LIVE: Saxon & Hell – Limelight, Belfast

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Saxon6For lovers of Gothic and heavy metal, you may be a bit disappointed in finding out that metal group Saxon played in the Limelight over the weekend with support from the newly reformed Hell.

For the older and more avid fans there, it was most definitely a nostalgic trip into the heyday of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. While for most of the younger audience it was a look back at how heavy metal used to be, performed by one of the iconic bands of the metal movement in the 80s. Yet, for some of the younger members of the audience, like myself, it was another night of good music.

The support act, Hell, have had more than a hellish past trying to become established, however due to tragic and sheer unfortunate circumstances the band never truly came to prominence during their initial run in the late 80s. Despite their on-stage persona and often controversial antics, it was through underground tape trading that brought the original band to a small measure of cult status.

 

Reunited in 2008 with new front-man David Bower, Hell have now released two albums. Remaining very theatrical on stage, it feels as though they perform more of a rock opera than a concert. It is evident though that David Bower’s previous acting career hasn’t vanished as he and the band dive into the old Hell routine with the corpse paint, characters and props. At times they sound  reminiscent of King Diamond, particularly the ‘Them‘ album, but that isn’t necessarily working in their favour as it makes them appear dated on occasion.

While maintaining a modern theme to their music, you can still pinpoint some of the 80s heavy metal characteristics in Hell’s songs. Regardless of how they sound, whether you like them or not, they do put on a great show, especially in such a locked off venue when everyone clambers past one another to catch a glimpse of the stage. While that setting may not appeal to everyone, it does most certainly add character and depth to the show.Playing all of their latest and greatest crowd pleasing hits for their 35th anniversary to promote the ‘Warriors of the Road Tour’ and Sacrifice, the latest addition to their growing discography of 20 albums, Saxon thundered through the night. Not as lively as they tended to be, they have a more relaxed presence on stage which is counter active towards their heavy sounding anthems.

While they definitely haven’t diminished over the years, it is clear that they are largely playing to an entirely new generation of fans and the attempts to connect with them through social media means, although justifiable, doesn’t seem to add to the show at all. Although the audience interaction can improve for the remainder of their tour, the music however was phenomenal. Playing as load and as heavy as ever, Saxon performed immensely on the final leg of their Irish tour dates of the ‘Warriors of the Road Tour’, giving the crowd the old school favourites such as ‘Heavy Metal Thunder’, ‘747’, ‘Crusader’, along with a mix of recent material from the ‘Sacrifice’ album before finishing with and encore of ‘Wheels of Steel’. 

I’m only a light heavy metal listener, but despite that there is no escaping the head banging and fist pumping when you get settled into a great gig. While I’ve never really visited Saxon before, they are an act that, firstly, I’m glad to have seen and, secondly, truly impressed me with their level of commitment to entertaining and putting on a great show for the audience, even after all the years that they’ve been together. While the rest of their tour has now unfortunately been postponed due to illness with drummer, Nigel Glocker, it is hoped that a quick and successful recovery is made so that Saxon can continue to do what they do best, and the remainder of the tour is completed. Joe Smyth, GiggingNI.com