Saxon & Hammerfall @ Koko, London
20th December 2011
Review by Anthony May
Photography by Michelle Murphy
Tonight was the last night of Saxon’s Call to arms tour which had kicked off at Shepherds Bush back in April, and the band had announced in advance that they would be playing the entire "Denim and leather" album to celebrate the albums 30th anniversary. As a result the venue was sold out and a queue had formed outside the venue long before the doors opened.
The support tonight came from Hammerfall.
Kicking off their set with "Any Means Necessary" and straight away they had the crowd cheering for them, and not just in the usual way support bands get some half-hearted support from the crowd!
In a packed venue, Hammerfall went down superbly well.
Hammerfall put in a really impressive set full of energy and some fantastic power metal.
Based on tonight’s performance they really should be headlining venues this size in the UK.
It’s hard to see why they’ve not made it big in the UK when they’re a lot bigger in Europe, but hopefully this tour with Saxon will have gained them a load of new fans – certainly tonight they really impressed the Saxon fans!
Any Means Necessary
Heeding the Call
Bang Your Head
Last Man Standing
Let the Hammer Fall
One More Time
Hearts On Fire
The main event though was Saxon.
They kicked the show off with "Hammer of the gods" from the current album (Call to arms), which I think surprised a lot of people who had assumed the setlist would be the Denim and Leather album played first then a mix of new songs and classics to fill the rest of the set.
Instead Saxon chose to mix things up so the Denim and leather tracks were mixed up in a set consisting of a good mix of classic tracks plus new songs.
Saxon must have a hard job putting together a setlist – they’ve released so many albums and have so many classic metal songs that they can’t include everything they’d like and have to miss some great songs out.
Despite this they’ve put together a setlist tonight that keeps the fans more than happy. Biff Byford is a great frontman, but tonight seems slightly off his game – still good, just not great.
After the main set, we got not one, but two encores, including some of Saxon’s most pouplar songs – Crusader, 747 (strangers in the night), Strong arm of the law, and ending with Wheels of Steel.
I’d like to say that Saxon blew Hammerfall away with their blinding performance, but if I said that then sadly I’d be lying. Tonight’s performance from Saxon was deeply disappointing – they were nowhere near on top form, and seemed to be out of time, missing notes and generally just not playing as well as they usually do.
Having said that, Saxon at 75% performance is still a damn good show. For me, Hammerfall were by far the better band on this night (and I say that as a Saxon fan).
Tonight was a great night of metal. Despite Saxon not being at their best they still put on a great show, and Hammerfall really impressed, so at the end of the night the fans were happy as they went home (or to another bar as the gig had an early finish thanks to a club night on afterwards).
Hammer of the Gods
Heavy Metal Thunder
When Doomsday Comes
Chasing the Bullet
Back in ’79
Solid Ball of Rock
Fire in the Sky
And the Bands Played On
To Hell and Back Again
Call to Arms
Rock the Nations
Mists of Avalon
Play It Loud
Rough and Ready
Out of Control
Denim and Leather
Princess of the Night
Power and the Glory
747 (Strangers in the Night)
Strong Arm of the Law
Wheels of Steel