The British Invasion was in full force this week in Toronto as the Saxon/UFO co-headlining tour rolled through. This was a dream bill for me personally. That’s the only way to sum it up. The names of both Saxon and UFO appear in my full sleeve tattoo depicting a guitar case “stickered” with the logos of some fave bands. Both bands have been with me in listening rotations for years upon years. Both bands are responsible for different firsts for me. The dawning of new ages for me. I owe huge thanks to both bands for helping to shape the personality that is The Meister!
UFO‘s Mechanix album was the first I’d heard from the band. Chosen only because for some reason the cover art appealed. Indeed the gateway on my path to discovery and enjoyment of Hard Rock and Metal. Really the first Hard Rock/Heavy Metal album I’d ever heard. And I still regularly spin Mechanix to this day. Recently acquired the vinyl version as well. Seen them a few times thanks to events such as the Monsters of Rock Cruise, Sweden Rock and twice before in Toronto. (Lights Out In Toronto With UFO)
Saxon is responsible for getting me out to concerts, again. Not only again but going alone as well. It was their 2011 Call to Arms CD and the resulting tour that prompted this. My Saxon live experience parallels that of UFO. Monsters of Rock Cruise, Sweden Rock, and two shows in Toronto. Interviewing drummer Nigel Glockler was a highlight of my time with Decibel Geek. Made even better once that email interview morphed into a night long drinking experience with Glockler and other band members one night during the Monsters of Rock Cruise. (Nigel Glockler Interview / Sacrifice & Sin-Eagles Over Toronto)
On this early October night, the Saxon/UFO tour hit the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto. Presented by Inertia Entertainment, this was simply one of, if not the, best show of 2017! Thanks to the quick keyboard work of Decibel Geek photographer Brian Ronald, the two of us secured front row seats. Left side of stage. Great seats! Good job Brian! Unfortunately, I missed all of Jared James Nichols, the opener for the whole tour. I spent the time with a beer or two greeting friends that I’d not seen in awhile out in the lobby area. Thankfully, the show was broadcast on a large screen in the lobby. So I heard and saw a little. Seems like a fantastic performer. With Nichols on the upcoming Monsters of Rock Cruise, I’ll certainly be catching him there!
Behind a stage backdrop of the Battering Ram album, Saxon stormed out. I was horrified at first. I had been so looking forward to seeing the “Barnsley Boys” again. But it seemed that only bassman Nibbs Carter was “into it”. The others didn’t seem to be moving much at all. And the sound was muted if that makes sense. Now obviously I am well aware, having spent some time at the front of stages, that the sound is often “off” in such a position. Due to stage monitors and such. All was quickly solved, however. By the time they had reached the second track the sound was beyond belief good. And everyone seemed to warm up on stage too. I knew my guys wouldn’t let me down!
All the elements were there during this one hour and fifteen-minute set. I’m used to seeing Saxon play for a couple hours, so obviously, this was condensed. The hits have to be there. And as expected, albums such as Call To Arms and Innocence Is No Excuse among others saw no setlist inclusions. I was beyond pleased to see that there were no real solos. Nothing worse than overly long drum or guitar solos in a shorter set. The Saxon boys concentrated on swinging the Battering Ram (pun intended) at the audience. All upbeat fast movers that had the energy level at an incredible high. The kind of show you’re totally spent from afterward. Of course, Biff Byford did the usual “ask the audience a choice of what they play” bit. Twice. No ripping up of the setlist today though. Good, it was getting a bit old.
The really exciting news was the announcement of a new Saxon album. Due out January 21 is Thunderbolt. Take my money NOW!
“Battering Ram”, “This Town Rocks”, “Sacrifice”, “I’ve Got To Rock (To Stay Alive)”, “Power And The Glory”, “Dogs Of War”, “747 (Strangers In The Night)”, “Motorcycle Man”, “Heavy Metal Thunder”, “Crusader”, “And The Bands Played On”, “Solid Ball Of Rock”, “Denim & Leather”, “Princess Of The Night”, “Strong Arm Of The Law”, “Wheels Of Steel”.
Brian and Rich “The Meister” Dillon are even shown quite prominently in Biff‘s cell phone video (below).
What a thoroughly pleasant surprise to hear the starting UFO song. I was just outside the theatre doors talking with folks when I heard the beginnings of “We Belong To The Night”. I rushed inside and to my seat. Front row remember! While not my choice cut, I was shocked to hear a Mechanix inclusion tonight. And elated naturally. As with Saxon, UFO has a large discography and as such can’t play it all. Their set included a great mix of the classic hits and the more current material. The 1978 issued Obsession was well represented. Three tracks made their way into the set including the expected “Only You Can Rock Me”. The surprises were “Cherry” and “Ain’t No Baby”.
Vocalist Phil Mogg has such a distinctive voice. I’m looking forward to checking out the latest UFO album, The Salentino Cuts. It’s a cover album, so curious how the Mogg voice will do on some of those tracks. He looked a little odd to me this night. Mostly that’s because Phil now has a shaved head. I’m basically used to seeing him with the spiky gray hair. He’s still quite thin, but moved well around the stage, seemingly full of energy. Longtime UFO member Paul Raymond and founding drummer Andy Parker alongside guitarist Vinnie Moore and bassist Rob DeLuca make up the current UFO roster. And together they all have a great chemistry and stage presence too. An absolutely electric set that featured a three-pack encore stretched to about an hour and a half stage time.
“We Belong To The Night”, “Run Boy Run”, “Ain’t No Baby”, “Lights Out”, “Only You Can Rock Me”, “Burn Your House Down”, “Cherry”, “Love To Love”, “Too Hot To Handle”, “Messiah Of Love”, “Rock Bottom”. Encore: “Doctor Doctor”, “Shoot Shoot”, “Mother Mary”
Go see this tour if it rolls into your area. What a great excuse for me to head down to Pittsburgh and visit my friends in Lady Beast next week. And looky there Saxon/UFO is in town!
PHOTOS BY: Brian Ronald