THE PRIEST IS BACK!
Show Date: October 1, 2014
Location: Rochester, New York, USA
Venue: Main Street Armory
Band Websites: www.judaspriest.com – steelpantherrocks.com
If there is one band that is on my “can’t miss them” list, it has to be Judas Priest. After all, my first concert ever dates back to the summer of 1986 when I caught their ‘Turbo’ tour. Since that time I have seen them play live more times than I can recall and the British band has always delivered time and time again. Throw in the fact that the opening band was the one and only Steel Panther — whom I thought had put on the best live show I have seen in 2014 back in May — and you had one absolutely killer bill!
Accordingly, I was quite disappointed when I quickly figured out that I would not be able to attend Judas Priest‘s closest show (for now) to Toronto at Casino Rama. Although I was going to be back from an out-of-town trip in Toronto by 8:00 pm on October 6th, that would not have given me enough time to make the almost two hour trek. Catching Judas Priest in Montreal was a possibility, until I checked how close Rochester, New York was to Toronto. With a distance of only about two hours and 45 minutes between the two cities, Rochester became my best option at seeing Judas Priest once again. Of course, my good friend The Meister (who writes for a few rival websites) was game to go on another road trip. As an extra bonus, tickets for the Rochester show were substantially less expensive — about $25 to $30 less even with the currency exchange — than for the Casino Rama show. The best part of the Rochester show came when I clicked to buy tickets — only general admission tickets were available meaning that there was a very good chance that the Meister and I could be up close to see both Judas Priest and Steel Panther perform.
The road trip from Toronto to Rochester went rather smoothly aside from a slight detour due to the MapQuest website failing with one key direction — I do not have a GPS for my older model car. We finally arrived in Rochester at around 5:00 pm and already there were quite a few people waiting for the doors at the Main Street Armory — which looked like either a castle or one huge church — to open. As what has become customary for any road trip taken by The Meister and I in the States, the fast food restaurant that we attended — this time a Wendy’s — screwed up my order. By the time we finished our overall disappointing supper, the line-up in front of the Main Street Armory doors had increased quite a bit and was extending down the sidewalk.
The doors eventually opened and both The Meister and I were very pleased with what we saw. It just felt like we were in one giant room with high ceilings with a few rows of balcony seating high up all around the indoor venue. After quickly checking out the balcony seating we elected to partake in the general admission area and got within two rows of the stage to the right. It seemed like everyone was coming from far and wide to check out Judas Priest‘s opening night as one big Priest fan from Ottawa made the trek all by himself while another fan trekked two hours south alone. There were of course many friendly local Rochester fans, which we got to know a little bit simply because we ended up waiting more than two hours in the crowded sweaty general admission area for Steel Panther to start their set. The tickets indicated that the show would start at 7:00 pm, and although the stage looked ready to go at that time and sometimes the stage lights were activated to hint that the concert was about to start, that simply was not the case. By the time that 8:00 pm struck, the crowd was getting frustrated and a chorus of boos could be heard. The wait was so long that the Main Street Armory started playing some songs on their P.A. system a second time around.
Steel Panther hit the stage at 8:23 pm to a combination of boos and applause but quickly won the crowd over with their comedy filled and hook-laden metal delivery. Hitting the stage with “Pussywhipped” and “Party Like Tomorrow Is The End Of The World”, two songs from their latest record ‘All You Can Eat’, it seemed that part of the crowd did not know what to make of them while another part of the crowd — including myself — was totally into them. As what seems to be customary at a Steel Panther show, guitarist Satchel and lead vocalist Michael Starr offered some comedic banter to the crowd, including introducing all of the band members, but at what seemed like a faster pace than when I had previously seen the band headline. To negate the partly frustrated crowd that had become quite a bit hostile by the time that they hit the stage, Satchel poked fun at one fan in particular who was standing in the front with both hands raised with his middle fingers extended towards the guitarist. Usually from what I have seen, Satchel and Starr like to joke that they will “screw” the male fans’ girlfriends but for this anti-Steel Panther fan in particular Satchel joked that he could not even get a girlfriend. Whatever the case, the funny banter seemed to settle the pro Judas Priest crowd. This was certainly evident when Satchel took a quick poll of those who had never seen Steel Panther play before and surprisingly, to me, it seemed like half the crowd was in that boat.
Steel Panther then delved back into their back catalog of songs playing five tracks from their debut record ‘Feel The Steel’ and three from their second record ‘Balls Out’. While the band rolled out one song after another with truly ridiculously funny lyrics such as “Just Like Tiger Woods” and “Community Property”, I would glance from time to time at my new found Ottawa friend who would roll his eyes but at the same time laugh at the silly lyrics. By the time that Steel Panther played their anthem, “Death To All But Metal”, I thought that the band had more than won over most of the crowd and showed that they could rock with the best of them. Steel Panther ended their set with their party anthem “Party All Day (Fuck All Night)”. I was quite pleased that the band got to play ten songs as I had been worried that they might have to play a condensed set since The Meister and I had been warned on the M3 Rockers’ Facebook page that there was an 11:00 pm curfew at the Main Street Armory. Given that Steel Panther‘s set ended about one hour after it first started, it seemed unlikely that this curfew existed or would be enforced. The bad news was that my drive back would be extended by at least an hour and a half due to the late start. Another piece of information obtained via Facebook was that the sound at the Main Street Armory leaves a lot to be desired, but that certainly wasn’t the case as I thought that the sound emanating in the cavernous venue was crystal clear.
