JAM Magazine Concert Reviews

October 16, 2011
Allen Event Center
Allen, TX USA
Review by Scott Dworkin
Photos by Scott Dworkin

Judas Priest - Judas Priest, Black Label Society, Thin Lizzy - Allen, TX

Judas Priest's "Epitaph World Tour"

If you actually look up the term 'Heavy Metal' in Webster's Dictionary, the definition states "energetic and highly amplified electronic rock music having a hard beat; term first coined 1973." Four decades later, the term has been redefined and slimmed down to two words - Judas Priest.

Last year, the pioneers of heavy metal decided to call it quits after a 40-year run of recorded albums and world tours. Rob Halford and company were originally going to release a final Judas Priest disc to coincide with the farewell tour. Those plans were scrapped after K.K. Downing announced he was leaving the group and would not join his mates on their final global goodbye trek.

Tonight, Priest showed no signs of being the aged godfathers of the metal genre. The level of intensity Rob Halford and the band brought to the San Manuel Amphitheater in San Bernardino, CA can be described as nothing short of bludgeoning. Despite billing this tour as their farewell Epitaph tour, it would come as a shock to no one if this pioneering band of "Metal Gods" has any intention of going quietly into retirement. They are just having too much fun.

The band played for just over two hours mixing their set with songs from all 16 Halford fronted albums - from 1974's Rocka Rolla to their most recent 2008 release, Nostradamus. Halford, ever the metal show man, made several costume changes throughout the show. Aside from wearing his infamous leather and metal spikes (now synonymous with heavy metal music), Rob even sported attire that mirrored the songs Priest played during its two-hour set. For instance, during the song "Nostradamus", Halford sported a silver robe complete with flame throwing staff. Guitarist Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner (seamlessly replacing newly retired K.K. Downing), shared the dueling guitar duties that Priest helped make famous, while bassist Ian Hill and drummer Scott Travis held down the rhythm section.

It's no stretch to call Rob Halford the Godfather of all metal singers. He practically invented the position, and his influence on a generation of singers is undeniable. To still possess a powerhouse voice after all these years of literally screaming high notes of "Painkiller", and the dark low tones of ballads including "Diamonds and Rust", is nothing short of astonishing.

After finishing their main set, the band came out to perform a four-song encore. It included Halford's trademark Harley ride onto the stage for "Hell Bent for Leather." Judas Priest let the audience know that while they may be leaving the grand stage of major world tours, their legacy of incredible music, and live shows will be something that no one will ever deny or forget. But judging from how much fun this band is having right now, it may be premature to say the band is retiring from the stage for good. Only time will tell what their ultimate decision will be on the group's future, but at the very least Priest fans know their heroes are going out with a bang.

By the way, a few words on Black Label Society. As a true BLS fan, or Berserker, as Wylde refers to them, I knew what to expect from this show. It was a hard charging, 11-song vulgar display of power. For the uninitiated (and they were few and far between in this crowd) it was a chance to get fully indoctrinated into the BLS family.

Sonic fueled 'brew'tality is the term Zakk Wylde uses to describe his groups live, and true to form, assault on rock and roll. His shows are nothing short of brutal, and this evening, Zakk and crew didn't let up for a second during their hour long, in-your-face set. The band consists of new drummer Chad Szeliga (Breaking Benjamin), longtime bassist and resident wild man John "JD" DeServio, and Nick "The Evil Twin" Catanese. The quartet tore through a truncated opening set that included new songs from their latest release, Order of the Black, like "Crazy Horse" and "Parade of the Dead". They also performed classics like "Stillborn" and "Fire it Up."

Zakk Wylde is one of the last true hard rock guitar heroes. He jammed through a ten-minute solo that pleased the guitar junkies in the crowd. While Black Label's set was shorter than their typical headlining show, again the aural assault from the stage left the audience pulverized. There was no time for ballads this evening. When you have Judas Priest coming on right behind you, tonight's order of business was to warm the head bangers up. Mission accomplished.