July 13, 2015
Washington, DC USA
Review by Justin Press
Photos by Andy Laudano
English Metal Icons Still Delivering The Goods 40 Years Later
Much like the iron horse that vocalist Rob Halford rides upon stage during the intro to "Hell Bent For Leather," Judas Priest is a full impact voluminous beast that has been deafening lesser souls for 40+ years. Part of the Birmingham UK tri-fecta of hard rock glory that includes Black Sabbath and half of Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest have remained true to their path, one that blazes the rails between stylized hard rock and metal's bravado and chains.
Armed with blues influenced riffs that are churned thru a sawmill on such a late 70's gem like "Victim Of Changes" or welded to the foundations 80's bombast found on "Metal Gods," Priest has never strayed too far from the template. Albeit there have been rare forays into over-glossed endeavors like the Turbo album or the single "Johnny B. Goode," but those have been quickly steered back unto the roads that led the band to its status as one of the last true greats.
Still cycling the 2014 release Redeemer Of Souls, Priest show no signs of slowing down or turning it down. Opening with the pulverizing "Dragonaut" off of Redeemer, you'd swear it was the Point Of Entry tour; it sounds fresh, relevant and titanic. The reason for this revelation is due in large part to the addition of guitarist Richie Faulkner who replaced original six-stronger K.K. Downing a few years back. His noticeable resemblance to Downing with long, flowing blonde hair is just the start as his stage moves, audience inclusion and stunning showmanship are that of a seasoned star.
Too add, his playing is one part Randy Rhodes, one part Downing and maybe a touch of Iron Maiden's Dave Murray, altogether awesome. He's the epitome of a rock star without the carnage attached to that moniker. But with Priest, the centerpiece is and will always be Halford, a human fog cutter with his voice that can stand toe to toe with the Devil but also hit the heavens. He's a statesman for metal having devoted his life to the genre thru Priest, Fight and a stint with Black Sabbath, even his Goth-dance project Two had its fist in the air, but its with Judas that he is spine that holds the body upright. He's older, creeps instead of runs but is still so effective because his connection with the audience is undeniable.
Not the lovable goon of Ozzy Osbourne, not the flamboyance of Bruce Dickinson, but more of the boots on the monitor cheerleader. The presence of co-founder and riff creator bar-none Glenn Tipton with his infamous red Hamer and sleek leather pants is always stoic but crushing especially when he and Faulkner play in unison as they rock back and forth replicating their guitars duality. "Halls OF Valhalla" another Redeemer of Souls scorcher could easily stand up with their classic material from Defenders of the Faith or British Steel.
Reaching back into the catalog, the morbid pyre of "Beyond The Realms Of Death" blends the doom balladry with heavy-handed follow thru, a noose made from riffs and Halford's skyward screams. "Jawbreaker" a wicked bit of thrash metal melds into the AOR friendly "Breaking The Law," one of the tracks that fully put the band on the map for a global audience. The hummable riffs that have inspired hundreds of power metal bands never fails to incite an immediate response from the hordes. The aforementioned "Hell Bent For Leather" with Halford striding a Harley resonates with those of us who found the band in the late 70's (I remember they opened for Foghat in 1978). As the set closer all hands were on deck as the electronic backdrop and LED screened cabinets displayed the English colours, the Priest are Brummies' to the core of their fabric.
After a brief hiatus and yet another Halford jacket change (dude loves his metal vests) "Electric Eye" poured thru the PA as everyone 46 and older remembers hanging in the parking lot when Defenders Of The Faith hit the shelves. "You've Got Another Coming" continued the maelstrom with its mid-paced thump as well as serving up the appetizer before the main course of "Living After Midnight," a denim and leather take on KISS's ability to "rock and roll all nite..." Its monumental chorus and swerving guitar melodies made it the only way to end an evening of England's finest. 2500 souls found out though it was only 10pm by concert's end, the morning hour was on the horizon and for a great deal of the gathered this was a welcome thought, to be home by the end of the nightly news.
With Faulkner and the energy he brings as well as a well received last album the band has another (5) years + given to its existence and with the 2014/2015 festival promoters embracing the band, new devotees are coming in droves. Forty years into their career and Judas Priest are still "screaming for vengeance!"