Outside the Civic Hall, lines to see heavy metal legends Judas Priest were so long that many had missed out on opening act of the night Rival Sons. Though these people were in time to catch a half-hearted set from Queensrÿche, the more memorable of the two bands before the headliners were Rival Sons, whose dose of blues rock and hard, heavy funk were more than enough to bring on a wave of fond nostalgia for the sounds of the late seventies when Judas Priest were starting out in the West Midlands.
This night was part of the UK leg of the headliner’s reputed Epitaph Tour, and as such it was a powerful evening that brought the band and their fans together for a setlist that spanned across the group’s early days to the more recent offering of their one-off concept album “Nostradamus”. As promised months before, the stage became a spectacle for live music and visual effects through a mix of pyrotechnics, laser lights and a video screen behind drummer Scott Travis to show the album covers throughout the band’s era and history as Rob Halford introduced each song and its backstory to the crowd.
As important good showmanship is for the leader of any band onstage, it stands that such skills require a just as strong performance in which the audience can both immerse and engage themselves in to connect with the musicians in front of them. Thus it was both an immense privilege and moving sight for the onlookers who filled the balconies and the ground floor of the Civic Hall that evening, when Halford, Travis, Glenn Tipton and bassist Ian Hill threw all of their energy and heart into their music for everyone, with new guitarist Richie Faulkner in tow.
While the lead singer did take time to change coats for each song, including an English football flag towards the end, this was a mere hint of his personal dedication to his craft and moments with Judas Priest. Though he was exhausted at the start of the show, it took Halford one look at the crowd’s enthusiasm as well as the passionate vibes from his bandmates for him to gather muster and sing his most powerful notes for all to hear. “Judas Rising”, “Never Satisfied” and “Beyond the Realms of Death” were but a few of the many pieces given new dimensions from the live vocals, as their high notes rose long enough to merit both fan glee and artistic appreciation for Rob Halford’s style of singing.
Interaction between band and audience grew even to the extent that Judas Priest invited the crowd to not only sing along to the chorus of their hit tracks, but also to perform the entire verses of well-known number “Breaking the Law”. The adoration and admiration of heavy music was so great that the band stated that although they wanted to keep performing live for the next few years, they couldn’t as they now held a nearly forty year long legacy. Since the tone was that of a send off from world tours, it was just as fitting that Halford later went backstage to drive up on the iconic Harley Davidson motorcycle to satisfy the fans’ wishes.
While it was an immense night that was dedicated to the spectacle and musical might of Judas Priest, it is disheartening to know that this was part of the band’s final world tour before their eventual – and inevitable – retirement that is soon to come. Yet for many who were present, it will remain a memorable night for them to look back on, perhaps when metal music has developed even further than it previously has since Judas Priest and others first decided to play together.
Photos taken by Yolanda Miguez, 2011
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