Gig preview: Saxon at O2 Academy Leeds

Biff Byford of Saxon.
Biff Byford of Saxon.
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PIONEERS of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Saxon are undertaking their 35th anniversary tour.

Called Warriors of the Road, the tour is to heavily feature tracks from what is called their ‘holy trinity’ of albums, Wheels of Steel and Strong Arm of the Law from 1980 and Denim and Leather from 1981.

The band formed in Barnsley in 1977. Twenty-six albums and ten million sales later, the band is still fronted by singer Biff Byford.

Guitarist Paul Quinn is another original member still in the band whilst drummer Nigel Glockler joined in 1982.

Doug Scarratt on guitar and bassist Nibbs Carter complete the line-up.

Byford puts the secret of their longevity to their unity. “I think that as a unit, we are all quite close,” he says. “The chemistry is quite good and we are loyal to each other.”

He adds: “The line-up is stable ’cos there’s no real pressure on the guys and it’s quite an easy band to be in.”

Actually, a lot of the pressures away from the music fall on 63-year-old Byford’s shoulders.

“I produce the albums and tend to take part in all the management and finance meetings as well,” he says.

The set-list is dominated by the first three albums released by the band at the start of the 80s, but what made those albums so special?

Byford is initially stumped. “You’d have to ask the eight million people who bought those albums,” he says.

But thinking it through, he adds: “It was a special era of rock music and we kept on when many others fell by the wayside. Generally, the early years of a band are the most popular and we had massive success with those albums and the attendant single tracks.”

Singles chart success came with a number of tracks from the trio of albums which included Wheels of Steel, 747 (Strangers in the Night), Strong Arm of the Law and Never Surrender.

When asked about highlights of Saxon’s career, Byford has no hesitation. “The whole of the 35 years. I couldn’t have had a better 35 years, really.”

And he is looking forward to touring the UK again.

“It’s gonna be a bit of a party for our 35th anniversary,” he says, smiling. “We aren’t just playing songs from those three albums though, there’ll be a few songs we haven’t played for a while and we’ll do at least one different song every night.”

And for next year?

“We’re busy writing songs for our new album and I had a solo prog rock album released in August. Plus we’re releasing a live DVD which should be out in time for the tour.”

December 2, O2 Academy Leeds, 7pm, £26.