CONCERT REVIEW: SAXON’s Fire And Fury Reign Supreme In Fort Lauderdale (April 23rd, 2024)

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Though now treated as a bygone movement where the working class of Britain brought metal to the cultural foreground, the NWOBHM has continued to inspire legions of newer adherents to raise the banners and march into battle with little care for changing times. As one of the prime movers of said movement, South Yorkshire’s own Saxon also stands as one of the few examples of a band that, in one form or another, has weathered all the various storms to continue bringing their craft to the masses for the better part of 50 years.

Now despite being in the throes of their golden years, this quintet of mad Englishmen continue to ride high with the release of their 25th studio album (27 if counting the recent duo of cover albums dubbed Inspirations), and a corresponding tour aptly dubbed “Hell, Fire, and Chaos” to re-conquer the American shores in 2024, and Fort Lauderdale would be the first beachhead established on Wednesday night, April 23rd.

Photo by Joel Barrios

Led into the foray by the now 73-year-old commander and vocal titan Peter “Biff” Byford, clad in midnight black attire and rocking that signature platinum mane that would be the envy of every lion on Earth, they would proceed to manifest the metal spirit at every point of marathon 90-minute set. The long-serving rhythm section in drummer Nigel Glocker and bassist Nibbs Carter brought the thunder something fierce, the latter being only a couple years younger than Byford yet laying down the double-kicking mayhem something fierce on several faster metallic cruisers.

Photo by Joel Barrios

But arguably the most auspicious aspect of this current incarnation of Saxon on stage, at least for those American audiences in attendance who remember the opening years of the 80s, is the inclusion of Diamond Head axe-slinger Brian Tatler alongside Doug Scarratt. Suffice it to say, Tatler’s signature bluesy shredding approach and generally virtuosic style ups the ante considerably, proving that old rivalries turning into new unions is what metal is all about.

Right out of the gate, the pedal was put to the metal as the symphonic bombast of “Hell, Fire And Damnation”’s cinematic prelude “The Prophecy” rang through the PA system and ushered in the pummeling fury of said album’s banger of a title anthem. Byford delivered his graveling growl with the exuberance of a man half his age, as the meaty riffs of Saxon’s latest contribution to the metal ethos showcased a perfect blend of modern pizzazz with an old-school sense of simplicity.

Photo by Joel Barrios

Other entries off the latest album like the conspiratorial rocker “There’s Something In Roswell”, the looming punch of French Revolution-inspired ode “Madame Guillotine” and the shuffling stomp of Middle Ages warfare “1066” (this would be its first time being performed live), were no less effective in setting the stage on fire. The band even took time to bring back a recent metallic crusher in “Sacrifice” to keep the modern side of Saxon’s catalog well represented, and the masses were eating it up and begging for seconds and thirds.

Naturally, any outfit as historically significant and long-running as this one would not live by recent exploits alone, and a more than adequate display of classic Saxon from the first half of the 1980s was in the cards. High-impact speed anthems that some have pointed to as principal influences upon the thrash metal movement of the mid to late 80s such as “This Town Rocks” and “Heavy Metal Thunder” were among the more aggressive side of the vintage sonic cuisine being served up, though mid-paced rockers from the same era like “Denim And Leather”, “Strong Arm Of The Law” and “Wheels Of Steel” were received with nothing short of total elation from the crowd.

Photo by Joel Barrios

Even mid-80s entries like the epic stomp of 1984’s “Crusader” and the mid-80s AOR nod to Def Leppard with a melancholy edge “Broken Heroes” off 1985’s “Innocence Is No Excuse” were received with a sea of sing-along choirs. The apex point of this massive extravaganza was the encore performance of the signature classic “Princess Of The Night” when the audience response reached otherworldly proportions.

Perhaps the notion that you can’t teach a group of old dogs of war new battle tactics might be true, as Saxon’s signature sound and sense of rustic composition have been an undeniable constant throughout their long career. But if this opening chapter of the “Hell, Fire And Chaos” tour proves nothing else, it is that sticking to what works is the best course of action when you’ve already started with a winning formula.

Photo by Joel Barrios

All in attendance, regardless of whether they were a bit young to be out on a school night or rocking an age close to where Biff is currently standing, were physically invested in what was transpiring to the extent of human capability. Yet, with this tour promising to cover much of the continental United States before all is said and done, it will likely prove to be the tip of a massive iceberg that could send the American continents barreling across the Pacific on a collision course with East Asia.

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