PHEW! THE PRIEST WILL BE BACK!
Date: March 28, 2018
Venue: Tribute Communities Centre
Location: Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
There are many bands for which I have absolutely no hesitation in going to see play live and one of those is the mighty Judas Priest. Given that Judas Priest‘s Fuel For Life Tour stop in Canada’s nation capital of Ottawa, Ontario in the summer of 1986 was my first ever concert, the heavy metal veterans will always have a place close and dear to my heart. A lot has changed in the almost 32 years that have passed. Three of the five Judas Priest band members are no longer part of the “touring” band with 70 year old guitarist Glenn Tipton recently bowing out just before the group’s latest Firepower Tour due to complications with Parkinson’s Disease, guitarist K.K. Downing having retired more than seven years ago and drummer Dave Holland recently passing away after serving about eight years in jail for attempted rape and several indecent assaults against a 17-year-old male with learning disabilities. I would have never guessed back in 1986 that all these developments would have taken place, that Judas Priest would still be going and headlining arenas 32 years later, and that I would be running and writing for a website that caters to ’80s sounding hard rock and heavy metal bands.
Having thought that I had secured a photo pass for Judas Priest‘s Oshawa, Ontario, Canada tour stop, I did not bother looking into buying any tickets and that may have sealed the deal for my friend Chris not to bother going to see them. The day of the show, I got the bad news that the promoter declined to grant media credentials to Sleaze Roxx. Ugh. Would there be any tickets left? As it turns out, there were still some prime tickets available but as I scoured through the seating sections on the website selling tickets, I realized why. Seats in the first five rows or so in the floor area of the OHL hockey team Oshawa Generals‘ home arena were priced at $154 or something like that while the rows right behind them were going for about $87. Any other seats in the higher sections seemed to be going for $67.
Unfortunately, there were apparently no seats left in the $87 price range but a few prime seats in the pricey row three. Given that it was Judas Priest, since I didn’t know if this would be the last time I saw them play live with singer Rob Halford and bassist Ian Hill getting up there in age, and considering that they had brought some quality opening acts in Saxon and Black Star Riders, I took the plunge and paid for a $154 Can ticket. With various surcharges, that came up to $175 Can, which I knew in my mind would likely score Judas Priest‘s entire discography if I found some sales here and there. In any case, you can’t put a price on memories…
Black Star Riders:
If anyone knows Toronto traffic, you’ll know that it is absolutely horrible and very time consuming to leave the downtown core during rush hour. Although Oshawa is probably only 45 minutes from my place under normal traffic conditions, it took me about 1.5 hours to get there. The extra time spent in traffic along with my leaving work a little later than anticipated (now that I didn’t have to meet anyone at the venue to get a photo pass) and having trouble securing a parking spot meant that I clearly arrived too late for the beginning of Black Star Riders‘ set. By the time I got my ticket from the will call office and made my way to my seat on the floor, Black Star Riders were unfortunately launching into their last song. I have to admit being a little disappointed about this as I really enjoyed Black Star Riders‘ set when they opened for Europe back in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan, USA back in early 2015.
