SAXON – Live At Sabaton Open Air

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Rating: 7/10 Geeks

The act headlining the first day of Sabaton Open Air is the classic and epic Saxon.  This is a band I have been a fan of since my cousin played “Rock The Nations” to me, back in 1986.

I have seen the band live close to ten times, with the first time being back in 1997 on the “Unleash the Beast” tour. Saxon are one of the hardest working acts out there and they always put on an excellent show. It is hard to find a tighter band and they make up a “big red machine” when it comes to live shows.  No band (and I mean no band!) will beat them when it comes to executing live performances.

I have all their DVDs and Blu-Rays in my personal collection, adding to the live experiences I have had. This night is no different from the other times I have seen them live. It is competent, it is tight.  Biff´s voice is great, the sound quality blasting from the stage the best I have heard so far this year (counting Sweden Rock as well) and still it is so ……. predictable! I was blown away the first time I saw the band back in 1997 and I still rate that gig as one of my top 3 gigs I have ever attended.  The problem arises when you have seen them live so many times and you know they always play the same songs chosen from the 30 or so “standard songs”. Check out the Wacken Festival DVD and you know which songs I am talking about!

Sabaton open air 2016. 18 august 2016.
Nibbs Carter and Doug Scarrat. Photo by Mikael Svensson

This gig also got me starting to wonder if they believe in their own new material. They start the gig off with “Battering Ram” and that is the only song we get from the new album. By way of comparison, Swedish veterans Treat squeeze five new songs into their one hour and fifteen minute set (review coming up soon) and they too have a lot of songs they “have to play”.  Saxon play it safe this evening and that also makes the gig predictable and gives me a feeling of deja vu.

There is a healthy crowd that has gathered in front of the Bandit rock stage this late Thursday evening in Falun, Sweden, and they really seem to enjoy the show. My biggest issue is that they think they have to play so many old songs instead of changing them in and out of the setlist. Personally, I am a bit tired of hearing the boring “Motorcycle Man” one more time. They also play a couple of more songs that could have made room for some newer or more obscure material. I am talking about songs like “Strong Arm Of The Law”, “Wheels of Steel”, “20 000 FT”, “And The Bands Played On”, “Denim And Leather”, “Princess Of The Night”, “Heavy Metal Thunder”and “747 (Strangers In The Night)”.  Playing all these songs will make up the major portion of the setlist, leaving little room for others and no room for surprises! Half of them would have been enough. A sole three songs differ from the setlist from when I caught the band 12 years ago.  As a result, excellent albums like Unleash The Beast and Metal Head are left untouched on this evening. And where is the mighty “Lionheart” title track?

The songs that really stand out and make me stomp my feet and bang my head are “The Power And The Glory”, and the biggest surprise of the evening, “Broken Heroes“, along with “Solid Ball Of Rock” (best song of the evening). What really disappoints me the most is that the album that turned me onto Saxon (Rock The Nations) has its 30th Anniversary this year and is completely ignored. I would have loved hearing that from start to finish! That would have shocked me, got me up on my feet and they would have had my complete attention. Destiny is also ignored which is expected, as it was probably deemed too commercial.

Biff Byford and Paul Quinn. Photo by Mikael Svensson

Something has to happen with the setlists to give us that extra experience or value to a Saxon show. I want to be surprised, or even better shocked! I would even have enjoyed songs being played from the weak Forever Free album instead of hearing “Motorcycle Man” or “20 000 Ft” for the tenth time.

Mid-set, having played “Dogs of War”, Biff says he is tearing up the setlist- “f**k the setlist” and asks the crowd what song to play. This is of course an illusion, a part of the show. I halfheartedly shout “Empty Promises”. I know it will not be played even if I would shout 10 times louder than all the other guys in the crowd together. It is also confirmed when they play the intro to “Crusader”, a safe choice and part of the 30 odd songs rehearsed. A quick thought run through my mind – “I wonder if they (the band) know what song Empty Promises is”. I quickly erase that thought from my mind and focus on enjoying the show again.


This is of course a very professionally executed gig with a band that is super tight; they know their craft to perfection. The sound quality is excellent and completely different from Dragonforce who played before. Their sound quality was really bad. Biff is an excellent frontman. Paul and Doug complement each other, trading solos. Nibbs Carter is the funniest guy as always to look at, with his intense headbanging but he also proves what a quality bass guitarist he is. Nigel Glockler seems completely back on track after his illness and provides a steady beat.

My issue with this gig is already extensively explained above.  Saxon has a very loyal following, with fans catching them on every tour. My suggestion is that they at least could do something extra for them – exclusive gigs playing an entire album, a gig with solely odd songs or in any other way leaving the comfort zone and playing something completely unexpected. The lasting impression for me is it is just another day at work for Saxon.  Competent, solid but very predictable. C´mon guys – shock me next time we meet!


“Battering Ram”

“Motorcycle Man”


“Power And The Glory”

“Solid Ball of Rock”

“20 000 Ft”

“And The Bands Played On”

“Heavy Metal Thunder” (dedicated to Lemmy)

“Broken Heroes”

“Dogs Of War”


“Battalions Of Steel”

“747 (Strangers In The Night)”

“Strong Arm Of The Law”

“Wheels Of Steel”


“Denim And Leather”

“Princess Of The Night”

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