SAXON, Diamond Head and Rock Goddess, Great Hall, Cardiff, 23 February 2018
It’s been 35 years since I last saw ROCK GODDESS, and back then they lacked subtlety and went for the throat with a no-nonsense performance of material from their debut album. The good news is that nothing has changed: they’ve got more songs to draw on but age certainly hasn’t withered them, and they’re still noisier than a docker’s trousers. Like Girlschool (and I use that comparison advisedly) the emphasis is much more on fun than hitting the right note, and they weren’t afraid to look to the future with two songs (‘It’s More Than Rock ’N’ Roll’ and ‘Back Off’) from their reformation EP and at least one (‘ Why No One Ever Learns’) from their forthcoming album. Opener and old favourite ‘Satisfied Then Crucified’ hooked the attention of the crowd – it’s not often that the opening band draws in around 80% of the punters – and ‘Back To You’ and ‘Heavy Metal Rock ’N’ Roll’, rounded off their set.
With second guitarist Andy Abberley (or Abbz to his band mates) forsaking DIAMOND HEAD for a hospital bed Stourbridge’s finest appeared as a quartet once more – the way older fans probably best remember them – with Brian Tatler covering all the guitar parts with his usual panache. New boy Rasmus Dom Andersen is more metal and less matey than his predecessors but handled the vocals with ease, and given that the set was 85% crowd-pleasing older material it’s important that he can deliver the band’s classic material to order. Opener ‘Helpless’ – the 7” shortened version – raised the curtain, and after a brief nod to the twenty-first century with ‘Bones’ from their 2016 self-titled album and a stunning romp through ‘In The Heat Of The Night’ it was back to their first album for ‘Lightning To The Nations’, ‘It’s Electric’, ‘The Prince’ and inevitable set-closer ‘Am I Evil?’. Personally, I’d have liked to have heard more from ‘Diamond Head’ and left some of the oldies behind as it’s important for the band to see where they’re going, rather than where they’ve been; but maybe that’s just me.
SAXON are of course consummate professionals but like a wounded bear are often more dangerous when they have a brand new album to promote and Cardiff saw them proudly ‘n’ loudly road-testing six cuts from their ‘Thunderbolt’ album for the first time. That said, like Diamond Head Biff ‘n’ the boys are full aware of the need to send the crowd home happy, so lining up alongside ‘Nosferatu (The Vampire’s Waltz)’, ‘Sniper’, ‘The Secret Of Flight’, ‘Predator’, Motörhead tribute ‘They Played Rock And Roll’ and roof-shaking opener ‘Thunderbolt’ came the likes of ‘Motorcycle Man’, ‘Never Surrender’ and ‘Princess Of The Night’. Saxon always have been, and always will be, a rock solid band with five members of exceptional talent combining to form one huge wrecking ball, and few bands can match them for power and intensity. And, face it, Biff could read the phone book out aloud and still have the audience hungry for more. Encores produced ‘Heavy Metal Thunder’, ‘Wheels Of Steel’ and the predictable cheeseburger that is ‘Denim And Leather’. What more could you want?
John Tucker February 2018