Throughout the 35-plus years San Antonio favorites Saxon have been making the journey via its British homeland, the band has performed at virtually every venue in town. Recent appearances, however, have taken place in parking lots, burger joints and dark halls with poles blocking views.
Hardly appropriate for New Wave of British Heavy Metal stalwarts. But not this time.
Providing direct support to British brethren Judas Priest on Tuesday night, Saxon finally received a chance to play before several thousand at the rarely used, not-a-bad-seat-in-the-Freeman Coliseum on the final night of their tour with opening act Black Star Riders. And as expected, Saxon made it count in a big way.
Touring to promote latest effort Thunderbolt, vocalist Biff Byford and Co. came out rocking on the title track. Alternating new and classic tunes for the first half of their 13-song set, Byford and guitarists Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt, bassist Tim "Nibbs" Carter and drummer Nigel Glockler got the audience rockin' on favorites "Dallas 1 p.m." and "Crusader" (setlist below).
For Thunderbolt track "They Played Rock N' Roll," Byford explained it was written about their friends Motorhead (ATM footage here), hearkening memories of the late Lemmy Kilmister. Saxon and Motorhead will forever be linked in various ways, having toured together many times and with Byford and Kilmister having collaborated musically. As far as San Antonio is concerned, the tie-in goes deeper. Kilmister walked off stage at Emo's East in Austin in 2015 three songs in, citing his declining health while declaring, "I can't do it anymore." The next night's scheduled show at the Aztec Theatre was canceled that morning, and rather than head home or to the next city, Saxon headlined a makeshift yet successful Plan B show at Sam's Burger Joint (coverage here).
As is his custom, Byford, who spoke to ATM during last year's visit (watch here), referred to San Antonio as "the greatest metal city in the world." As if to prove it, he whipped out his phone, took a selfie video of the audience and declared, "Hey, Houston!" to show the H-town three hours to the east what it was missing.
Byford and Carter were whirling dervishes of headbanging throughout, aided largely by Glockler's thunderous work on the drums. Glockler, who overcame a brain aneurysm several years ago, moved to Austin in 2016 and joined Riot V on stage at The Rock Box that year to perform "Denim and Leather" (coverage here). On Tuesday, he expressed his affinity for South Texas by wearing a Buc-ee's T-shirt.
Quinn and Scarratt were joined on the axe by renowned producer Andy Sneap on "20,000 Feet," which Byford said hadn't been played up to that point on this tour. Sneap, of course, filled in for Judas Priest's Glenn Tipton, who missed most of the tour due to Parkinson's Disease but made a special three-encore appearance (stay tuned for coverage).
All in all, a Saxon appearance in San Antonio never gets tiring. Even in a non-headlining role, the latest showing was one to remember. In denim, leather or any other metal clothing of choice.
SETLIST: Thunderbolt, Power and the Glory, The Secret of Flight, Motorcycle Man, Nosferatu (The Vampire's Waltz), Crusader, They Played Rock N' Roll, Dallas 1 p.m., 20,000 Feet, This Town Rocks, Wheels of Steel, Denim and Leather, Princess of the Night.