Saxon vocalist Biff Byford pointed out a tidbit to the masses at Backstage Live that not many bands can match: "Next year is our 35th anniversary," Byford bellowed, "and this year is 32 years we've been playing San Antonio."
Even so, that didn't stop Byford from doing something Friday night he likely hadn't done in the previous 31 (or so) visits. He took the setlist, ripped it in half . . . and stuffed it in his mouth. "It tastes like s---," Byford said. "This setlist must be from Dallas!" The 62-year-old singer was bent over in laughter before he could get the comment completely out of his system before adding, "I'm really joking."
For the roughly 2,000 fans who packed the parking lot and figured that Saxon had the few songs remaining memorized anyway -- think again. A comparison of that piece of paper pre-Byford devouring (click on slideshow, top left) with Saxon's eventual setlist (at bottom) demonstrates another example of how one of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal stalwarts can be considered a band for the people -- especially when it comes to San Antonio. Several songs were played when they weren't originally planned, while most of the others were performed in a different sequence.
Making yet another virtually annual stop in the Alamo City, Saxon was armed in tow with Fozzy -- fronted by World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Chris Jericho -- for the "Sacrifice and Sin" tour. Atlanta natives Halcyon Way provided support with local act S.A. Territories. Fans showed up in droves from the outset, with the line winding around the downtown venue's street corner and behind the railroad tracks, in what amounted to arguably Backstage Live's biggest outdoor show in the 4 1/2-year history of the venue.
Byford at one point said: "We told Fozzy, 'wait till you see San Antonio,' " and with good reason. But therein lay some irony.
Jericho and guitarist Rich Ward eventually formed Fozzy upon a chance meeting at the Alamodome in 1999 when the former was a superstar with World Championship Wrestling. But Friday -- 14 years later -- marked Fozzy's first performance here (read more of Jericho's thoughts about that in our interview here).
Both frontmen played up the crowd while providing some commentary on Backstage Live's atmosphere. While venue officials undoubtedly wish every show there was much like Friday's -- minus the clean-up, of course -- and even though the bands certainly appreciated the turnout, Byford and Jericho voiced some displeasure.
Byford never took a dig per se. But given that Saxon headlined the South Texas Rock Fest at Sunken Garden Theater in 2009 and 2011 (more here) and has been playing that 5,200-capacity venue since the '80s, he declared, "When we come back next year, let's play the ol' Sunken Gardens!"
The concert had been advertised locally for 2-3 months as an outdoor gig, but the bands evidently didn't get the memo. Jericho wasn't too thrilled about the venue's ghoulish indoor presence, telling the crowd while pointing down onto the stage: "Forget the haunted house, this is where the s--- is at tonight, baby!" The next day, Jericho posted on Fozzy's Facebook page: "Biggest show of the tour so far was in SAN ANTONIO last night as 1,400 screaming Saxonites & Fozzy Fanatics went WILD! SA could be the best metal city in America! The venue had built a haunted house inside and didn't tell us, so we were forced to move our show into the parking lot outside. But the show must go on, and we made it work by seeing 1,400 faces and rocking them all!!"
Judge for yourself by clicking above on the SAMME's footage of Fozzy's "Shine Forever."
Byford was repeatedly grateful that the presence of clouds held off, allowing Saxon to pull off a two-hour set that not only had the parking lot fan-dom stretching all the way back to the entrance but also had them packed along the adjacent balcony in front of the Tequila Rock Bar. Although Saxon's latest CD is chock full of heavy material, the group knows its history in San Antonio is due to the strength of its classic material. Playing four songs off the new Sacrifice, Byford was mindful of that when he cautiously introduced half of them the same way, as if justifying why the band felt the need to play new songs on a tour in support of a new record: "We have to convince people to buy the new album tomorrow," he said.
Byford needn't have worried. The fans ate up all of the songs, ranging from the new title track that served as the opener into classics such as Power and the Glory, Motorcycle Man and even mid-'90s tune Dogs of War, on which Byford singled out Doug Scarratt because that album marked the guitarist's first with the band. But it was 1983 offering This Town Rocks that garnered the most approval, at least until the set wound down. Playing another song that wasn't originally scheduled, Byford introduced Crusader by saying, "This song got us banned in the Middle East. We're never going to play there again."
Byford, Scarratt, original guitarist Paul Quinn, bassist Tim "Nibbs" Carter and Nigel Glockler -- manning the drums in his San Antonio customary Texas Longhorns T-shirt -- rounded out the "regular" portion of the set with four songs that could have served as encores: 747 (Strangers in the Night), The Eagle Has Landed, Denim and Leather and Wheels of Steel. So what were the encores? Again, check out the setlist at bottom -- and if you weren't there, picture them being performed with a white bra draped around Byford's mic stand that had been tossed his way.
While the ladies were out in full force, they weren't the only ones welcoming Fozzy onto the stage with chants of the band's name or "Y2J!"
Fozzy's 45-minute set was dominated by songs from their latest, and best-selling, CD Sin and Bones. Six of the eight tracks played were new, including opener Spider In My Mouth, Inside My Head and Blood Happens. With the night marking Fozzy's live San Antonio debut, it served as the group's chance to market itself not only to an audience heavily devoted to Saxon but also to a new city and fan base.
If you expected Jericho to regale the crowd with references to his wrestling career or tales of his appearance on "Dancing With The Stars," you were in the wrong place. Jericho is all business -- in a fun way -- on a rock stage and not as pompous as one might think if he or she only knows him from his character within the squared circle.
Jericho, Ward, guitarist Billy Grey, bassist Paul Di Leo and drummer Frank Fontsere made the most of their set and genuinely enjoyed turning San Antonians onto their music. It goes without saying that if another 14 years goes by before Fozzy performs in San Antonio again, well, then promoters must not be doing their homework.
Halcyon Way benefited from the early-arriving Saxon faithful and utilized their 30-minute set to the tune of six songs, including Rise to Revise, The Age of Betrayal, On Black Wings and Desecration Day.
The group brands itself as "Atlanta's premier heavy metal band" on its website, although Sept. 13 and Oct. 27 Backstage Live performers Sevendust may beg to differ -- no Sevendust song-title pun intended.
One-day festivals notwithstanding, it may be awhile before a true classic/current tour returns to San Antonio. If you missed out, go ahead and kick yourself. It's OK. Then make a mental note not to commit the same mistake again.
SAXON SETLIST: Sacrifice, Power and the Glory, Night of the Wolf, Never Surrender, This Town Rocks, Motorcycle Man, Dogs of War, Made in Belfast, Rock N' Roll Gypsy, Guardians of the Tomb, Crusader, Heavy Metal Thunder, 747 (Strangers In The Night), The Eagle Has Landed, Denim and Leather, Wheels of Steel. ENCORES: Strong Arm of the Law, Princess of the Night
FOZZY SETLIST: Spider In My Mouth, Sandpaper, Inside My Head, God Pounds His Nails, Shine Forever, Sin and Bones, Enemy, Blood Happens
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