The group felt like a cast of all stars with long-time Thin Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham, guitarist Damon Johnson (Brother Cane, Alice Cooper), bassist Robbie Crane (both versions of Ratt, Vince Neil, Lynch Mob) and singer/guitarist Ricky Warwick. The drummer didn’t seem like the one that I had seen play live with Black Star Riders in early 2015. I couldn’t quite make out who he was (I now know it’s Chad Szeliga) and I had forgotten that drummer Jimmy DeGrasso had left Black Star Riders to focus on the Stephen Pearcy led version of Ratt. Given that I had gotten to my seat in record time once inside the venue, I didn’t even notice that there were quite a few familiar faces near me including Sleaze Roxx writer Tyson Briden who was just a little more than an arm length away from me. Tyson had apparently “moved up” from his paid seat to get a better view of Black Star Riders and most likely Damon Johnson who he is a big fan of (check out Tyson‘s review of Johnson‘s live album Birmingham Tonight). Anyways, Black Star Riders‘ set was over within a few minutes of getting to my seat…
I knew that I might be a little late (or a lot late) for Black Star Riders‘ set but there was no way that I would be missing Saxon. The reason is simply because I had never seen Saxon play live. I first discovered Saxon by their very dated video in the early ’80s for their “Denim And Leather” single. While the song sounded a bit cheesy and slowed down more than it should have been, there was no denying that it was a catchy song, which was easy to sing along to. Aside from the song “Denim And Leather”, I really never got into Saxon until 2006 or so when I found a website where I was able to download songs for a really cheap price (I apologize at this time to the artists for not properly supporting them during that time period). I ended up downloading a bunch of albums that I had never really heard such as Saxon‘s Denim And Leather and Greatest Hits Live. Ever since then, those two records have been in regular rotation on my iPod, which I still have to this day. I am embarrassed to say that I don’t actually own any Saxon albums but I’ll rectify that in short order in the near future because as I would find out, the band really rocks live and there is a lot of music for me to discover from the veteran heavy metal group.
The first thing that I noticed with Saxon was how tall and imposing that their frontman Biff Byford is. Dressed in an old school army like coat and with his long flowing blond hair, the man was as imposing as any frontman that I have ever seen. And wow, Byford can still sing really well. The second thing that I noticed was how involved bassist Nibbs Carter was onstage. Whether he was pumping his fist at the audience, posing or standing on top of what appeared to be some monitors, Carter demanded attention from the crowd. Guitarists Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt were more subdued but delivered some solid guitar licks throughout the show. Drummer Nigel Glockler was kind of hard to see at times from my vantage point. Saxon delivered a good mix of their classics along with new songs from their latest studio album Thunderbolt. Their new songs such as “They Played Rock And Roll” fit quite nicely with the rest of their repertoire on this night. I loved when Byford would seemingly get down to one knee and headbang away. My favorite songs from Saxon on this night were of course “Denim And Leather,” “They Played Rock And Roll” and “Princess Of The Night.”
Byford noted towards the end of Saxon‘s set that they were trying to squeeze in as many songs as they could, which they did considering they played a whopping 12 songs if you count the intro song “Olympus Rising.” I know that some people in the audience were disappointed that Saxon did not play any songs from their arsenal covering the period from 1984 to 2015 but I didn’t care. Saxon ended up playing two songs from Wheels Of Steel (1980), one from Strong Arm Of The Law (1980), three from Denim And Leather (1981), one from Power & The Glory (1983) and five from Thunderbolt (2018). Overall, Saxon put on a solid performance and more than proved why they were a great choice as one of the opening acts for Judas Priest‘s Firepower Tour.
Saxon’s setlist (as per setlist.fm):
01. Olympus Rising
03. Power And The Glory
04. The Secret Of Flight
05. Motorcycle Man
06. Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz)
07. Dallas 1 PM
08. They Played Rock And Roll
09. Denim And Leather
10. Princess Of the Night
11. Wheels Of Steel
12. Never Surrender
Saxon playing “Power And The Glory” live in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada on March 28, 2018:
Since moving to Toronto almost twenty years ago, I have never missed seeing Judas Priest play live if they come to the greater Toronto area. There are many reasons including that they are one of my favourite bands, they are the epitome to me of what is a heavy metal band and they always put on a great show with a varied setlist each time. This time was no exception with Judas Priest digging out some older classics such as “Sinner,” “Grinder” and “The Ripper” early on while playing a decent amount of songs from their latest studio album Firepower before ending things off on the songs that they are best known for.
My seat on the arena floor ended up being right in line where guitarist Richie Faulkner was standing. Faulkner is really a brilliant guitarist. He made playing the guitar look so easy and effortless. He was always looking into the crowd, making eye contact with audience members and singing the words of the song while playing guitar. He also threw what must have amounted to 100 guitar picks throughout the show. I was glad to pick one up from the floor early on because towards the end of the show, it seemed like it was a mad frenzy among concert goers to get one of Faulkner‘s guitar picks. Grown men were on their knees with their cell phones hunting feverishly for that elusive guitar pick to likely add to their collection. It was funny to see how a concert can seemingly make a little kid out of a grown man.
