||MARK TAYLOR'S BIG CITY NIGHTS
SAXON, FASTWAY AND GIRLSCHOOL GIVE SHEPHERDS BUSH A BATTERING
Saxon/Fastway/Girlschool, Shepherds Bush Empire, London,
5th November 2016
Words: Mark Taylor, Pictures: Eric Duvet
It was inevitable that November 5th was gonna go with a bang but on Saturday night at the Shepherds Bush Empire, Saxon, along with associates Fastway and Girlschool, lit up the night sky with a stunning fireworks display of the loudest Heavy Metal thunder known to mankind.
Not only was this fabulous concert a celebration of authentic Heavy Metal, but also a fitting tribute to Ian Fraser 'Lemmy' Kilmister who sadly passed away at the end of last year, less than a month after he performed his last ever concert with Motörhead in Berlin on December 11th 2015.
Both Saxon and Girlschool were supporting Motörhead on that ill-fated final tour. Despite being a true warrior right to the very end, Lemmy didn't get the chance to tour the UK one last time for the planned dates set in place for January this year.
In his honour, Saxon and Girlschool joined forces for this tour and invited Fastway along too, the band that feature Fast Eddie Clarke, the last remaining member from which many older Motörheadbangers consider to be the classic line-up.
The show was sold out with the queues to get into the venue longer than the strong arm of the law and The Empire was already packed out for Girlschool, a band who have also suffered their own personal loss with Kelly Johnson passing away in 2007.
Girlschool owe their dues to Lemmy after he hand picked them for the 'Overkill' tour in 1979 before the girls had even signed to Bronze Records.
Thirty-seven years later and Girlschool still know how to make an impact, kicking off with 'Demolition Boys' from their debut album with frontlady Kim McAuliffe handling the vocals before bassist Enid Williams took over the duties for another smasher, 'Hit And Run'.
Two new tracks from their recent 'Guilty As Sin' album prove the girls still have plenty to offer and their version of 'Race With The Devil' is a classic from the attic and Denise Dufort gives it some welly on set closer 'Emergency'... cheers you lot!
Before the show Fast Eddie Clarke told MetalTalk that he was "doing these shows for Philthy and Lemmy". His own band Fastway has a completely different identity to when Eddie first formed the band after leaving Motörhead in 1982. Little Angels' Toby Jepson handles the vocals and it's good to see John McManus from Mama's Boys on the bass.
Fastway play deep heavy blues and Fast Eddie was in his element, pulling off some stunning solos. In a set featuring only Fastway material, the band pulled out some golden nuggets with the commercial flare of 'All Fired Up', the gritty 'Deliver Me' from the overlooked 'Eat Dog Eat' album and the grungy 'Heft!'. Jepson proved his versatility on a rocking 'Easy Livin''.
By the time Saxon came on stage, you really did need a battering ram to get anywhere near the front as the downstairs section was totally rammed full of beer drinking Metalheads dressed in denim and leather. However Saxon set the spirit free with a full on onslaught of traditional Metal at its very finest.
Opening with conviction with two new tracks, 'Battering Ram' and 'Let Me Feel Your Power', heads really got to roll on 'Solid Ball Of Rock' which saw some headbanging action from bassist Nibs Carter.
'Never Surrender' was the first of many early classics, followed by the anthem 'Crusader' which gets better and better with every passing year.
'Killing Ground' made a welcome return, as did 'Stand Up And Be Counted' which was raised from the vaults.
Voices were raised for 'And The Bands Played On' and even upstairs were getting up on their feet for 'Dallas 1pm'.
Just like in the good ole days, Biff Byford split the venue in half to see who could be the loudest during the chants of 'Wheels Of Steel'. Surprisingly upstairs won, but those downstairs were understandably running out of power after standing through three terrific acts.
History was made when Fast Eddie Clarke returned to join Saxon for an exhilarating version of 'Ace Of Spades' and it was simply stunning to witness an army of axes at work on this iconic number.
The dandruff continued to fly for '747 (Strangers In The Night)', the ultimate Metal anthem 'Denim And Leather' and the magnificent 'Princess Of The Night'.
Once again Saxon delivered a killer show full of hooks and tunes that immediately make you headbang and sing along. There's no need for gimmicks or blow up monsters here, just proper meat and two veg Metal.
In a perfect world, Saxon would be crowned Metal Gods.
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Saxon Announce UK Tour With Fastway And Girlschool
More pictures from Saturday night on Eric Duvet's official page here.
Click here for another 369 and counting gig lowdowns, interviews and more on Mark Taylor's Big City Nights.