interest in the band and Saxon's profile deservedly appears to be on the up once again. This was the third time I'd seen the band live since 2007 and it came as no surprise to me that Saxon did not disappoint tonight, delivering a set that was well balanced, superbly performed with Biff's voice and Nigel Glockler's powerhouse drumming particularly outstanding. The opening track "Battalions of Steel" with its grand symphonic intro made for a blistering start. Surprisingly, this was just one of three songs taken off their current album ‘Into The Labyrinth’. What followed was a consistently excellent combination of mostly classic material, a couple of obscure tracks and a small number of newer ones. Classics played earlier in the set included ‘Heavy Metal Thunder’, ‘Dogs of War’, (then came newbie ‘Hellcat’), ‘Dallas 1pm’, ‘Strong Arm Of The Law’, ‘The Power And The Glory’ and ‘Solid Ball Of Rock/Back On The Streets’. ‘Travellers In Time’ (off the ‘Metalhead’ album) and ‘Backs To The Wall’ (from their debut) were the more interesting choices that went down well especially with the diehard fans. I must admit I was unfamiliar with the former track but the latter was a storming version of a near forgotten gem. The awesome ‘State Of Grace’ (sadly the only track played off the tremendous ‘The Inner Sanctum’ album) led perfectly into a batch of songs that are regarded as being amongst the band's main anthems, all genuine crowd pleasers. These included the magnificent ‘And The Bands Played On’, which pays tribute to their appearance at the 1980 Monsters of Rock Festival, a fine version of the Christopher Cross cover ‘Ride Like The Wind’ before closing the main set with the ever popular ‘Wheels of Steel’, which included a thoroughly enjoyable crowd participation section. The opening encore did not seem to be an obvious choice with it being another newbie but ‘Live To Rock’ is a tour de force, which fitted in well amongst the well known classics. ‘Denim and Leather’, ‘747 (Strangers In The Night)’ and ‘Princess Of The Night’ brought an end to a fantastic night of rocking mayhem. Saxon, with Biff excelling as a frontman, are a band completely on fire at the moment and as one of the most impressive acts currently playing metal they are a must see band when they next play the UK. Their last 2 albums also prove without any shadow of a doubt that they are as relevant as they've ever been and not the dinosaur living off past glories that many misguided people still believe. They could quite easily have played a lot more newer material such as ‘Red Star Falling’, ‘If I Was You’ (heavily featured on the aforementioned Goldsmith programme), ‘Atila The Hun’, ‘Demon Sweeney Todd’, ‘Valley Of The Kings’ and ‘Come Rock Of Ages’, all of which are every bit as good as anything else the band have released. If you add to these such highly regarded oldies as ‘Motorcycle Man’, ‘Stallions Of The Highway’, ‘Crusader’ and ‘Broken Heroes’ then it becomes increasingly obvious that this band had enough cracking material to have played all night. Cynics, young or old, should forget their prejudices and give this band another chance, perhaps not realising that there is a greater depth, melody and intensity to the their overall sound than they are given credit for, unlike much of today's trendier metal, which generally possesses none of these qualities. The 2009 version of Saxon are better than they've ever been and, for a band who are over 30 years old, that is an astonishing achievement. (DC)
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