Saxon at the Academy, Dublin, 5th December 2014

Despite being 33 shows in to a 37 show tour – not to mention celebrating 35 years together – Saxon did not look one bit road-weary on Friday night in the Academy.

A reasonably full crowd greeted the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) trailblazers as they took to the stage with Motorcyle Man. It was immediately apparent that the sound was mixed a bit too much in favour of the drums and bass, but things improved as the night progressed.

Musically the band are still very strong, particularly the guitar players. The night’s set saw relative newbie Doug Stirratt shredding more solos than founding member Paul Quinn, but both of them both came together to lay down a strong foundation of interweaving riffs and lines.

The sound is perhaps somewhat beefed up if you compare it to the more melodic metal of Saxon’s middle period, but the set-list provided a good spread of their entire career.

For example, we get a lot of crunching power-metal in the form of classic latter-day numbers Sacrifice and Power and the Glory (1983) followed by the very catchy  Solid Gold Rock. A little later we get the near-thrash of Heavy Metal Thunder.

Like most metal bands (and their fans) the band are good natured and enthusiastic, as Biff Byford leads affairs from the front with his trademark strong, high vocals. Also, his good humoured interaction with the crowd makes up for any lack of athleticism.

The old metal cliché of the crowd participation sing-a-long is given a ‘nonsense-but-fun’ social media era update with a little game about each audience’s decibel levels, which is placed nightly on the band’s Facebook page as the tour progresses.

Meanwhile the metal classics keep coming with highlights including Strong Arm of the Law, an epic rendition of Frozen Rainbow and the main set closing in fine style with Princess of The Night.  Let’s not forget that many of these songs were chart hits, not just rock hits, and the affection of the crowd for the music and band was apparent throughout.

Finally, the boys wrap things up with an inevitable encore of Wheels of Steel, which is a truly great song, and Denim and Leather, which really isn’t, but has become a metal standard nonetheless.

Overall the night was a very enjoyable pre-Christmas metal outing for Dublin’s rock fraternity.