Judas Priest kicked things off with the title track from their new album Firepower, which I think is easily their best since 1990’s Painkiller album. Firepower is definitely a return to form for the heavy metal pioneers. Next up were a series of oldies but goodies with the three aforementioned tracks as well as “Running Wild.” Halford seemed to be moving a lot more than when I saw Judas Priest play on their tour supporting Epitaph where he was crouched for most of the set while singing and barely moving. From what I recall, I believe that he had some back pain or something was bothering him at that time. I loved seeing Halford so into the new Judas Priest songs like “Lightning Strike.” When he wasn’t singing during that song, he was moving his arms along to the music seemingly knowing every note that was going to be played. Then again, “Lightning Strike” is definitely one of the best songs off Firepower so it should have been no surprise that Halford was so into it. Bassist Ian Hill was his usual self with his feet seemingly glued to his spot of the stage. The “new” guy Andy Sneap seemed really into the songs but was positioned on the other side of the stage so I really didn’t notice him that much. No disrespect to guitarist Glenn Tipton but Sneap seemed to move around on stage a lot more than Tipton usually does. Yes, I am aware that there’s probably a 30 year difference between the two of them.
The one track that I was not familiar with was “Saints In Hell” from Stained Class (1978). I have never really got into those older Judas Priest albums preferring to simply listen to 1979’s Unleashed In The East onwards when it comes to Priest‘s discography. I was aware of Judas Priest‘s opening night setlist and noted one change with “Angel” from the Angel Of Retribution (2005) album getting replaced for the group’s rousing rendition of the “Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Clown).” I am not sure why that change was made but if I had to guess, it would be because “Angel” didn’t register that well early on in the tour. Judas Priest ended up only playing three songs from their new album Firepower, which was a bit disappointing as I had really gotten into the album during the last two weeks. “Evil Never Dies” was the last new track played. From then on, it was just one well known song after another with the usual staples including “Breaking The Law,” “Hell Bent For Leather” (which had Halford riding a Harley onto the stage), “Painkiller” (which had drummer Scott Travis addressing the crowd beforehand), “Electric Eye” and “Metal Gods.”
There were no encores as the group just kept playing and playing. The night ended with the hit single “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” which had a bit of a different intro than what I would have expected but still had the usual follow the Halford screams at the beginning. The night ended with a solid rendition of “Living After Midnight” which seemingly had everyone singing along. As to be expected, Judas Priest ignored all of their albums since Painkiller with the exception of their new studio album Firepower as the group ended up playing one song from Sad Wings Of Destiny (1976), one from Sin After Sin (1977), one from Stained Class (1978), two from Killing Machine (1979), four from British Steel (1980), four from Screaming For Vengeance (1982), one from Defenders Of The Faith (1984), one from Turbo (1986), one from Painkiller (1990) and three from their new album Firepower (2018).
I’ve got to say that I was very pleased when I saw the words “the Priest will be back” or something like that as the band members left the stage. It certainly appears that Judas Priest have no intention of retiring and will continue playing as long as I suspect that Halford is able to keep going. Overall, I thought that I got my money’s worth and left on a high with some great memories from another outstanding Judas Priest concert.
Judas Priest playing “Bloodstone” live in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada on March 28, 2018:
Judas Priest’ setlist:
02. Running Wild
05. The Ripper
06. Lightning Strike
08. Saints In Hell
09. Turbo Lover
10. The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Clown) (Fleetwood Mac cover)
11. Evil Never Dies
12. Some Heads Are Gonna Roll
13. Breaking The Law
14. Hell Bent For Leather
17. Electric Eye
18. Metal Gods
19. You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’
20. Living After Midnight
Judas Priest playing “Painkiller” live in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada on March 28, 2018: