The oldest rock festival in Europe, Zaječarska gitarijada celebrates 52 anniversary. This year, as headliners are announced Saxon and Billy Idol.
After over than two decades in music journalism, you’d think nothing can surprise me at all. Wrong! Although we arranged transportation to Zaječar at late afternoon, as soon as I received email with press conference schedule, in the speed of light my equipment was already in backpack and I was on my way to Belgrade bus station. Of course, the first bus was overloaded, so I had to wait for the next one. Painful five hours in dirty, smelly bus, couple of thunderstorms and there I was, Zaječar City Hall. It turned out that mighty Saxon are also coming from Belgrade. Due to problems they had with the flight and bad weather conditions, in their power and the glory Biff Byford and Paul Quinn came to City Hall with minimal delay. Metal Jacket Magazine brings you an atmosphere from press conference.
We’ve been travelling a long time. The boys just got here an hour ago. Their flight was cancelled from London, so they had to stay in Zurich.
After promoter noticed that Saxon had been playing in former Yugoslavia for the last time 35 years ago, Byford was surprised:
Was it?! Jesus!
Pointing on bad weather they obviously brought from England, Byford commented:
We are playing songs from the old days and the new songs, so it is very mixed set and it should be great. Hopefully it wont rain.
Since Saxon have been around over than four decades, Byford gave us his opinion about festivals:
We’ve been at lot of different festivals, we played with a lot of young bands. This festival seems pretty mixed, some local bands, some not particularly not heavy metal bands, so I think it’s good for fans to see the different styles of music. Festivals are different than normal shows. I think it’s always good for young bands to play as many shows as they can. You know, my son is in the band, he is only twenty, he’s struggling to find work and shows, so it’s the same when we were young, it wasn’t easy. The festivals are good because they are getting play quite a few play.
He also explained what keeps them stay strong and fresh after all those years in metal:
Writing new albums, new songs gives the band a lot of power. It is very easy to be lazy. My philosophy is to keep pushing, keep going, never surrender.
After their first tour in 1979, a lot of water passed under the bridge. Who are the Saxon’s fans today?
These days the audience is a mixture, we’ve got a lot of fans from the eighties like ourselves and lot of fans are much younger. its a good moment in 2018 for audience because bands like ourselves is still around, Billy Idol is still around and he is playing here. Its a good time at the moment for people to see some older bands playing live.
Since on their last album “Thunderbolt” released in February 2018 song “They Played Rock n Roll” was dedicated to late Lemmy Kilmister, Byford said:
Our first ever tour was with Motörhead in 1979 and everybody knows how close we were with Motörhead. I wrote some lyrics that celebrated Motörhead and Lemmy. It’s an emotional song which is not about anybody really. It’s about Motörhead and Saxon. People like it. I don’t specifically mention anybody in it. It’s sad that Lemmy is gone and the original members Philty and “Fast” Eddie Clark but their music lives on. Lemmy would have been remembered Motörhead for fantastic band, fantastic music that they have. And this song is just a song about Motörhead.
Since Saxon supported Judas Priest on Firepower North American Tour, Byford recalls:
We are massive fans of Judas Priest. We really enjoyed toured America wit them. It was fantastic tour and a fantastic package for the fans, full shows every night. It was really great for Judas Priest to invite us and I hope well do some more shows in the future.
Yeah! Serbia lost yesterday! England will win. But not Germany, ha, ha…!
An hour later Saxon hit the stage in front of fans from all over Serbia and Bulgaria. Set list was no drastically different that other European festivals. The accent was on “Thunderbolt” album. Even if there was planned to play only one song on the encore “Wheel of Steel”, Byford kindly asked promoter:
We got time for one more! Where is the fucking promoter? Can we play one more?
And when you ask nicely, all the doors are opened to you.
3. Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz)
4. Motorcycle Man
5. Strong Arm of the Law
6. Battering Ram
7. Power and the Glory
8. The Secret of Flight
9. Dallas 1 PM
10. Never Surrender
11. They Played Rock and Roll
12. And the Bands Played On
13. 747 (Strangers in the Night)
14. Sons of Odin
16. Princess of the Night
17. Wheels of Steel
18. Denim and Leather
All covered in mud, hungry, thirsty and tired, our crew went back to Belgrade by apocalyptic weather. As one of my colleagues after press conference said:
You know what is funny? I am not even aware what we just did, where we was, whom with. But ask me in four days, I will be exalted!
Still nothing… But only two days passed…