Judas Priest are currently on fire. Just a few years ago, they were said to be on their last legs, but then they went and hired guitarist Richie Faulkner to replace the departed K.K. Downing, and their Epitaph tour turned for an initial eight shows into 119, a brilliant new album (Redeemer Of Souls), and what appears to be becoming another huge tour. Never count out Judas Priest - they are still delivering the goods in a most satisfactory fashion.
Rob Halford has been fronting Judas Priest for a great many decades - how Halford goes, so goes the Priest, and he's in great shape these days. Sprinkling new cuts from the new album throughout the set, he delivers them with much aplomb, and they fit perfectly alongside the classics in the band's set list. Halford is one of those guys who has chosen to take care of his instrument - he might not hit every high note that he could once claim as his own, but he knows exactly what he can hit, and he knows well what notes to sing in their stead. He's as masterful a frontman as has ever trod the stage, and he may just be the greatest lead singer in the history of heavy metal.
With Judas Priest you know exactly what you're getting these days, and their loving fans adore them for it. Last night in San Jose, California they worked the nearly filled to capacity City National Civic into a frenzy that started the minute they hit the stage, and didn't stop until their three encores left us all with ringing ears, and hoarse vocal cords. Four songs from the new album fit in perfectly, and the band was firing on all cylinders.
Guitarist Richie Faulkner has reinvigorated this band in a way that you rarely see - I happened to be at the show with a friend who had threatened to boycott the band for continuing without K.K. Downing, but by the end of the night she was just another convert. He fired off blazing solo after blazing solo, twisted the classic harmonies alongside the ever dependable Glenn Tipton (who is playing as well as ever), and played the role of cheerleader stage left like he was born to be there. Every member of Judas Priest worked from beginning to end, and it's abundantly clear why they are among metal's greatest.
One of the toughest things for a band of such stature and duration as the Priest has to be picking out a set list. I was thrilled to hear them real out 'Turbo Lover' from their 1986 album, Turbo, but someone beside me decried them for including that one for something more obvious (they were missing 'Green Manalishi'), which is understandable enough, but with seventeen albums and forty years under your belt it's a tough task that can never please everyone, but I think the band does good work in balancing the classic cuts with some material that may make it more fun and challenging for the band.
It's fantastically life affirming when a band that's been blasting out metal to the 96 decibel freaks for so many years still manages to put on a blinder of a show, and never let their guard down for a single second. The audience gave as good as it got, and the set was over way too soon. There are some things in life you can depend on, like another great show from Judas Priest. It would appear that they are in great shape, and in light of the fact that Halford has said he's anxious to yet again go back into the studio and make new Judas Priest music, the only thing that may delay this will be the demand for new dates as this tour stretches out into 2015.
Judas Priest put on a great display of what's made them one of the biggest draws in the world of rock for so many years. I can't wrap this up without mentioning Scott Travis and Ian Hill, the relentless engine that is the Judas Priest rhythm section. Their mighty thunder provided the perfect foundation for the thrilling performances of Faulkner, Tipton, and the ever incredible Rob Halford. This was as good a Judas Priest show as I've ever seen, and I've seen a bunch.
2. Metal Gods
3. Devil's Child
4. Victim Of Changes
5. Halls Of Valhalla
6. Love Bites
7. March Of The Damned
8. Turbo Lover
9. Redeemer Of Souls
10. Beyond The Realms Of Death
12. Breaking The Law
13. Hell Bent For Leather
1. You've Got Another Thing Coming
2. Living After Midnight
3. Defenders Of The Faith