Here is a review of last night’s Judas Priest concert by Sam Supey.
Tuesday Night and the Priest is BACK!!!!
The North American Leg of the FIREPOWER Tour got underway Tuesday night in Wilkes-Barre, PA. The triple bill featuring Black Star Riders and Saxon as support acts, made the evening a celebration of hard rock and heavy metal music and a throwback to days gone by, when it was normal to see 3 great bands on an arena tour. Biff Byford summed up the evening during Saxon’s set perfectly when he said “It’s like 19 fucking 82 in here!” We were all feeling it, and Biff hit the nail on the head.
Black Star Riders 8 out of 10
Black Star Riders kicked off the evening with a tight 40 minute set that perfectly summed up who they are for an audience comprised of many people seeing them for the first time. Opening with the double shot of “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose” and “Before the War”, it didn’t take long for the crowd to start digging them once the crew got some opening night sound issues worked out. They stuck to their original material and only dipped into the Thin Lizzy catalog for the classic “Jailbreak.” It is amazing how this band have managed to create original music in the spirit of Thin Lizzy, while remaining true to their own vision. A killer band, who deserve more stage time in North America, hopefully the exposure they gain on this tour will lead to that. I could have listened to them for another hour and enjoyed it.
Saxon 8 out of 10
Saxon came out next and were plagued by some of the same sound problems but like BSR, once they were dialed in, they were fantastic. They were scheduled for a 50 minute set, but got squeezed down to about 40 due to time constraints. That didn’t stop them from doing what they do. The bulk of their set was new material from their excellent new album Thunderbolt and they sprinkled in “Motorcyle Man” and “Denim and Leather” for good measure. If I have one complaint about the night, it’s that this show should be starting at 6PM instead of 7PM to give the first 2 bands a little more stage time.
Judas Priest 9 out of 10
In a somewhat predictable manor, Judas Priest blasted onto the stage with the title track off of their excellent new album, FIREPOWER. The song was a perfect vehicle to send the message that Priest was creating vital new music as they approach 50 years in the business. Other than the warhorse standards late in the set, it would also provide the last predictable moment of the night. For nearly 2 hours, Priest ripped through a set of deep tracks and new material that had the crowd in a frenzy. Four songs early in the set, “Running Wild”, “Grinder”, “Sinner”, and “The Ripper” represented material that hadn’t been played in a decade or more. After a completely unexpected reading of the Screaming For Vengeance album cut, “Bloodstone”, Halford addressed the crowd and mentioned the 40th anniversary of Stained Class and that they were going to play something they have never played before. The song was “Saints In Hell” and it was magnificent. “Turbo Lover” and “Angel” gave Halford a chance to catch his breath and then it was time for the motorcycle and “Hell Bent For Leather.” They ended the main set with “Painkiller” and when the song started, I wondered how Halford could sing this song effectively at 65 years old. All evening long, his voice was absolutely remarkable. He answered the bell, and then some, murdering the lead vocal. It was a highlight of the night and included a subtle and poignant tribute to Glenn Tipton.
From the opening notes it was clear that the band had chosen the correct way to handle Glenn Tipton’s retirement from the road. While it was visually jarring to not see Tipton on stage, Andy Sneap is a perfect foil for Richie Faulkner. He covered Titpon’s parts faithfully and added an enthusiastic stage presence. You could see him getting more comfortable as the show went on. Richie Faulkner has firmly taken his place as the lead guitar player in Judas Priest. Other than Halford, he is the visual focal point on stage and his playing and interaction with the crowd were phenomenal. Scott Travis and Ian Hill do such a great job of anchoring the band, I feel like they get taken for granted sometimes. They were rock solid.
It has been a rough month for Priest with Tipton’s retirement, some verbal sparring in the press with a former guitarist, and some negative fan reaction to the prospects of a Priest tour without Tipton on guitar. It was nice to see them onstage letting the music do the talking and staking their claim to the metal throne. If you are on the fence about seeing this tour, I can tell you to jump off that fence as fast as you can and buy a ticket. It’s Judas Priest, it’s 2018 and they are still delivering the goods.
Written by Sam Supey. Follow him on Twitter: @SamSupey
JUDAS PRIEST‘s setlist was as follows:
Saints In Hell
Evil Never Dies
Some Heads Are Gonna Roll
Breaking The Law
Hell Bent For Leather
The Hellion / Electric Eye
You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’
Living After Midnight
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