Judas Priest with opener Queensrÿche live in Hamilton, ON, Canada Concert Review


Date: April 13, 2022
Venue: FirstOntario Centre
Location: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Reviewer: Olivier
Photos: Olivier

After more than two years of concert purgatory, the time had come to see a band that I truly loved live in concert. Judas Priest have always had a very special place in my heart since they were the first band that I ever bought a ticket to see. Although, I consider Judas Priest to be my first concert experience, I suppose that the claim should actually go to Bon Jovi who opened for Priest in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada way back on July 25, 1986, but I didn’t pay to see Bon Jovi that fateful day (and still haven’t to this day). Suffice to say that I have been following Judas Priest ever since 1984 when I got a cassette of their sublime album Defenders of The Faith and I know the band’s material — or at least anything that they would play in concert — very well.

It has been a long two years since the Covid pandemic reared its ugly head in the world and shut down the concert industry. I always thought that I would be chomping at the bit to go see concerts as soon as I could but the opposite seems to have occurred to some extent with false starts and the new complications of just crossing the Canada / United States of America border. Even though I got to see Striker (with openers Villain and Thunderor) live in early March, I didn’t know any of Villain‘s material, had only heard Thunderor‘s debut EP once or twice, and only really knew Striker‘s songs from their last two studio albums. Accordingly, while it was fun to attend a concert again and see those three bands live, I didn’t get that proverbial concert high that I sometimes got in the past. But if anyone could do it, it had to be the mighty Judas Priest.


Clearly, I was out of practice in attending concerts as I left my place a little later than expected knowing that the concert was supposed to start at 7:30 pm sharp. I was able to make up some time driving from Toronto to Hamilton but only had five minutes to spare while I looked for a (free) parking spot on the nearby streets. Hamilton is probably one of the only major cities in Canada where there is lots of free parking right next to its “major” arena. In any case, I had to walk a few blocks to the FirstOntario Centre and to my dismay upon walking in, I could hear that Queensrÿche were already playing. I made my way to my seat in the general admission area and the first thing that struck me was that the sound seemed a bit muddled from where I was (24 rows from the stage). I had to pay close attention to songs that I knew quite well in order to identify them. That was definitely disappointing.

I’ve never viewed Queensrÿche as a “super” live band and I found the band’s live presentation to simply be lacking in energy. Guitarists Michael Wilton and Mike Stone along with bassist Eddie Jackson mostly stood in stationery fashion (aside from standing on some sort of podium or slowly strolling to the other side of the stage) and didn’t seem to exude much excitement at being on stage. Lead vocalist Todd La Torre can certainly sing the older Queensrÿche material but he doesn’t command the stage like his predecessor (Geoff Tate) and aside from only addressing the audience on what seemed like two occasions, there wasn’t much interaction between the band and the audience. That’s one thing that I find that Queensrÿche seem to be missing in their post-Tate era as their former singer is just more talkative and engaging with an audience.

Queensrÿche performing “En Force” live at FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada on April 13, 2022 (video from AVUSPEED Motosport‘s YouTube page):

Eventually, I decided that I wanted to take some close up photos of the Queensrÿche band members so I walked along one of the aisles separating many rows of seats to get closer to the stage. All of a sudden, the sound was much clearer, and since it’s always more fun to see the artists performing from up close, I just never left my new spot. I ended up on the railing pretty close to a tall gentleman who could have passed for Chris Holmes‘ twin brother. The man was actually Portuguese and had done the same thing that I had by waltzing to the front near the stage from wherever his seat was. I’ll get back to how things ended up for me and the Chris Holmes lookalike but it’s safe to say that Queensrÿche‘s set was much more enjoyable from my new vantage point. While I thought that a song such as “Empire” would get the most pop from the audience, it turned out to be the slightly older material such as “Walk In The Shadows” and the closer “Eyes of A Stranger.”

With Santa Cruz making headlines around the world for all the wrong reasons with their terrible and pathetic use of backing tracks at the Whisky A Go-Go earlier last month, I couldn’t help but notice that La Torre seemed to be using them as well to some extent. Sometimes, you could see La Torre sing or hold a note for a while before stopping but the note kept going. I’ve seen this many times including with Sebastian Bach in 2014 during that infamous show in Toronto where he stopped the concert to berate a fan that had apparently pushed the singer’s mother who was unwisely standing in the general admission area. Not only was La Torre seemingly taking advantage of this technology but Rob Halford definitely did so as well when it was Judas Priest‘s turn to play. It made me wonder just how “live” all these bands really are at this time. At least, La Torre and Halford were way more professional about it than Santa Cruz were who could definitely learn a thing or two from these veteran acts on how to use backing tracks without getting completely crucified in the media (Note: Since I have posted this review, some people have mentioned that the technology used by La Torre and Halford is not backing vocal tracks but rather a “delay effect” where the sound person applies the effect manually live).

