I like Judas Priest, but I would not call myself a super fan like most of the people in attendance Sunday night. That all changed after witnessing the incredible show that Priest gave us. A sell out crowd of over seven-thousand witnessed the best that heavy metal has to offer live. The place was alive all night and the fans just couldn’t get enough. I am getting ahead of myself a bit here though. We have two openers before the main event and I would like to talk about them a bit first.
First up on the night was Black Star Riders. I have a friend that listens to them, but I had only heard a song here and there. They came on stage and laid it down. The have a great metal sound and did a good job of getting the crowd fired up. It was an early arriving crowd too, so they got to play to a large audience. Everyone seemed to have a good time and was enjoying the set. It was just good old fashioned heavy metal. The show has definitely made me want to check them out and listen to more songs. They were very good indeed.
Next up was another veteran of heavy metal, Saxon! They have been cranking out metal since 1979 and have twenty-two albums to show for all their hard work. A very impressive achievement to have released so many albums, and still be touring today. Biff Byford on vocals and Paul Quinn on guitars have been there for the entire ride. Both sounded great and Biff still has the chops to deliver a great metal song. We were treated to a twelve-song set, that included some of their biggest hits. Songs like Power and the Glory, Wheels of Steel and Heavy Metal Thunder. The also sounder great live and delivered a very solid performance. By this time the place was completely packed and had already witness two really good bands and still had Judas Priest to go.
Priest had a huge stage with a lot of very colorful lighting all around. A video board in the back added to the imagery throughout the evening. This was definitely a big arena rock show like a lot of us were so often used to seeing in the 80’s. When Priest hit the stage, their was a huge roar from the crowd. I have always found Priest fans to be amongst the most loyal in metal and tonight was no exception. They were ready to rock and rock hard. They hit the stage with the title track from their new album “Firepower”. It is great to see bands like Priest still releasing new music and the song was very good live.
Priest released their first album in 1974 and have eighteen studio albums to their name. We got to hear releases off ten of those albums during the nineteen-song set. It was very impressive that they touched on so many different albums over the course of the night. Rob Halford still has those vocals that cut right through you. The man was born to sing heavy metal. It was awesome to listen to and watch and I was having such a great time doing just that. During the first part of the show we were treated to Lighting Strikes, the first single off the new album. Other Priest classics during the first set were Turbo Lover, You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’, Electric Eye and Painkiller. I swear as the night went on it just seemed that every song was better than the last. The crowd was in great throat all night and roared with excitement as the massive hits throughout Priest’s career just kept coming. When you thought it couldn’t possibly get any better, it did!
As the encore was about to start, Glenn Tipton came on stage. The crowd almost blew the roof off the building. Tipton revealed he had Parkinson’s Disease in February and would not be able to tour any more. He had announced his retirement from touring, but earlier in the tour made an appearance during one of the encores. All night people wondered if this might be the night Tipton would make his second appearance of the tour and in fact he did! What a special moment this was. It is not often you feel that kind of emotion at a heavy metal concert, but it was hard not to seeing Tipton perform. This had just become a very special night indeed. Tipton helped Priest launch into a three-song encore that just blew everyone away. They performed Metal Gods, Breaking the Law and Living After Midnight! It does not get much better than that metal fans. The crowd was so loud it sounded like 100,000 people.
It has been a long time since I have seen an audience ramped up like this one. There was also the thought in everyone’s mind if this would be the last time they would ever see Priest perform? They have not announced their retirement or anything like that, but you just have to wonder how many tours they have left? I for one feel incredibly luck that I was there to see, feel and hear the music and passion that was in the building that night. I went to the concert expecting to see a good show, but what happened was so much more. I have seen probably almost a thousand bands perform in my life and there are always a few shows that you easily remember. There is no doubt, I will remember this show for the rest of my life.
All Photos by ERIC PEFLEY: