If you felt some seismic activity on Monday night, it was just me and a few thousand of my closest friends yelling, screaming, and dancing at the JUDAS PRIEST concert at Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie. We were loud and proud of it and it complemented PRIEST’S hard rocking all night long. I saw them on the first leg of their Redeemer of Souls Tour last November, so I knew what to expect and they still blew me away. Having the setlist in my hand took away the surprise of what song was coming up, but it built up the anticipation. As good as they sounded last year, they sounded even better last Monday. The entire band was in great form for every song, never giving me a chance to catch my breath before they launched into the next hit.
From the moment Rob Halford came strutting out in his black leather-on-leather after the “War Pigs” intro, to the last of their four-song encore, he captivated the fans with his voice and mannerisms and held us captive all night. He still has the chops and can hit every note, a few of which prompted my neighbor to say, “My God, how did he keep from rupturing his spleen on that one?”
Even with the great vocals, he allowed the rest of the band to shine as he disappeared behind a curtain when Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner kicked out their guitar solos. Glenn still looks great and sounds even better and the dual guitars he shared with Richie, who has replaced KK Downing and has fit in perfectly, were as tight as anything they’ve done over the years. Richie has added a shot of youthful energy into the band; not that they needed it, but it’s additional icing on the cake. When I saw them last year, Richie was a member of the band, but he is now fully entrenched as a veteran of the group, and it shows in their music and their stage presence. Ian Hill, while not flashy, was his usual steady self on bass and Scott Travis, an underrated drummer was the backbone. He blended in when needed, he led when needed and he shined when given the opportunity.
The chaos started when the huge JUDAS PRIEST curtain dropped to begin the show. The band was already onstage and launched into “Dragonaut” (from latest album Redeemer of Souls) as Mr. Halford came from behind said curtain, styled in black leather and sporting a black cane to complete his Country Gentleman Biker look. The crowd erupted and never quit pouring on the adulation as JP went back to 1980’s “Metal Gods,” followed by “Devil’s Child” with its hard-charging guitar solo that had the rockers rocking and the head bangers banging. They went way back to “Victim of Changes” then new tune “Halls of Valhalla,” followed by the very tight “Turbo Lover” after he changed into his silver jacket.
Rob Halford then took a break from playing to the crowd and profusely thanked the fans for coming out both this night and the past 40 years. He was sincere as he spoke of being lucky when so many others weren’t and was appreciative of the success he and the band has enjoyed.
He spoke of the new album, from which they played three songs, as they also did with British Steel and Screaming for Vengeance, then sprung into the title track “Redeemer of Souls.” That was followed by a DEEP PURPLE/URIAH HEEP-inspired “Beyond the Realms of Death,” with its mystical, haunting melody and guitar solos so reminiscent of the late 70’s, along with a sparkly robe of the same time period. The crowd kept cheering as they played “Jawbreaker,” where he hit notes you just don’t expect to be in his range.
If the crowd wasn’t already putty in their hands, they soon were when they played the very first note of “Breaking the Law,” with us singing every refrain and really becoming enthralled with their staple dual-guitar solos. That gave Mr. Halford time to slip behind the curtain again as the crowd went absolutely wild when the Harley Davidson revved up and rolled onstage. He sat on his bike, riding crop in hand, and blared out “Hell Bent for Leather” as names of metal bands rolled by on the video screen. They thanked us for coming and left, but came back in seconds for the encore.
They did a repeat-after-me “Yeah, yeah, yeah” sing-along after “The Hellion/Electric Eye,” then the crowd hit another crescendo when he announced, “By the way, ‘You’ve Got another Thing Comin’.” That included another great guitar solo and the video screen showed Richie playing it with a thermal imaging scan for several minutes. They wrapped things up with “Painkiller” followed by every person, including a few security guards, singing “Living after Midnight” to end the 15-song, almost two-hour concert.
I heard lots of great comments and compliments from the electric, and eclectic, fans. For a Monday night, Verizon Theatre was packed as there’s not a bad seat in the arena. The lights, smoke and video packages only added to the show, with no distraction whatsoever. Another great thing about a JUDAS PRIEST concert is that everyone comes to see them. There weren’t any casual music fans reading their emails or checking Facebook, other than to post a few pictures. The crowd was very diverse, though, from guys wearing pullover Polo shirts to hippies to bikers to women wearing jeans, skirts and a few individual styles that don’t have names yet. Young kids were banging their heads and older guys were dancing, albeit badly, and everyone knew the words and sang loudly. I’m sure there were others like me with a hoarse throat on Tuesday morning, but it was definitely worth it.
LIVE WORDS: DAVID SIMERS
LIVE PHOTOS: GUZPIX