Saxon doesn’t have a lot in common with 1960’s art rockers The Velvet Underground, with one possible exception: influencing young musicians to form bands of their own. Much like Lou Reed and his saturnine bandmates, Saxon didn’t sell millions of records here in the U.S. But the kids that did buy their albums were heavily influenced by Saxon’s melodic heaviness. Bands like Metallica, Megadeth and Pantera have all cited the British pioneers as inspiration.

While Saxon didn’t achieve the level of fame in the States enjoyed by other bands from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, say Iron Maiden and Def Leppard for instance, they did enjoy plenty of success in the 1980’s, and were filling arenas long after many of their NWOBHM contemporaries had faded into obscurity. Their fans are nothing less than diehards, especially rabid about the band’s early output, most notably the band’s quintessential releases Wheels of Steel and Denim and Leather.

Saxon rolled into Detroit supporting their British heavy metal brethren Judas Priest on the latter’s Firepower tour. The two bands make a great pairing. Both bands have created excellent, influential music that has aged like fine wines, and both have also created a fair amount of cheese. Both have very capable vocalists, with Biff Byford still able to confidently belt out gems from the band’s catalog with conviction and poise.

The band’s set list covered the spectrum of their career, with an emphasis on 80’s era crowd pleasers like Princess of the Night, Wheels of Steel, Heavy Metal Thunder and Dallas 1 PM. But the band also managed to weave in a few tracks from their 2017 release Thunderbolt, notably Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz) and They Played Rock and Roll, both of which were very well-received by the sellout crowd.

While Saxon weren’t a co-headliner to Judas Priest, they felt like much more than an opening band. They didn’t just warm up the crowd, they roasted them to perfection.

Todd Gilleland
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