UFO/Saxon/Jared James Nichols at The Belasco Theater – 3/16/17
I can’t help but think that UFO might have served as the band to bridge the gap between Jared James Nichols and Saxon on this night. Of course UFO are a legendary band, with classic songs, that I love to see & hear live, but where “Lights Out” used to hit you like a blitzkrieg over London, it now saunters up to you like an ex-girlfriend who you can only offer a bro-hug and a pat on the back.
Yes, this sounds like a slam, but I would see UFO live every night of the week if I could… just not right after Saxon. The older songs have been slowed down just a tad from the “Strangers In The Night” days. And it’s understandable because this ain’t a band full of whippersnappers. Phil Mogg, at 68 years old, still sounds great. He moves around the stage more than Bon Jovi does these days and still does justice to all those classic UFO songs. And what songs they have…”Only You Can Rock Me”, “Too Hot To Handle” “Mother Mary”, “Baby Blue”…
UFO have settled on a great lineup that includes founding drummer, Andy Parker, longtime keyboard and rhythm guitarist, Paul Raymond, the incredible Vinnie Moore (Who has now been in the band for the last 14 years which is right up there with Michael Schenker’s 15 year combined guitar stretch!) and rounding out with Rob De Luca who has handled bass duties since 2008.
Highlights of tonight’s set included Vinnie Moore ripping through an extended version of “Rock Bottom”. The double vision encore of “Doctor Doctor” and “Shoot Shoot“. And the always amazing “Love To Love“. The keyboard intro still gives me the shivers…
Saxon hit the stage like a “Battering Ram“. You can either see that as a pun, or if you were there, you know it’s true. Saxon still wave the flag of metal as proudly as any band around and they pull it off better than bands 1/2 their age. Biff Byford is a rock legend! He stalks every bit of the stage and still headbangs like the Metal Warrior he is.
With 21 studio albums to their name, Saxon are able to mix up their setlist quite a bit, and tonight we were treated to a selection of songs that spanned the band’s amazing career. Except for a few recent treasure’s like “Sacrifice”, “Queen of Hearts” and the aforementioned, “Battering Ram“, this was a night of their absolute best. “This Town Rocks”, “Dallas 1pm”, “Heavy Metal Thunder”, “Wheels of Steel”…
The last time Saxon ventured through these parts, it was on tour with Lemmy and Motörhead. Biff paid tribute to his fallen compatriot by allowing the packed house, via applause, to choose “Motorcycle Man” to dedicate to the memory of his friend. The crowd were offered another opportunity to pick which songs would be played. The choices were “Never Surrender” and “747 Strangers In The Night“, and I’m happy to say both were played.
Biff still sounds incredible and how he can get through each set in his full length military coat without passing out, I don’t know. For the most part Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt are anchored to either side of the stage, sounding amazing and ripping off all those familiar Saxon licks. Bassist Nibbs Carter makes up for that by being everywhere at once. And having Nigel Glockler behind the kit pounding out occasional double bass fury is the icing on this band’s cake.
Highlights of the Saxon set came in the form of “Crusader” which immediately transported me back to my 13 year old self… Staring at the album cover and hearing that voice boom “WHO DARES BATTLE THE SARACEN?” That was only topped by the encores of “Denim and Leather” and to finish off the evening, “Princess Of The Night”. Biff promised they would be back… and I can not WAIT!
Jared James Nichols
Jared James Nichols came out and showed why his buzz is getting louder. JJN’s blues infused rock is steeped in a heavy, guitar driven sound, wrapped up in the familiarity of a long-haired, southern rock lookin’ mo-fo. JJN could have walked into any Skynrd lineup and no one would have batted an eye.
With only one full length album under his belt, 2015’s “Old Glory and the Wild Revival” this is a great tour for him to open and allow people to join the ride. He and his two Swedish bandmates, Erik Sandin (Bass) and Dennis Holm (Drums) make a loud noise and definitely made the most of their short set. Jamming through a selection of his debut album, Jared James owned the stage. Finishing off the evening by inviting Saxon’s Paul Quinn to the stage to jam on Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen” was the perfect way to leave the Belasco crowd hungering for more.