Saxon – BBC in Concert (23rd August 1986 – Review)


Only a year had passed since Saxon’s 1985 Hammersmith show was broadcast on BBC Radio but Saxon invaded the UK’s airwaves yet again as their headlining slot at 1986’s Reading Festival was recorded for broadcast on the BBC Friday Rock Show. The band were touring to promote the imminent release of the Rock the Nations album  and, while that patchy album found them losing their Midas touch in the studio, on BBC in Concert (23rd August 1986) it sounds like they were losing none of their knack as a live act.

Sadly, the BBC didn’t air the whole set and cherry-picked just 9 songs for broadcast. Much of the broadcast has since been available on Saxon’s BBC Sessions album but this album download (available on Amazon/iTunes etc…) now presents the complete 9 song, 51 min broadcast as it was originally aired. It’s fairly heavy on the classic material and if you didn’t know what year it was from you could be forgiven for thinking this was the band in their NWOBHM pomp. Only two new songs give the game away: an excellent version of Rock the Nations that fits right in with the older material and a performance of Waiting for the Night which… doesn’t. It’s actually a pretty good version of the track but its pop rock breaks the spell cast by glorious versions of metal powerhouses like 747 (Strangers in the Night) and Wheels of Steel. On the bonus side it’s the song here that gets played least often so it’s good to hear and own a live version of it.

A bit of a mixed bag then!
A bit of a mixed bag then!

That one hiccup aside, the rest of the performance is impressive. The band is on winning form and the crowd sound like they’re lapping it all right up. While new bassist Paul Johnson didn’t command the stage like Steve Dawson he acquits himself well musically. Never Surrender and 20,000ft give the classic The Eagle Has Landed live album versions a run for their money and an excellent Strong Arm of the Law climaxes with a wailing Graham Oliver solo (with some Sabs and Hendrix thrown in for good measure). The real highlight, though, is a captivating The Eagle Has Landed which puts its studio counterpart firmly in the shade.

The vintage quality of this performance must have been heartening stuff for fans troubled by the recent studio albums but any hopes for a return to form would soon be dashed. The Rock the Nations album proved disappointing and, frustrated by the way the band was being managed, Nigel Glockler would leave the band at the end of the tour to join GTR. And Saxon’s next, and last, studio album for EMI would be a desparate gamble that would test the patience and loyalty of their fans more than any other yet.

[Saxon – Waiting for the Night Live at Reading]

28 thoughts on “Saxon – BBC in Concert (23rd August 1986 – Review)”

  1. Cool review of this show HMO! Is Warrrior on it? I see Power And Glory is….these were the good Ol days of music!
    Bonus points are awarded for you saying that Steve Dawson commands the stage…he always reminded me of a plumber for some reason!!
    Did not know that Glocker joined GTR…..good paycheque there I suppose for a short while…

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I don’t think he actually played on the GTR album… I think Glockler’s gig with GTR was just as the live drummer so I’m not sure if he made it on to any records with them. (spoiler alert!) He was back in Saxon fairly soon anyway!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Saxon! Right on. Live! Even better!

    Do you suppose they were trying on the pop thing just to see if it would take off? I mean, if they’re already established as a metal band, why bother? Hm. TELL US THE STORY, HMO!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s pure conjecture but I reckon they probably just wanted more sales. Wanted to get into that Def Leppard/Box Jovi league. They always had a way with a melody so I can see how they might have thought “we can do that”. By all accounts though, they did get a lot of pressure to go in that direction from their management and label.


  3. I’m fairly certain I have that BBC sessions album … need to double check that. This 9 track deal sounds like a mighty fine selection, though. Other than the pop rock shenanigans among a bunch of monsters, of course.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I was trying to measure my delineation of the why the Saxon “spell had broke” for me at that time in 1986. I watched the Rock the Nations video just now and liked how Biff sports a spiked guantlet under his red coat. That’s fucking cool. Mind, it’s a bull fighting jacket, not army read coat and I really like that. Actually, is that a bull fighting jacket or something Battle of Waterloo-ish. (Admiration rising.) Still, it’s a costume for the show and me being the genius and shit-headed 15-16 at the time, I was looking into the metal wilderness. (Still trying to figure some it out as I go, today.) I was more attracted to demin onstage, denim offstage brand of Heavy Metal(On second thought, nope, there was still Lizzy Borden and others with killing riffs and wild rags). Metallica acted on that engery- philosopy and, fuck, I guess they didn’t look back untill they wanted mental health assistance. I found my old perspectives harmonizing with this 1986 view of demin onstage and off:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I liked bands with all sorts of images back then. I guess the bottom line with image, or an anti-image like Metallica had, is – is it cool? And in that regard, I’m not sure Saxon ever were! Back in the early days they were uncool but at least themselves… and fairly lovable. But when they started trying to look like glam stars they lost even that authenticity and lovableness. I think their image for a while was pretty toxic for them. If you saw a pic of them in a mag in the late 80s you did not want to get into that band!

      Liked by 1 person

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