Live Review: Saxon at York Barbican

Saxon were part of the NWOBHM – an acronym standing for New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. The bands that led this charge, following in the footsteps of Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin, were Iron Maiden, Def Leppard and Saxon. The first two bands in this list went on to huge success, and Saxon never matched the same heights, but they did well, with a brace of albums such as Denim and Leather. Their reputation amongst hard rock fans was considerable, and they can still headline large venues around the UK some 40 years on. 

Review by Miles Salter

Photos by John Hayhurst

Untamed Silence

The show was opened by Diamond Head, the English metal band that helped to inspire Metallica, playing tracks such as Am I Evil, and revving the crowd up for the headline act. Pushing their new album, Carpe Diem (their 23rd !), the band took care to present a classic image of a hard rock band, with a vast row of Marshalls to the rear of the show. The light show was fantastic, illuminating the songs really well. 

Diamond Head

This was, though, the funniest gig I have ever been to, and the closest to seeing Spinal Tap live. There’s a reason for this – when Harry Shearer was preparing to make what become the famous film, he spent some time with Saxon on the road, and used the material gathered to create the fictional, hilarious rock band.

I don’t know whether Saxon’s singer, Biff Byford, minds – he probably thinks it’s all good fun – and look, he’s still performing, forty-three years after the band started, getting the crowd going, his long hair sprayed around his head.


The new songs weren’t up to much (the crowd wanted to hear old anthems like Strong Arm Of The Law), and the drum patterns didn’t seem to vary much, but it didn’t stop the 18-year-old fans from 1980, now aged 60 and frequently bald, from enjoying it. It was touching to see a denim jacket covered in the logos of metal bands from the 1980s. Things don’t last forever, but some bands will keep on trucking.

As one fan comment on the internet puts it:  ‘Saxon has more albums than some of you have years on Earth. Saxon will still be releasing albums long after you are dust crumbs.’ 

Untamed Silence, Diamond Head and Saxon played at York Barbican Thursday 24 November 2022.