Get Ready To Bridgefest Review (Praying Mantis, Dennis Stratton & OD Saxon)


Bridgehouse II, London, 30 August 2009

Thirty years ago the new wave of British Heavy metal (NWOBHM) was alive and well here in Canning Town East London at the Bridgehouse in East London, where the likes of a youthful Iron Maiden were starting to strut their stuff.

Sadly the original Bridghouse is no longer a music venue, but the Bridgehouse II is flying the flag yet again down the road on an industrial estate at a venue which is used for car MOT’s during the daytime.

Normally the gigs here are held upstairs in a cosy little room, but today the Bridgefest is held outdoors on the forecourt where some of metals old bangers will be doing some fine tuning. Some 200 happy headbangers turned out on this Bank Holiday Sunday.

I arrived just in time to see Praying Mantis who have just made arguably their finest album to date with ‘Sanctuary.’ Featuring just two original members,the brothers Chris and Tino Troy, the band seemed to have have settled on their steadiest line-up ever, having found a fine singer in Mike Freeland.

A majority of that album found their way into the set ‘Restless Heart’ being my favourite. From the glory days we got ‘Children Of The Earth’ from the debut ‘Time Tells No Lies’ ending with the metal mutha ‘Captured City’. A hour wasn’t enough, with the crowd begging for an encore.

Dennis Stratton was playing a rare Iron Maiden set which featured songs from the debut LP  which he played on.

This was a treat for Maiden fans. Dennis sang the songs himself after his singer was stuck on the motorway. It was good to hear that classic early Maiden sound.

Paul Dianno has carved out a nice niche for himself doing Maiden songs around the world and there’s no reason why Stratton can’t do the same. A short five song set that featured ‘Prowler’, ‘Remember Tomorrow’, ‘Phantom Of The Opera’, ‘Iron Maiden’ and ‘Running Free’ phew!

I had reservations about seeing Oliver Dawson Saxon before this gig. How would I enjoy the music of one of my all time favourite bands but without Biff Byford? Nonetheless, I was here to see boyhood heroes: guitarist Graham Oliver and bassist Steve Dawson.

Opening with ‘Redline’ from ‘Power And The Glory’ the solid bass was still evident, but I felt uncomfortable with singer John ‘Wardi’ Ward, who looked like a Rod Stewart tribute act who would do well wooing the Northern girls on a hen weekend in Benidorm, but surprisingly he soon won me over with his enthusiasm and energy.

Once my ears had adjusted to the voice of Wardi I started to really enjoy myself headbanging away to some classic tunes from those early Saxon LP’s.

Two new songs where played, including the rather impressive ‘Whipping Boy’.

As I made a dash to catch the last tube home I couldn’t help but wonder how modern day Saxon would sound if they had Oliver and Dawson back in the band.  One can only hope.

A great day out.

OD Saxon set list: Redline/Past The Point/Strong Arm Of The Law/Whipping Boy/747 (Strangers In The Night)/Dallas 1PM/Eagle Has Landed/Princess Of The Night/Wheels Of Steel Encore: And The Bands Played On

Review by Mark Taylor