Queensrÿche‘s setlist was essentially a blast from the past as the most recent track dated back 32 years with the title track to what I consider to be their best album — Empire (1990). The band’s set consisted of one track from the Queensrÿche EP (1983), four from The Warning (1984), three from Rage For Order (1986), three from Operation: Mindcrime (1988) and one from Empire (1990). To my surprise, there were no songs played from the last three Queensrÿche albums that have been released in the last decade with La Torre on lead vocals. Although I am infinitely more familiar with the band’s material from its early days and commercial peak (Empire), it seemed like a lost opportunity for Queensrÿche not to play at least one song from their last three albums and not get completely perceived as a “nostalgia” act on this night. I would have liked to hear La Torre mention that the band is still recording new material, and at least play one newer song to showcase what the group has been coming up with in the last decade.

Overall, I was disappointed with Queensrÿche‘s kind of lifeless performance. It made me wonder whether I would purchase a ticket to just see them play if they ever made their way to town again as a headlining act. Perhaps this is more my own lack of enthusiasm at attending live shows these days (Covid has really put a damper on this once so fun activity) or my own decision to be more selective about what live shows that I will attend in the future. In any case, I just didn’t find Queensrÿche‘s live performance to be that compelling. I note that I was disappointed as well with Queensrÿche‘s live performance as the headliner at the M3 Rock Festival back in 2018 for largely the same reasons as this time around.

Queensrÿche’s setlist (as per setlist.fm):
01. Queen of The Reich
02. Warning
03. En Force
04. NM 156
05. Empire
06. Walk In The Shadows
07. The Whisper
08. Operation: Mindcrime
09. The Needle Lies
10. Take Hold of The Flame
11. Screaming In Digital
12. Eyes of A Stranger

Judas Priest

With the sound clearly way better from the front row as compared to where my seat was located in the general admission area, I elected to stay near the front for Judas Priest‘s set and hope not to get ushered away by a security guard at one point. With many of the concert attendees seemingly going off to get something to eat or drink, or go to the washroom after Queensrÿche‘s set, I just stayed at my spot on the railing. Unfortunately, some of the front row paying customers eventually came back and one man in particular asked a number of us including the Chris Holmes lookalike whether he had bought a ticket to one of the two front rows and if not, if he would relinquish his spot on the railing. The tall Chris Holmes lookalike then explained that he was from another country (if I recall correctly) and that his first language was Portuguese (I would have guessed French) before leaving his spot. I later noticed that he had made his way near the centre of the stage and found a new railing spot. Eventually, I relinquished my spot on the railing to the front row paying customers and just stood near one of the front row seats. I must have looked like I “belonged” as none of the security guards asked me to move from my spot while they were ushering other people away.

Priest‘s concert started off with the descent of a large lighted cross before the band members launched into the underrated and little played (until this tour) “One Shot At Glory” from 199o’s Painkiller. This was one of the four tracks played from Painkiller so it was a real treat to hear so many songs from that very strong album. Next up was the lone song released in the last 30 years with “Lightning Strike” from 2018’s Firepower. While it would have been nice to hear a few more from that album, I get that the band was not touring behind Firepower at this point and is celebrating its 50 years of Heavy Metal. What really struck me early on was that guitarist Andy Sneap, who had previously adopted a more Ian Hill like “stay at one spot” position during the Firepower Tour, was now Richie Faulkner‘s equal on the other side of the stage. It was no longer Faulkner at the front of the stage dominating with his presence while Rob Halford walked from one side of the stage to another. Now, both Faulkner and Sneap were each manning and “dominating” their respective sides of the stage. It was definitely nice to see and really almost didn’t happen since Judas Priest inexplicably elected at one point to go with one guitarist on tour. That was certainly a ridiculous idea and it’s nice to see that someone in the Priest camp realized that this was just a big mistake and rectified the situation before it came time for actual execution.

Judas Priest performing “One Shot At Glory” live at FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada on April 13, 2022 (video from AVUSPEED Motosport‘s YouTube page):

Seeing a band like Judas Priest at this stage of their career is obviously very different than when I first saw them perform live in support of their 1986 album Turbo. Lead vocalist Rob Halford is now 70 years old and bassist Ian Hill is 71. Guitarist Glenn Tipton, who is 74 years old, can’t even tour with the band anymore due to his ongoing struggles with Parkinson’s Disease, which I consider to be an older age type disease. Clearly, none of these guys will have the same energy levels that they had in their 20s, 30s, 40s or even 50s. That being said, Halford moved around a lot more at 70 years of age than he did in his early 60s when he seemed to be holding himself up with a cane while singing hunched back and standing in one spot for long stretches of time. My father passed away at the age of 56 and I don’t think that he would have had (sadly) the energy in his 50s to even last 15 minutes doing what Halford and Hill are doing on stage in their 70s. Accordingly, I really appreciate these heavy metal legends still out there touring and giving all that they’ve got at their advanced ages in life.

