Heart of Steel: Concert Reviews

DirecTV Music Hall, São Paulo, Brazil

May 17, 2002

Review & Photos by Thiago Martins

Saxon has played in Brazil three times. The first time, back in 1997, is a part of Brazilian Heavy Metal History. The band played a 2 and a half hour gig, almost all of which was classic songs. The gig had such great repercussions that the band came back in 1998 as part of the Monsters of Rock festival. Again, a great show--but nowhere near as the classic first one.

I witnessed the 1997 gig, but at the time I wasn't that much into Saxon. Since then, I've gotten into them. In 1998, though, even with Saxon doing a great gig, I was kinda disappointed. Not with the band, but with myself. Why the hell wasn't I into Saxon in 1997, to be able to fully appreciate that gig? What are the chances of Saxon doing something like that again?

So that was the feeling I had when I left the movies and went to the same venue (now called DirecTV Music Hall) to see Saxon's third appearance in São Paulo. I think that outside the venue no one would bet that the British legends would give us a gig as historical as that one back in 1997. Neither did I. But, hell--now I am a huge Saxon fan and, being as historical or not like the first time, I would be there for a great heavy metal night.

Unfortunately, I talked too much with a friend and missed the supporting act, a Brazilian band called Liar Symphony. Actually, I've seen them other times, and they've played well. From what I head of this set, they played well again. But I was there to see Saxon.

And there they were. The title track to the KILLING GROUND album was the kick-off. It's a great song, no doubt about that, but there was a feeling that a classic night was about to start. The second song was not an ordinary one: it was the classic "Dallas 1 p.m.", from the almighty STRONG ARM OF THE LAW record. The sequence was made by the King Crimson cover "In the Court of the Crimson King", with the entire crowd chanting the melody line.

By that time, everybody was kicked from the photo-pit, and I was forced to the middle of the crowd, where I forget for awhile that I was covering the gig. I was just another fan, singing with all the rest all the lyrics for classics like "Dogs of War", "747(Strangers in the Night)", "Strong Arm of the Law", the unusual "Backs to the Wall" (from their first album), and "Broken Heroes", the awesome "The Eagle Has Landed", the newer ones like "The Thin Red Line", "Metalhead", "Dragon's Lair", and "Conquistador", that came with a medley including a drum solo - I'm not too fond of solos, but this one came in a proper time, in the end of the set and it was a bit of a pause for the goodies that were yet to come.

I have got to mention that Biff Byfford is still singing really greatly, and he is still a great front-man, leading the crowd to sing with him all the time. It seems he never gets old!!! Paul Quinn and Doug Scarret did a great job, both playing solos and amazing riffs perfectly. On the rhythm section, the drummer Fritz Randow played everything as it's supposed to be, and he did a good drum solo, spinning the drumsticks in his hand, interacting with the audience. Nibbs Carter on bass had an astonishing stage performance, running all around the stage, getting as wild as the crowd.

After the drum solo, "Heavy Metal Thunder" started and the venue became a heavy metal temple. Biff announced that the next song hadn't been played in São Paulo yet, and then they played "Never Surrender". They still did "The Power and the Glory" and "Princess of the Night" until they finished the first part of the gig. Almost two hours had passed but it felt like less than an hour.

The band returned for the encore. "20,000 ft" was played while the crowd was asking for "Motorcycle Man". I bet no one was disappointed! In the sequence, "Solid Ball of Rock" was played. I don't think anyone wanted that gig to ever have an end. I'm sure I didn't!

And Biff didn't want it to end, either! So he made an act that he had already done in São Paulo, in 1997, and I think it has already become a trademark at a Saxon gig: he got the setlist paper on his monitor and he tore it to pieces! And he told Mr. Quinn to show what was to come. "Crusader"! A heavy metal hymn, perhaps one of the most epic songs of all times. Tears in the eyes, everybody was singing it… what a heavy metal night. Again, the band left the stage.

So it was the time for the crowd, about 2,000 real headbangers, to start chanting "Ole, ole, ole… Saxon… Saxon…". And the band returned for another encore. The crowd chanted again for "Motorcycle Man", and so Saxon played the song. And the crowd went really crazy at that one. The fast riff, the easy chorus. Perfect for the people to get wild!

The buzz was so loud that I just heard Biff saying that the following song was composed back in 1980, when they played at a festival called "Monsters of Rock". And the band played "And the Bands Played On". What is a life of a headbanger after hearing this classic tune? Saxon showed us by playing "Rock is Our Life" in the sequence, maybe their newest classic tune. I didn't know what else to expect from this gig. If denim and leather brought as all together, that song couldn't be missed. And it wasn't! Saxon played "Denim and Leather" in order to set our spirit free one more time.

I couldn't believe the gig was ending. Nobody could, so the crowd started chanting "Wheels of Steel… Wheels of Steel… Wheels of Steel". But the lights went on and the curtains started to fall. It was the end of this amazing heavy met… what? The curtains stopped falling! The lights went off again! The band returned to the stage! And so they played "Wheels of Steel", to please us headbangers for one last time on that magic night.

So it happened what nobody would have bet: Saxon delivered once again a classic gig. If they had marked Brazilian heavy metal history once in 1997, the did it again in 2002. After another 2 and half hour gig, I had my redemption. This is exactly what we expect our favorite bands to do on gigs: play everything they are able to until the end, no matter how long it takes. Maybe we all should look up to Saxon. A band that has nothing more to prove to anyone and they still stay on stage for such a long time, playing what their fans ask for. Is that too much for other bands to do?


Official Saxon Website: www.saxon747.com

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