* April 2, 2011 *

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

Camden Underworld, London, United Kingdom

Armed with a bag full of Easter eggs for all of our English friends, we went to the Holiday Inn in Camden on April Fool’s day. We will be visiting the British Steel Festival at the Camden Underworld. Steve Grimmett’s GRIM REAPER cancelled their gig a few weeks before unfortunately, but Phil Denton (ELIXIR) put JAGUAR on the bill, which caused great joy at the van Poorten’s residence.
After checking in at the hotel we went to the shopping streets of London to spend some money. Many points of recognition slowly disappear in the well-known streets, that we’ve walked a hundred times or more. Where once was the London Astoria, they are now rising new buildings. Tower Records on Picadilly Circus has gone for a long time and also Zaffy (Records) at this space is no more. It has been replaced by a giant clothes shop. From that point, there is a street, that leads towards Hyde Park, that is called the Picadilly. When you walk down that road, that goes parallel to Regent Street, you reach the London Hard Rock Café, where we have our diner this evening. Before that, we took a walk through Soho, where you can find most of the interesting record stores. It’s nothing compared to the early days, when Shades was still there somewhere in the small St. Anne’s Court. For £20,- we find a nice four CD box of VENOM, called “MMV”, which normally costs a whole lot more. A nice addition to our collection and a damn good start of our NWOBHM weekend in the city of London. Unfortunately, we were not able to make it on time at the warm-up show of STUKA SQUADRON (pre-release party) and special guests ASOMVEL at The Unicorn in Camden. What a pity!

Saturday morning we spend our time in Camden and we have plenty of time to have a walk over the huge market place there. You can walk for hours between the market stalls, boutiques and shops, where you can find plenty of ‘must have’ stuff. In Proud Camden, there’s another exhibition with old pictures by a heavy metal band. This time it is METALLICA from the Dave Mustaine era. During our last visit, they featured a collection of AC/DC photos from the Bon Scott era, which was so much bigger and a lot more interesting. But it’s a nice distraction, while you are in the neighborhood. In the afternoon we meet our good friends Ian Toomey (BITCHES SIN) and his wife and together we go to the Camden Underworld, where we meet Phil and my colleague writer John Tucker and his wife Lia.

The doors open at 16.30 hours, and before we know it, AGINCOURT climbs the stage. They have a powerful start and surprise me with a very energetic set. Their CD “Angel Of Mons” was already a delight to listen to, but in a live situation they turn the volume up just a little bit more. The audience loved every second of it, that’s for sure. They open their set by introducing themselves with the song “Agincourt”. The crowd goes beserk and their fast set closer “Queen Of The Night” is the proverbial cherry on the cake. The sudden ending of “Come With Me” might be a bit strange, but what strikes me the most is, that AGINCOURT seems to have no trouble at all to get the audience wild and enthusiastic with their wonderful performance here. A great opener by a very promising band, that could very well become top of the bill soon, if you’d ask my personal opinion.

SARACEN is also on the bill of this year’s Keep It True festival, so we were about to see them twice in a row. No problem, because I always wanted to see this band, that started their career under the name of LAMMERGIER a long time ago. Their album “Heroes, Saints And Fools” is an all-time classic in my book. I would categorize “Change Of Heart” as A.O.R. today, instead of N.W.O.B.H.M. But that’s the nice thing about NWOBHM: the wide variety in music styles makes it a constant adventure to listen to. The show of tonight can be described in one single word and that is: pure MAGIC. Although the band only has one surviving, original member in Steve Bettney, I can only stare at them with my mouth open wide. What is happening here? Why didn’t these guys headline at all these big rock festivals in Europe over the years? Besides classics like “Horseman Of The Apocalypse” and the very old “Follow The Piper”, we also get to hear some rather new material with “Meet Me At Midnight” of “Vox In Excelso”. There is even a goose flesh moment during this show, the only one of this night. That appears during the song “Heroes, Saints And Fools”. What a great song and what an awesome performance this was! I had tears in my eyes from excitement at the end of the song. Four weeks from now, we will get to see them again in Germany, but I really can’t wait for this to happen, that’s for sure.

