I don't think the score below will go up to 14, shame really

It's been almost 12 months since I was last in the Manchester Academy 2 watching the NWOBHM stalwarts Saxon. Last time, they played a couple of tracks off Lionheart and the rest of the evening was filled with classic Saxon, I was interested in seeing what set they would be playing as the Saxon set differs from the UK to the rest of Europe. Thankfully Saxon dispelled with the classic set to play a new album 'Inner Sanctum' heavy collection of songs that satisfied every one in the almost sold out hall.

Saxon's recent brush with Harvey Goldstein and Channel Four seems to have given the band a new lease of life. Whether the band received a positive or negative reaction to the above TV show was irrelevant tonight, but it did prove that there were people in the UK who really care about Saxon and their importance in Heavy Metal history. It also helps when you have a killer album to promote and the band emphasised this by playing seven tracks off 'The Inner Sanctum'.

It was a mix of old and new (well, newish) as new tracks such as 'State of Grace' and 'Let me feel your power' were split up by 'Motorcycle Man' and 'Strong Arm of the Law,' but there was also time for some other great tunes such as 'The Thin Red Line' and 'Are we Travellers in time?' from Unleash the Beast and Metalhead respectively. 'Red Star Falling' was the highlight of the new material coming across as epic and dynamic without sounding too overblown.

It was obvious the band were enjoying themselves, Biff sang his heart out and long term bass player Nibbs Carter head banged for almost 2 hours. Doug Scarratt proved once again what a great guitar player he is and his cohort Paul Quinn smoothed his way through the mayhem chipping in a few solos but essentially being the 'riff' man. The new material was very well received but the older songs just created mayhem (even a mosh pit for Heavy Metal Thunder). I think Biff said it best, "a lot of you are just standing there...I bet you'd forgotten we were this good," and he was probably right.

Head nodding and air-guitar playing were aplenty as 'To hell and back again' and the fantastic '20,000 Feet' were literally pummelled into your chest. Biff even had a couple of leather jackets thrown on to stage for him to wear of which he obliged, but asked if the throwers wanted to pick them up after the show as it was cold outside, how very British. 'I've got to rock (to stay alive)' from the new album rounded off a brilliant set but we all knew they'd kept their big guns for the encores, in fact it was the longest set of encores I've ever witnessed. The 9 minute Atilla the Hun kicked off the post set blasters and then it came, '747 (strangers in the night),' 'And the band played on,' 'Wheels of Steel', 'Heavy Metal Thunder' and 'Denim and Leather' just caused the Academy 2 to erupt. My neck was beginning to ache after two hours of almost constant head bobbing and turning to my party of five it was all agreed that this was Saxon at their best. Biff apologised for the rescheduling of the show and announced that for their appreciation there was a free poster and CD waiting at the merchandise table for anyone who wanted one. Suffice to say I've not seen a rush since the Marks and Spencer Christmas Sale with the cry behind me of :
'...but Dad, where are you going to put it?'
'I'll find a place.'
Causing me to giggle whilst we all squashed up for our freebie.

It was an amazing gig from one of the best live bands of all time. Those who put them down as cheesy Spinal Tap fodder are missing out on one of the cornerstones of metal history and I urge everyone to make time to see them, you wont be disappointed.