Back in the day Diamond Head seemed to be one of those bands I constantly read about but somehow passed me by, neither seeing the live nor owning one of their albums. I’ve made up for it in recent years and this is now the third time I’ve seen them. Hugely influential as early pioneers of the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) era and later lauded by bands on the US thrash scene, like Metallica, they never really quite got the recognition they deserved to make it into the big league. But after being absent for the latter part of the 1980s and much of the 1990s the band reformed in the early 2000s and have been solidly active ever since.
Lead guitarist, Brian Tatler, has been the one constant presence in every line-up of the band from the start but the latter-day Diamond Head are a really strong unit and seem to have carved out a niche for themselves as a go-to support act. I saw them at this same venue three years ago supporting Uriah Heep and it’s great to see them, once again, now supporting Saxon. While there may be something of an ‘always-the-bridesmaid-never-the-bride’ about that, it is nevertheless fantastic to see them perform on a big stage in decent-sized venues like De la Warr. The band’s combination of hard riffing and bona fide heavy metal classics assure them a hugely appreciative audience tonight. Definitely, a support band you don’t want to miss.
While some veteran rock acts might be content to ease off on the writing and recording of new material and focus primarily on a greatest hits set for their live shows, Saxon continue to deliver some excellent albums and this tour is very much about promoting the latest, Carpe Diem, released earlier this year. Indeed, the name of this tour (‘Seize The Day’) comes from a line in the album’s title track. There’s no shortage of material from the new album on this tour and the first part of the set is heavily dominated by tracks from Carpe Diem. Having bought the album when it first came out back in February, I’ve had a good few months to familiarise myself with it. So as the band blast out tracks like the aforementioned ‘Carpe Diem (Seize the Day)’, ‘Age Of Steam’ and ‘Dambusters’, they sound more like welcome old friends than strangely unfamiliar new material. It helps, of course, that Saxon have always had that knack of turning out memorable songs with great riffs.
There’s room, of course, for plenty of the old classics, too. ‘And The Bands Played On’, ‘Wheels Of Steel’, ‘747 (Strangers In The Night)’, ‘Denim And Leather’ and ‘Princess of the Night’ all get a welcome airing before the end of the evening. Unforgettable anthems of heavy metal all of them, they have ensured Saxon have remained up there as my personal favourite to come out of the NWOBHM scene.
Biff Byford is in fine voice and remains a compelling frontman, the band power through the songs with incredible energy as those trademark heavy riffs are unleashed and the songs, whether new or old, make for a hugely memorable gig. Thank you, Saxon!
Carpe Diem (Seize the Day)
Age of Steam
I’ve Got to Rock (To Stay Alive)
The Thin Red Line
Living on the Limit
Dallas 1 PM
Heavy Metal Thunder
The Eagle Has Landed
Black Is the Night
And the Bands Played On
Wheels of Steel
Strong Arm of the Law / Solid Ball of Rock
747 (Strangers in the Night)
Denim and Leather
Princess of the Night
Diamond Head and Uriah Heep at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 6/12/19
Saxon / Fastway / Girlschool at Shepherd’s Bush Empire 5/11/16
Saxon – album review: Battering Ram
‘Denim & Leather: The Rise And Fall Of The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal’ by Michael Hann