A special warning went out after that. A whirlwind from Bristol was heading towards London and it would rage over the Camden Underworld, so the weather specialists predicted. And this bloody whirlwind almost destroyed the Underworld. They give whirlwinds a name, if they are really huge and this one was called JAGUAR. The tsunami in Japan destroyed the whole coast, but this band also left a bloody mess, when they were done. At the merchandise stand I had already bought their “Live In Holland 1982” double LP. It’s always nice to have a recording like that of a gig, that you went to see yourself. In the eighties I’ve seen JAGUAR many times, because they were almost constantly playing in Holland. Today JAGUAR plays one of their best shows ever in my opinion. “Run Ragged” is one of the newer songs, they open tonight’s show. From there on, it’s all old school stuff, that reaches my eardrums. “Battlecry”, “Out Of Luck”, “The Fox”, “Master Game”, “Raw Deal”, “Axe Crazy” (AWESOME BEYOND BELIEVE!) and “Backstreet Woman” press the very last drop of sweat out of my body. Jamie flies with a microphone annex vaulting pole on the stage like Superman. The only missing piece is the big cape with the capitol S on it. There is not a nanosecond, he keeps quiet. Garry Pepperd only claims one square foot, just let him do his trick. “Raw Deal” is introduced by a piece of “I Will Survive” of GLORIA GAYNOR. Not heavy metal at all, I hear you think. But the way that JAGUAR does it, will only make you grin and sing along to this disco classic. Much too soon, the show is over and I think I’ve broken my back on several places from being in the front pit, where the wild beasts are. On the set list was “Prisoner” and “Run For Your Life”, so I’d hoped that there was still time for an encore tonight. After a short consultation between chief Garry and head ADHD department Jamie the verdict is unanimous: the band will play one encore tonight and that’s “Dutch Connection”. We are very proud of this choice and the band deserves ten points out of ten for this marvelous show. A great performance by one of the most energetic bands on earth, who have never let me down so far.

ELIXIR is another band, that have never let me down. In fact, they’re getting better and better each time that I see them. This time we also get a great performance by these five NWOBHM heroes. Front man and vocalist Paul Taylor has become a real James Dean lookalike nowadays. While guitarist Phil Denton has got the ultimate Joe Satriani look, or should I say that Joe Satriani has got the real Phil Denton-look?? Anyway, the first songs are taken from the awesome new album “All Hallows Eve”. “Star Of Beshan” is one of the many highlights of the show for me tonight. The last songs of this gig are “Treachery” and “Son Of Odin”. But there is no way, the band can leave without playing an encore. A excellent choice is “Knocking On The Gates Of Hell”, which is the perfect song to scream out your lungs one more time. Obviously, guitarist ‘Storming Norms’ seems to be enjoying himself by putting a bright smile on his face and playing his very best at the same time. This is only possible for the very best musicians and the guys of ELIXIR certainly belong to that group for me.

PAGAN ALTAR may turn out the lights tonight and they are the perfect headliners. They open this full hour of doomy NWOBHM with their self-titled song “Pagan Altar”. Finally, the band will have their revenge for their short show last time, that lasted only fifteen minutes because of traffic problems. Their raven black metal, that is spread over the Underworld creates a dark atmosphere that fits well with the music. Songs like “Samhein”, “The Lords Of Hypocrisy” and “The Aftermath” are a good choice of what the music of PAGAN ALTAR is all about. The band has got a lot of cult followers and guitar player Alan Jones gives away a few interesting guitar lessons. You don’t see many well-talented guitar players like him around anymore. More and more guitarists stick to just playing riffs and no solos. Not this guy, he simply takes a few minutes to stretch out his solos and the crowd enjoys it a lot. The lengthy songs tell you mystic stories and the ditto solos simply can’t be missed. The encores of this band are always crowd pleasers. Songs that they don’t play on a regular basis. This time they go for “The Witches Pathway”, which is no exception on this golden rule. PAGAN ALTAR is a worthy closing act of this fifth edition of the British Steel festival. The end comes, when you expect it the least. In fact, it’s just like the Spanish Inquisition (Hello Alan, it was good to see you again!). Five minutes after the last notes of PAGAN ALTAR have faded away, we are outside the venue. They have to make some money, so the dancers are waiting for the metal heads to leave the building. The rockers have had their share and they will have to wait for the next edition of this marvelous festival. I had a blast and it was so cool to have a chat again with some of my dearest friends in England.
But before I go, I'd like to express my thanks to the following people: Phil Denton, Elixir, and everybody at Arcade Promotions, Ian and Vally Toomey, and John and Lia Tucker. We have to do this more often boys and girls. Thank you so much for a wonderful weekend. We do have some suggestions for the next edition of this festival of course. We are thinking about bands like ANGEL WITCH, WITCHFINDER GENERAL, QUARTZ and LEGEND. And of course we can’t do without another excellent performance of ELIXIR next time. Crazy shit this British Steel Festival, that’s for sure!

*Written by: Toine van Poorten/June 2011
*Photos by: Rita van Poorten []

Captured King
Edge Of Paradise
Going Insane
Fool No More
Come With Me
Queen Of The Night

Setlist SARACEN:
Rock Of Ages
Horsemen Of The Apocalypse
Follow The Piper
Meet Me At Midnight
Heroes, Saints & Fools
Ready To Fly

Setlist JAGUAR:
Run Ragged
Out Of Luck
The Fox
Master Game
Raw Deal
Axe Crazy
Back Street Woman
Dutch Connection

Setlist ELIXIR:
All Hallows Eve
The Pagan Queen
You’re Not Fooling Me
The Star Of Beshan
Children Of Tomorrow
Trial By Fire
Treachery (Ride Like The Wind)
Son Of Odin
Knocking On The Gates Of Hell

Pagan Altar
In The Wake Of Armedeus
The Cry Of The Banshee
Sentinels Of Hate
The Lords Of Hypocrisy
The Aftermath
Judgement Of The Dead
The Witches Pathway

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