After deliberation of whether to attend this event and realizing that some of the band members are now 70 plus years old, and that some have also been recently hospitalized for various reasons, I wondered if this tour/show might turn out to be a little less than what I had experienced at previous Priest shows. But tonight, at Irvings Toyota Music Factory, the Priest was definitely back.
Rob Halford and the boys were in fine fashion as the band sounded as sharp as ever. Rob looked refreshed, seemingly moving around the stage a lot more than the last tour, hitting the high notes and the low growls, sporting a variety of wardrobe, and a freshly groomed beard to boot. Guitarists Richie Faulkner and Andy Sneap were blazing on the leads/solos, both trading off on the riffs of old school Tipton/Downing melodies. Original member Ian Hills reliable bass lines and Scott Travis thunderous rhythms contributed to the superior wall of sound to all that were in the front section and beyond. The elaborate stage setup was that of a metal works factory, with smoking barrels, electric wires, metal stairs and hazard signs. The Toyota Music Factorys setup, the light and sound systems that are part of this stage are arguably the best in the metroplex. The visual backdrops behind the drummer and on both sides of the stage provide for a great view of the onstage performance, even if you had lawn seats. But to be up close, surrounded by the lights, sound, smoke and visuals was purely immersive and intense.
The tour was billed as "50 Heavy Metal Years" and the set basically covered the bands plight through their storied musical career. After researching the setlist, I realized that it consisted of at least one track from almost every album of the bands existence. "Rocka Rolla" from their debut album was a pleasant surprise as Faulkner added some wild solos to make it sound even heavier and progressive than it was in the year of its release. Other highlights for me were the deeper cuts, "Diamonds and Rust", "Desert Plains", and "The Sentinel", which also highlight the virtuosity of eleven-year Priest veteran Faulkner and Sneap. Guitarist/producer Andy Sneap sounded much better this time. Perhaps hes more comfortable performing under the lights now and quite possibly hes just more experienced after touring and hanging with Tipton and the guys over the years.
The night wouldnt be complete without the hits. And the encore included these hits. The five-song extra set included "Electric Eye", "Hell Bent for Leather" and then Rob Halford introduced "The One and Only, Mr. Glenn Tipton" to the stage. The oldest member of the band was met with a standing ovation for several minutes before the band performed "Metal Gods", "Breaking the Law" and "Living After Midnight", with Mr. Tipton performing the solos. This capped off a night of spectacular "heavy metal" music. Due to unforeseen circumstances in this world, its been a few years since Ive been to a show of this magnitude and its great to be back. And yes, the Priest will be back!