I think it is fair to say that Judas Priest are one of the bands that set the course of my musical tastes with the release of British Steel back in 1980. Never did I think I would be seeing them half way around the world almost 40 years later.
Whilst vocalist Rob Halford, and bassist Ian Hill are still playing from those early days, the absence of long-time guitarist Glenn Tipton was a loss. A staple of the band since 1974, Tipton recently took the difficult decision to retire from touring following a Parkinson’s diagnosis. He left his spot on stage to be capably filled by Andy Sneap, producer of Firepower, Priest’s latest offering, and a more than competent guitarist in his own right.
With the crowd more than warmed up by openers Uriah Heep, after a relatively short interval the familiar tones of War Pigs started playing the background, and those who have seen the band before knew that this was the call to arms. After a few minutes and with the lights dimming, the Black Sabbath song was replaced with the intro to Necromancer, one the track from the Firepower album. As the band took to the stage in the darkness a shadowy figure in a top hat could be seen lurking behind a screen, but it wasn’t long before the Metal God himself was revealed in all his purple glory.
Necromancer was a great opener, given both Richie Faulkner, and Andy Sneap the opportunity to show their chops, whilst Mr. Halford broodily drifted around the stage, with a sequined skull atop his cane, conjuring up images of a New Orleans voodoo priest, very fitting given the lyrics. After our necromancer retired from the stages it was back to the early eighties with Heading Out to the Highway. This song along with a handful of others in the set, including the encores, Breaking the Law, and Living After Midnight really have a nostalgic feel of the NWOBHM sound to them, and not surprisingly were huge audience favourites, or maybe it just felt that way to me as a transatlantic transplant.
Overall the show was a good balance of crowd pleasers from the band’s extensive back catalogue, interspersed with solid offerings from the Firepower album, including Spectre, No Surrender, and one of my favourites Traitors Gate.
One or my favourite things about the band is their breadth, so it was great to hear Starbreaker, which has a very Sabbath feel to it, with a Rush-like hook in the middle of the song, and of course, one of the bands classic tracks Victim of Changes.
Along with the depth of the songs, the band have a great stage chemistry and awesome light show and continue to deliver a solid rock show from start to finish, with something that is guaranteed to please the diverse group of fans, many of which I am sure were not even born when the band started touring.
Here’s hoping they will be back in our neck of the woods soon.
IMPORTANT – If you want to help fight the battle against Parkinson’s consider purchasing The Glenn Tipton Charity T-shirt from the bands merch store – current link here.
Check out our images from the show, courtesy of Stewart Johnstone