This past Sunday in the nation’s capital, England’s Saxon and LA’s Black Star Riders brought their classic sounding metal to the beautiful new Anthem music venue on Washington D.C.’s Southwest waterfront. Both bands were opening for Judas Priest. More on those guys here. Don Jamieson from VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show introduced the show that was opened by Black Star Riders. The band started with “All Hell Breaks Loose” from their debut album of the same name. This was followed by the Thin Lizzy classic “Jailbreak,” which is appropriate, given that the band features original Thin Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham. Black Star Riders is essentially the continuation of Thin Lizzy’s legacy as Gorham started the band in 2012 as vehicle to create new material and also engage in live performances of Thin Lizzy classics. The current incarnation of Black Star Riders also features Robbie Crane who played with various incarnations of Ratt as well as Adler’s Appetite and Lynch Mob.
The band was opening for Saxon and Judas Priest on the Firepower tour so even at the early 7pm hour there was a very sizable crowd for the Black Star Riders and they sounded wonderful. Even as fans still were entering the venue it was clear that everyone wanted to proceed right up to the front to hear the band. They received a great response from the get-go and with the closer “Bound for Glory,” the crowd was clearly hoppin’ in the 8,000 plus person venue. Saxon was up next. They’re supporting their latest release Thunderbolt, which is actually one of their highest charting records in the United States in the band’s massive history. As I mention in my review of it a few weeks back, I personally think it’s one of the band’s best ever releases, which says a lot when you figure that Saxon has been a band since 1977.
Clearly the perfect opener for Judas Priest, Saxon is one of the key acts to come out the UK’s New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Unlike many of their contemporaries, however, Saxon never really stopped recording music. The band has actually kept much of its core firmly intact for the past couple of decades. Biff Byford has been on vocals from day one as has Paul Quinn on guitar. Doug Scarratt is on the second guitar and has been in Saxon since 1996. The amazingly energetic Nibbs Carter has been the band’s bassist since 1988. Nigel Glockler, the long-standing drummer, was again behind the kit.
Saxon gave fans a number of new tracks from Thunderbolt which the crowd adored. This included “Nosferatu,” the tribute to Motorhead “They Played Rock and Roll,” the breathtaking “The Secret of Flight” (which really features some great vocals from Byford) and the title track. All extremely well-received. Not to be outdone by the newer material, the boys from Barnsley also tore into classics like “Crusader,” “Princess of the Night” and “Denim and Leather.” Byford, of course, was able to obtain a lucky fan’s denim battle jacket and donned it for the duration of the song.
This was actually my first time seeing Saxon live and it certainly won’t be my last. I would love to see a full set from these guys and given their incessant touring and work ethic, I will likely have that opportunity very soon. In the meantime, if you haven’t caught them already, Saxon is doing a number of dates both with Judas Priest and as headliners on their own.