One big debate during what seemed like the endless wait prior to Steel Panther‘s set was which songs that Judas Priest would play. Given that this was the opening night of their tour, it was not possible to go online to find out what songs they would be playing ahead of time. It wasn’t a big surprise when Judas Priest opened with “Dragonaut” from their new stellar record ‘Redeemer Of Souls’ at around 10:15 pm. What struck me right away was how good frontman Rob Halford sounded. He seemed to be nailing all the notes and having seen him live many times, including when he was fronting his own solo band Halford in 2000 and 2009, he seemed to be singing and shrieking better than ever. It was quite a surprise given that I thought he had been singing at an octave or so lower in the last five to ten years, but that clearly was not the case on this night. Perhaps it was because it was only the first night of the tour, but Halford sounded simply fantastic.
I was also pleased to see that Halford had ditched his “cane” after the first song, something that he seemed to hold on to while hunched over for most of the Toronto show during the band’s ‘Epitaph’ tour. In fact, this was likely the most I had ever seen him move around the stage, as on previous tours he seemed to stay stationery in one position — almost like Ian Hill — and would only start to walk around the stage towards the end of the show. This night, Halford covered all corners of the stage within the first few tracks being played.
After one great set from Steel Panther and the anticipation of seeing the heavy metal legends known as Judas Priest, the general admission crowd seemed much more upbeat while waiting once again in the hot sweaty conditions. Both The Meister and I lamented that we should have worn shorts rather than a pair of jeans. It helped of course that the crowd got to listen to AC/DC‘s entire ‘Back In Black’ masterpiece during that time. Just before Judas Priest was to hit the stage, the P.A. system played Black Sabbath‘s “War Pigs” which had a good portion of the crowd singing along to all the lyrics.
After the obligatory but always welcome “Metal Gods”, which provides easy sing along opportunities for the crowd, Halford greeted the audience with his now infamous catch phrase “The Priest Is Back!” Judas Priest then pulled the first surprise out of their hat, digging out and playing the very underrated “Devil’s Child” from their magnum opus ‘Screaming For Vengeance’. I had previously only seen Priest play this song once before and I was definitely not the only one in the general admission crowd really happy to see the band crank out that tune live once again. Next up was “Victim Of Changes”, which is simply just about THE perfect epic metal song. As would become expected throughout the night, Halford nailed all the notes. The first song that I ever heard from Judas Priest back when I was a kid was “Love Bites”, so it will always have a special place in my heart and to have the band dig deep in their back catalog to play it on opening night was like icing on one delicious cake.
Another thing that struck me was how good the new songs from ‘Redeemer Of Souls’ seemed to fit with Judas Priest‘s notable back catalog of songs. The band ended up playing four new tracks — “Dragonaut”, “Halls Of Valhalla”, “March Of The Damned” and the title track — and I would even have welcomed a few more at the expense of some of the usual Priest classics that were played later on. That is just how good the new Priest songs are this time around. Although I have never been a big fan of the song, “Turbo Lover” is a great track to get the crowd singing along and I always enjoy hearing it live rather than on record. After a blistering rendition of “Beyond The Realms Of Death” — a song that Halford referred to as a “ballad” — Judas Priest played another surprise track in “Jawbreaker”, from their other magnum opus record ‘Defenders Of The Faith’. I had seen Halford play the track during his solo tour when he opened up for Ozzy Osbourne back in 2009 so the surprise element was a bit more subdued for me than others in the crowd — but just about anything from ‘Defenders Of The Faith’ would have been welcomed.
From then on Judas Priest cranked out their “hits” including “Breaking The Law”, which thankfully Halford did not ask the crowd to sing ALL of the words to, “Hell Bent For Leather”, complete with the now infamous Harley Davidson driven by the singer for a few meters on stage, “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'”, which was preceded with Halford‘s always enjoyable various “follow after me” and “yeah yeah yeah” chants, and the easy sing along classic “Living After Midnight”. All four of those songs are great ones, but with the exception of “You’ve Got Another thing Comin'” I would not have been heartbroken by any means if some of them were dropped from the setlist having heard them way too many times. Judas Priest came back for one last surprise encore — “Defenders Of The Faith” — which had bassist Ian Hill make a rare move from his self-imposed spot on stage to the front with the rest of the band. I have not yet mentioned guitarists Richie Faulkner and Glenn Tipton, nor drummer Scott Travis, in this review but I thought that the entire band played really well. I wasn’t crazy about the timing of Faulkner‘s extended guitar solo in the middle of “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'”, but he is one great guitarist nonetheless!
The night ended just close to midnight and although the drive back to Toronto was especially brutal and long — I only got home at 5:00 am after dropping off The Meister in another town — it was well worth it. The Meister had previously suggested the more sensible option of crashing in a hotel after the show but I had a train to catch at 6:40 am so this was the only option for me to see the Priest on the first leg of their ‘Redeemer Of Souls’ tour. Judas Priest have always delivered live for me and their opening night in Rochester, New York was definitely the case once again!
02. Party Like Tomorrow Is The End Of The World
03. Asian Hooker
04. Just Like Tiger Woods
05. Gold-Digging Whore
06. Girl From Oklahoma
07. Community Property
08. 17 Girls In A Row
09. Death To All But Metal
10. Party All Day (Fuck All Night)
Judas Priest’s setlist:
01. Battle Cry (intro)
03. Metal Gods
04. Devil’s Child
05. Victim Of Changes
06. Halls Of Valhalla
07. Love Bites
08. March Of The Damned
09. Turbo Lover
10. Redeemer Of Souls
11. Beyond The Realms Of Death
13. Breaking The Law
14. Hell Bent For Leather
15. You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’
16. Living After Midnight
17. Defenders Of The Faith