GOOD NEWS AS THE PRIEST WILL BE BACK!
Date: November 12, 2015
Venue: Air Canada Centre
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
It felt like 1986 again — the year of my first ever rock concert — as you could feel the excitement in the air for Judas Priest‘s upcoming concert at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Back in ’86, I was just a teenager in awe of the “massive” venue, which was the Ottawa Civic Centre with a capacity of almost 10,000 people, and the slew of jean and leather jacket clad slightly older mostly male crowd that was filling up the venue to see the mighty Judas Priest. It was my first introduction to drugs (which I did not take to) with little skinny joints and even some pipes combining to create smells that I had never encountered before. Whatever the differences among concert attendees, there was common ground in that everyone was there to rock out and headbang presumably to Judas Priest (Bon Jovi were opening) and it felt like one big, albeit dysfunctional, family.
Almost thirty years later, the buzz in the air to see Judas Priest was still there but the average age of concert attendees had understandably increased quite a bit with middle aged men being the norm. It certainly seemed like a good portion of the audience could now afford to eat and drink beforehand at one of the overpriced restaurants/bars surrounding the venue. After meeting my friend and occasional Sleaze Roxx contributor Chris at Real Sports — one of those overpriced restaurants — we hooked up with my friend and rival website writer Rich who ended up getting a table with two ladies, one of which I forget her name but the other, Laura, being notable for having seen Motley Crue 82 to 83 times. Quite the dedicated fan and you can’t blame her for losing count of how many times that she has seen the Crue! What was even more impressive is that she has apparently seen Vince Neil playing solo about the same amount of times. But I digress..
Rich and I had had the chance to see Judas Priest‘s opening night of their Redeemer Of Souls tour in Rochester, New York, USA back in October of last year. What made that show so special was that Steel Panther were opening for Judas Priest, which meant two great bands on one bill. Steel Panther did not disappoint in Rochester putting on their usual brilliant comedy/metal concert. This time around, Judas Priest had gone the other side of the spectrum bringing Mastodon as the opening act. Both Chris and I were not really familiar with Mastodon and Rich had heard a few songs here and there. Although Mastodon definitely had their share of fans out there — with perhaps 1/4 or 1/3 of the general admission crowd up on their feet rather than staying seated while the band played — their music did nothing for me. It literally felt like a barrage of noise with some occasional guitar solos. After watching Rich pull off a veritable feat at a heavy metal concert by taking a little nap while Mastodon were playing, enough was enough and we retreated to get a drink or two while waiting for Mastodon to end their set. There were many familiar faces including a couple that I interviewed over the last few years including Revolution‘s guitarist Jamie Bekyarovich and Midnight Malice‘s guitarist and lead singer Caleb Beal. As it turns out, Beal considers a Judas Priest concert that he saw about ten years ago back in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with Megadeth and Heaven And Hell opening as one of the best, if not the best, concert that he has attended. I got to say, that sounds like a killer line-up. Instead on this night, we got Mastodon…
Before we knew it, it was time for Judas Priest to go on. Opening with “Dragonaut” from their new album Redeemer Of Souls and “Metal Gods” which always seems to be one of their opening tracks, the band sounded great and the aging veterans in the band — singer Rob Halford (64 years old), guitarist Glenn Tipton (68) and bassist Ian Hill (64) — looked like they were at least ten years younger than their actual ages. There were some setlist variations from opening night back in Rochester more than a year ago but I wasn’t that crazy about the changes. Gone were some of my personal favorites such as “Devil’s Child” and “Love Bites” which were replaced by “Desert Plains” (which I really like as well) and “The Rage” (definitely not one of my favorites but still pretty good nonetheless). Gone was also “March Of The Damned” which was my favorite song that they had played from Redeemer Of Souls on opening night in Rochester. In were two of Judas Priest‘s heaviest songs — “Screaming For Vengeance” and “Painkiller” — not my favorites by any means although it was fun hearing “Screaming For Vengeance” live. Although the setlist changes did not work in my favour this time around, it was still nice that Judas Priest changed things up.
Halford sounded very good but I was surprised how much backing tracks that he was using for his vocals. This was especially evident during “Desert Plains” and made me question how much of Priest‘s set is actually “live.” Whatever the case, Halford sounded great and if Sebastian Bach is using backing vocal tracks at age 46 (back in December 2014), why not Halford at age 64? Guitarist Richie Faulkner was his usual larger than life self and often came up close to the edge of the stage to the left of what the audience could see making him look much bigger than his Judas Priest cohorts. Tipton did not stray that far from Hill‘s mainly stationary position but that was the case even when I saw Judas Priest play for the first time almost thirty years ago and both certainly looked like they were enjoying themselves. Just like during Judas Priest‘s opening night in Rochester, Halford was covering way more of the stage than I had seen him do live since coming back into the band’s line-up in 2003. There were also a lot of wardrobe changes for Halford and every one or two songs, he seemed to have a new jacket of some kind.
Although it was neat to see the various big screens showing various album covers from Stained Class to Point Of Entry, it looked like the images were a tad blurry or not that clear. There could be a few reasons for that including the large amount of stage smoke that was prevalent throughout the show and/or not wearing my glasses! All of the songs that I would have expected Judas Priest to play were played from their timeless classic “Victim Of Changes” to the motorcycle accompanied “Hell Bent For Leather” to the aptly named “Metal Gods.” Priest rolled out their singalong classics such as “Turbo Lover” and “Breaking The Law” which while not my favorite songs from the Priest‘s vast catalog, served their purpose very well. Judas Priest definitely have a tendency of doing some of the same things time after time such as Halford getting the crowd to sing after him in advance of “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” which does feel somewhat déjà vu. This is especially so if you have seen the band live a number of times like I have and/or listen to the Halford led Judas Priest live albums since the ’80s but at the same time, would a Priest concert really be complete without the crowd following Halford‘s lead on “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” or not hearing Halford say at least once “The Priest is back!”
With the Air Canada Centre’s apparent curfew of 11:00 pm creeping up, drummer Scott Travis surprisingly addressed the crowd asking them what they wanted to hear and advising that one more song would be played before Judas Priest launched into a rousing rendition of “Painkiller.” The show would have felt incomplete if Judas Priest had not played “Living After Midnight” so I was happy to see the band play that song immediately after “Painkiller” to close off the evening. What Judas Priest delivered on this night was a solid performance and exactly what you would expect from the veteran metal band who played all of its biggest hits while delving its vast catalog of songs to play a few deeper cuts. The best news of the night came at the end when Halford quipped “The Priest will be back” and I am sure that most on the audience will be back as well.
Judas Priest’s setlist:
01. Battle Cry
03. Metal Gods
04. Desert Plains
05. Victim Of Changes
05. Halls Of Valhalla
07. The Rage
08. Turbo Lover
09. Redeemer Of Souls
10. Beyond The Realms Of Death
11. Screaming For Vengeance
12. Breaking The Law
13. Hell Bent For Leather
15. Electric Eye
16. You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ w/ Guitar Solo (Richie Faulkner)
18. Living After Midnight