I have to say that it felt really odd to hear “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” as the third song played in Priest‘s set. To me, that song should always be played near or at the end of a Priest live set as I view it as the ultimate closing song for the band. I can still picture seeing Halford getting the crowd to sing along after him at the start of that song on the Fuel For Life Tour, and I thought that was simply the coolest thing ever. Halford still did the sing after me type ritual this time around but it was just seemingly in the middle of the set between two songs and it just didn’t have the same impact as when I first saw him to do it back in ’86. Nevertheless, it is cool that Halford has kept that tradition going. “Freewheel Burning” was next and there is no need to say that just about anything from the album Defenders of The Faith would be a treat for me to hear. Next up was “Turbo Lover” and while it certainly had people singing along, I’ve never understood why Judas Priest continue to play that song live from one tour to another. There are certainly way better songs off Turbo and to me, “Turbo Lover” is simply not a classic Priest track.

Knowing that I could instantly recognize just about any song that Judas Priest would play, I didn’t bother checking out their setlist in advance of their concert in Hamilton. I was pleased to hear a couple more tracks from Painkiller — “Hell Patrol” and “A Touch of Evil” — sandwiching the absolute classic “The Sentinel” from Defenders of The Faith. Although I respect Priest for throwing in some deep cuts into their live set, playing the title track from their 1974 debut album Rocka Rolla was simply too deep. The song just hasn’t aged well and sounded pedestrian like compared to the rest of the classic Priest songs that were played on this night. The next three songs played were probably the highlight of the concert for me. If I had to pick only one song from Judas Priest’s arsenal, “Victim of Changes” would likely be my choice. “Desert Plains” from 1981’s Point of Entry has such great melodies. I don’t know why it never became a hit for Priest but it’s nice that the band acknowledges how good it is by still playing it live to this day. “Blood Red Skies” is such a powerful song and I love that Priest include it from time to time in their live set. If anything, it made me want to play the underrated album Ram It Down (1988) once again.

Judas Priest performing “The Sentinel” live at FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada on April 13, 2022 (video from AVUSPEED Motosport‘s YouTube page):

It’s still hard for me to believe that “The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown)” and “Diamonds And Rust” are actually cover songs because Priest have really made those songs their own. However, I could have lived without seeing the band play those two tracks live but it is what it is. Although drummer Scott Travis only played drums on one “classic” Priest album (1990’s Painkiller), I consider him to be the best drummer that Priest ever had and the title track to that album is the perfect showcase for him to show off his drum chops. I had to chuckle when Travis addressed the crowd before launching into the song and called Hamilton something along the likes of the “heavy metal capital” of Canada. Ummm, no. Give that title to Montreal or Quebec City if you will but Hamilton definitely does not fit the bill. I’ve seen great lesser known bands such as Last Bullet and The Last Vegas play to a handful of people in Hamilton. Clearly, Hamilton is not the “heavy metal capital” of Canada. I realize that Travis likely says to every Canadian city that he plays to that they are the “heavy metal capital” of Canada but the upper empty seats in the FirstOntario Centre told me otherwise.

Before long, it was time for the encores. I was hoping that Glenn Tipton might make an appearance on the last show of the tour’s North American leg but it wasn’t to be. I was surprised not to hear “Metal Gods” as one of the encores as I don’t think that I have been to a Priest concert before when that they haven’t played that song. The customary Priest classics that you would expect to hear during the encores (aside from “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'”) were played and the band closed the concert with the sing along classic “Living After Midnight” which featured a large blow up bull (that was more than a bit odd). As the band members took their final bow, I was lucky enough to get two guitar picks — one from Sneap and then one from Hill — as both flicked picks in the air that landed on the ground just in front of me. Good times! Funny enough, as I had been putting the finishing touches for this review, I had been listening to YouTube videos showing Priest playing live on this tour and I noticed that the Chris Holmes lookalike that I previously mentioned was also in the front row for the Quebec City tour stop. I can understand why as Judas Priest simply put on a fantastic show. I was pleased to see the words “Priest will be back” on the big screen behind the stage at the end of the show and I can confirm that I will be back as well to see the band play live the next time they come to the greater Toronto area.

Judas Priest’s setlist (as per setlist.fm):
01. One Shot At Glory
02. Lightning Strike
03. You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’
04. Freewheel Burning
05. Turbo Lover
06. Hell Patrol
07. The Sentinel
08. A Touch of Evil
09. Rocka Rolla
10. Victim of Changes
11. Desert Plains
12. Blood Red Skies
13. The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown)
14. Diamonds And Rust
15. Painkiller
16. Electric Eye
17. Hell Bent For Leather
18. Breaking The Law
19. Living After Midnight

Judas Priest performing “Diamonds And Rust” live at FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada on April 13, 2022 (video from AVUSPEED Motosport‘s YouTube page):