When you’ve got fifty years of doing something under your belt, sometimes that wear and tear mileage racks up. This past May the Judas Priest show was canceled just hours before the start time as Rob Halford’s voice was shot, and almost exactly a year ago guitarist Richie Faulkner suffered a ruptured aorta that required over ten hours of emergency surgery to keep him alive, never mind returning to the stage; the surgeon’s scar down his sternum was clearly visible as he stood next to a sign that read “Danger of Death.” Thankfully everyone was back in top form and ready to add to that total of fifty, including original bassist Ian Hill, longtime drummer Scott Travis and touring guitarist Andy Sneap.
An industrial themed stage was their backdrop for this tour, complete with hazard signs, rusty tanks and drums and a Works Office door that referenced a certain Mr. Benbow. Birmingham is their hometown, a rugged blue-collar city that also spawned Black Sabbath and the traditional walk on music of “War Pigs” amped up the crowd before the metal god himself strode on stage with in a studded black leather outfit and black gloves. Grown men in JUDAS FUCKING PRIEST t shirts erupted with joy like it was forty years ago.
If you’re gonna crow about your history, you better take a long and thorough look back and any diehard Priest fans couldn’t complain about the song selection tonight. Yeah, of course we were gonna hear the hits like “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” and “Screaming For Vengeance,” but I bet the inclusion of “Genocide” from Sad Wings Of Destiny or “Steeler” off of British Steel raised eyebrows along with clenched fists. In all, songs from eleven records were played; I would have loved to have been at the rehearsals to see the song selections and it was a tad surprising that chestnuts like “Victim of Changes” or “The Ripper” were not featured, nor their signature covers of Joan Baez and Fleetwood Mac songs.
You knew that when the roar of a Harley was heard off stage and Halford rolled on through a cloud of smoke that “Hellbent For Leather” was next, but a stage prop I didn’t see coming was a giant inflatable bull that unfolded as “Livin’ After Midnight” brought the night to a close; a Sunday night isn’t the usual setting for hedonistic behavior as the alarm clock heralding the start of the work week comes early but it still sounded fantastic. Here’s to more metal from the metal gods!
Queensrÿche took the opening slot and while I haven’t kept up on the internecine drama from the ex-drummer or ex-singer, there was a functioning band on stage tonight. I suppose that might be good news, if only one’s taste turns to ponderously plodding prog metal like Dream Theater. Hard pass.
Primarily based in Boston, Massachusetts, Tim Bugbee is no stranger to traveling throughout the country or overseas to capture the best live music photos.