So, where to begin...
This was my second time seeing metal legends Saxon (the first being in NYC in May 2009, after a 6 year wait). I probably would've attended the New York City show again this time, but I have a nigh class on Thursday nights, and my midterm was this week, so skipping was absolutely out of the question. So, since Baltimore is further but essentially cheaper/less bullshit to go to, we decided to make the drive down there for this show, the last of the tour. I'm very glad we did, to say the least.
In addition to Saxon, there was so extra incentive for me to go to this. Canadian Prog/Power band Borealis were direct support, and their sophomore album, "Fall From Grace" is a top 10 album of 2011 for me. This band's style could best be described as Evergrey gone power metal, as they feature a relatively similar use of keyboards, dueling downtuned guitars, and a very melodic vocalist with a relatively lower register. Sadly, the venue wanted the show to be over by 10:30, so Borealis's set was cut down to a mere 30 minutes from the usual 45 of many other shows on the tour, much to my disappointment. Overall the song selection was great, though I would've preferred the title track from Fall From Grace over Regeneration. The band played extremely well and tight, and their sound mix was very good. New guitarist Mike Briguglio had some technical difficulties early on, but once solved the band just let rip. It's a damn shame they had to play so early and thus to such a small and relatively unresponsive crowd. Admittedly them being on this tour is a bit of a mismatch, but nevertheless, I felt people could've showed them more respect. After their set, I bought a physical copy of Fall From Grace and a t-shirt with the album artwork, for a total of $30.
After a fairly long changeover, Saxon hit that stage at 8:30 pm and were, as expected, superb. I can't really say enough positive things about these guys in the live environment. The sound was pretty good, and we were RIGHT up front. There was actually no barrier so I actually had my arms resting on Doug Scarrat's monitors. Being that close, Doug's lead tone was almost painfully loud, but Saxon are the sort of band where "too loud" is almost what you want out of the show. The band made a few changes to the physical setlist on the floor - They swapped "Battalions of Steel" for "Metalhead" - the only time it was played on the entire tour. Also, they omitted "747 (Strangers in the Night", and actually (much to my pleasant surprise and the dismay of many) closed with "To Hell and Back Again" instead of "Wheels of Steel". I actually made a little sign saying: "Please Play Something from Lionheart!" and gave it to Biff, which he then showed to Nigel, in a joking fashion, as though it had been discussed and Nigel was the only one who stopped them from doing it (makes sense as he wasn't on the album). During the next song, Biff wrote "NEXT TIME" on the bottom of the paper and signed it and handed it back to me. The band were done at 10:20, and I managed to get the setlist as well as some guitar picks.
Since the show ended so early but it was the final night and no one had anywhere to go, the bands very, very quickly got up to all kinds of mischief. Biff actually came outside fairly soon after the show - and took pictures and signed stuff for the crowd of maybe 20-30 people outside, and then headed onto the bus for the remainder of the night. The rest of the guys made their rounds eventually, but all the other guys eventually then returned to the dressing rooms inside.
We got on really, really well with the guys in Borealis (especially their singer, Matt Marinelli), so we spent a good hour talking to them outside while they loaded up their van. After that, they headed back inside to "grab a few things and go to the bathroom", but after not coming back out for a good 30+ minutes, we got concerned. I asked Saxon's guitar tech if he could ask them to come back out, if only so we could just say goodbye and call it a night. He responded that we should just go inside and go back to the dressing rooms. When we got back there, the Borealis guys were thrilled to see us and immediately started offering us drinks. I then realized that the other 4 guys from Saxon were all in there as well... Within the next 5 minutes, I did a shot of whiskey with Paul Quinn, and had two more beers while just kinda socializing with all the guys and talking about all sorts of stuff. Half of them were almost completely wasted by this point (maybe 1-1:30 AM). The guys started filing out to either hit the bus of try to find some kind of food in the city, but not before Borealis realized that their new guitarist was completely passed out on the floor of their dressing room. They literally drug him outside to their van, haha. The next half hour or so was literally spent rounding up people and trying to coordinate over the noise and crowd of the now straight-up club that was going on where the venue had been earlier that night. The biggest character of the bunch was Nibbs, Saxon's bassist, who was practically out of his mind, haha. We eventually made it outside, and me, my sister, my friend, 2 of the Borealis guys, Nibbs, and Saxon's guitar tech all attempted to find food. We started by walking towards a supposed McDonald's, only to call to find they were closed, so we turned around. Eventually Just the 3 of us and the 2 guys from Borealis (Matt and Jamie) ate at the 24-hour Subway up the street from the venue, where we talked metal and the politics of being in a band and all that jazz until almost 4 AM. We eventually cleared out and headed for the long drive home.
I eventually got home at shortly after 7 AM, which is an hour later than my previous record for the latest I've ever gotten home from a show. I was only able to get about 3 hours of sleep, so I've been running on fumes all day. I'm in a pretty big amount of pain, mostly from the headbanging (feet are sore too), and I'm tired as hell, but it was so completely worth it. This was without a doubt one of the most spontaneous, hilarious, and enjoyable nights of my life. I can't thank all the guys in Borealis, Saxon, and their crew for making us feel so much like family.
I'll get to posting a few pics in a little bit.