It was a rainy, muddy, and all around yucky night when the Mighty JUDAS PRIEST came to BB&T Pavilion on the latest stop of their Firepower Tour. But do you honestly think that was gonna stop me, The Maestro, from rocking out with one of my favorite bands to ever walk the earth?? Fuck, no!! I picked up Jimmy the Beer Man and we were in the parking lot by 7 pm. having a couple of drinks. One interesting thing I observed is that where dudes are normally in the lot selling t-shirts before the show, on this night it was, “Ponchos! Ponchos! Ponchos for $5!!” And people were buying them in droves. We had already gotten ours for $2 at Giant (not that they did any good!), but damn, I can’t knock the hustle.
With an 8 pm. sharp showtime looming, we made our way to the lawn and got there just in time for the intro tape. Next thing you know “Firepower”, title track from the new album was washing over all in attendance. The Metal God Rob Halford was in fine voice, guitarists Richie Faulkner and Andy Sneap were laying it down, and the rhythm section of Ian Hill (bass) and drummer Scott Travis were on fire. Ten seconds in and I already knew this night was gonna rule! Next thing I know we’re on the Wayback Train as the guys gave us a one-two punch of classics in “Delivering the Goods” and “Sinner” from Hell Bent For Leather and Sin After Sin respectively.
Lemme tell ya something, Halford was hitting highs here that he had no business hitting at his age. But guess what? I ain’t complaining, and neither were the maniacs in attendance. Faulkner and Sneap were lighting up the night sky with their riffs and leads as well. Three songs in and I’m ready to explode! “Lightning Strikes” from the new disc was next and it was simply majestic. There is something truly amazing about seeing one of your favorite bands come up with kickass new material over 40 years into their storied career. JUDAS PRIEST is not a band that rests on its laurels, as was evidenced by the excellent new tracks.
Now I’ve been seeing this band since 1988 and I do believe this was the first time I’ve had the pleasure of watching/hearing them do “Desert Plains” live. Once again Halford’s voice was simply stellar and my jaw was on the ground. Oh man, I was seriously in Heavy Metal Heaven. This feeling was amplified even more when “Turbo Lover” started up. This is an all-time classic for both me and Jimmy the Beer Man, so we screamed into the rainy night, “I’m your Turbo Lovvvverrr!” again and again along with the band. We were drenched, but fuck if it mattered. JUDAS PRIEST was putting on a clinic and damn all else, okay?
More new stuff followed with “Rising From Ruins”, easily one of Firepower’s best tracks, Halford and Co. looking and sounding all fired up for this one, before they hit us with another killer new tune with “Never Surrender.” Now, if you don’t love this song, you’re dead inside. This is Kickass Chorus 101. This was also the first time they performed the track on this run, so I was standing in the glow of greatness once again. Quite frankly it could be a setlist mainstay from here on out and I would not only be onboard, but vigorously headbang the entire time.
But wait…all of a sudden here comes the opener from my all-time favorite record from the band (Defenders of the Faith…duh!) in “Freewheel Burning”, you kidding me with this??? Monsoon be damned, I was throwing up my fucking horns and banging the head, as was Jimmy. By the way every time we clapped our hands all you saw was water flying from them. That’s how soaked we were! Now it was time for the boys to tear into “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”, followed by The Metal God riding his familiar motorcycle onstage that led us into “Hell Bent For Leather.” This is always a highlight of any PRIEST show, and tonight was no exception.
Closing out the regular set was Travis baiting the crowd, asking what they wanted to hear next. He knew the answer the whole time…”Painkiller.” He launched into his iconic drum intro and the band joined in earnest as we all shared in what is arguably THE heaviest JUDAS PRIEST song ever written. And it was glorious, rain and all! For the encore we were treated to a triumvirate of classics from British Steel: “Metal Gods”, Metal anthem “Breaking the Law”, and finally “Living After Midnight.”
When it was all over I was spent. I was so happy I braved the elements for this one, and despite being soaked from head to toe this was truly one of, if not THE best times I’ve seen JUDAS PRIEST. Rob Halford put on a vocal clinic, the guitars sliced everything to ribbons, the drums kicked your ass, and the bass was thunderous. Jimmy the Beer Man had the time of his life too, which only made this night even better. I really and truly wish this band had another 40 years in them to bring REAL Heavy Metal to the masses. In the meantime, for as long as they decide to keep touring, I will be there, money in hand. You should be too, because this is one of the greatest live bands you will ever see. Rob Halford is a God among men, and JUDAS PRIEST are Metal Gods…period.
LIVE IMAGES: DAN WILLIAMS PHOTOGRAPHY
LIVE WORDS: THE MAESTRO