Artists | Issues | CD Reviews | Interviews | Concert Reviews | DVD/Video Reviews | Book Reviews | Who We Are | Staff | Home


Live Waunakee, WI, November, 2000

Review by Mike Korn

Where the hell is Waunakee, Wisconsin? That must have been what the members of Saxon were asking themselves when they saw this gig on their itinerary. Could it be a goof on Milwaukee? Well, no, Waunakee is actually a very pleasant little town just north of Madison,about a good 8 to 10 miles off the Interstate. Hardly the sort of burg you would expect to host a crushing blast of classic heavy metal. But that's just the kind of show this cow town played host to on Nov. 4, 2000.

Waunakee is home to an unabashed hard rock/heavy metal club called The Attic. A fairly spacious venue which provides ample stage space and the best live sound I've ever heard in such a club. Looking at the line-up of bands that play The Attic, this place is having a hard time giving up the Eighties. Dokken, Skid Row, Jackyl...all have treaded the boards here, in addition to numerous AC/DC, Rush and Metallica tribute bands.

Mike Korn
Mike Korn
This night The Attic played host to a couple of real veterans in the metal scene, Saxon being one of them. Saxon has been grinding out their classic British metal for over 20 years now, flying the flag high. I remember hearing their early classics like "Wheels of Steel", "Machine Gun" and "Denim and Leather" on FM Radio in days of yore.

Mike Korn
Mike Korn
These Brits have always been famous for their live shows and now I know why. They played for an amazing 2 hours plus and hit on every phase of their lengthy career, managing to play all the essentials from 20 years plus.There's something pure and noble about these guys and their resistance to all trends. There's no death metal grunting, no "alternative" piddling around and certainly no goddamn hip hop in their approach. Saxon is the perfect merging of AC/DC catchiness with Iron Maiden's metallic melody but with their own individuality stamped on it.

Mike Korn
Mike Korn
They opened with the crunching title track to their latest CD "Metalhead" and then easily segued into the classic anthem "Motorcycle Man". It didn't matter to Saxon that they were playing in a club, they delivered the goods, pure and simple.Lead singer Biff Byford was an affable and friendly frontman, connecting easily with the crowd. Ol' Biff is one of those guys like Halford and Udo who IS heavy can see 10,000 miles of road on those weathered features. He was never a spectacular singer but he surprised me this night, as he was able to hit some sustained high notes as well as his usual nasal tremolo.

The rest of the band fits together like a well-oiled machine. Bassist Nibs Carter is a complete headbanging lunatic. With his wild thrashing, he looked like Azagthoth from Morbid Angel. Veteran lead guitarist Paul Quinn is the other side of the coin. Stubbled and shaven pated,he had a more laid back approach,often playing with eyes closed in a metallic trance, but boy, can he play - what solos! Second guitarist Doug Scarlatt is somewhere between the two, striking the pose of the classic British metallist. And how about drummer Fritz Randow? Drum solos bore the hell out of me but my God, this man put on a display I have not seen since Neil Peart in 78! At one point, he actually JUGGLED three sticks at one time,keeping one stick IN HIS TEETH at all times,as he delivered a smashing solo without missing a beat.The crowd gave him a standing ovation, well deserved.

I don't think the band missed a single album in their set. They played the title tracks to "Dogs of War" and "Solid Ball of Rock",both of which got panned pretty roundly by the critics. The former track was outstanding, I thought, and the second nothing to be ashamed of. There was a pretty fair emphasis on "Metalhead" and new songs like "Conquistador", "Song of Evil" and "Are We Travellers In Time" came across well. They also didn't stint on slower material like "Broken Heroes" and "The Eagle Has Landed".The last track in particular showed Byford and Quinn at their best.

Mike Korn
Mike Korn
But the crowd dug the faster stuff and so did I. "20,000 Feet" and "Heavy Metal Thunder" got a great response. To end a lengthy and excellent show, the band went from the new "Conquistador" into the all-time classic "Princess of the Night", which, along with "747",is probably my favorite Saxon track - awesome riffing, just awesome! The closer was the ultimate headbanging stomper "Wheels of Steel",which had ye olde author in a metallic trance.

The crowd had thinned out by this time but enough remained to demand an encore. And in a cool move, Saxon let the audience decide which 3 songs they would play. The results: "Dallas 1 P.M."(which I suggested myself), "Crusader"(which I wouldn't have chosen) and "Denim and Leather". And they played them all..perfectly. By the end of "Denim and Leather", we were all too pooped to do anything but clap. Saxon,take a bow...this was great stuff.

Now I've seen Iron Maiden, Halford, Udo and Saxon this year. All I can say is these older bands put a lot more showmanship and professionalism into their acts than the younger acts do. Dated they may be, but there's a lesson to be learned here.

Where the hell is Waunakee, Wisconsin? Nobody who was here to see this show will ever forget it now.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 6 at

Mike Korn
You'll find concert pics of this artist in the Music Street Journal members area.
Return to the
Saxon Artist Page
Artists Directory

   Creative Commons License
   This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

    © 2024 Music Street Journal                                                                           Site design and programming by Studio Fyra, Inc./