Home > Concert Review > Detritus Issue #669.5: Judas Priest/Saxon Concert Review

Detritus Issue #669.5: Judas Priest/Saxon Concert Review

Mini-Issue #669.5
May 29, 2015

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-Here’s my review of last week’s excellent Judas Priest/Saxon show in Chicago. I will have some pictures uploaded to the Yahoo! Groups site soon. (Although, really, in this day and age I’m sure the whole show is on YouTube already…) – Tim

by Tim Wadzinski (tsw512@yahoo.com)

-Judas Priest/Saxon
Rosemont Theater, Rosemont, IL
May 21, 2015

This show is why I brought Detritus back. I had to see and review it — I mean, come ON, Judas Priest *and* Saxon sharing the stage here in the US, in 2015? Saxon’s been pounding away, relentlessly releasing albums and touring for 36+ years, and Priest scared us all with retirement talk a few years back, so you just never know when they may decide to finally, truly, really hang up the leather and studs for good. My point is, these are two inarguably legendary British heavy metal bands, and we need to celebrate and talk about them.

Saxon (50 mins.)
Motorcycle Man / Sacrifice / Power And The Glory / Wheels Of Steel / 20,000 Ft. / Dallas 1 P.M. / This Town Rocks / Princess Of The Night / Crusader / Heavy Metal Thunder

I admit it, I cheated I looked up online Saxon’s previous night’s set list, so I knew what was coming, but I held out hope the boys would possibly mix it up a bit by throwing in a few more newer songs. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I know most longtime US fans seem to prefer the early 1980s troika of WHEELS OF STEEL, STRONG ARM OF THE LAW, and DENIM AND LEATHER, but I really became a fan long about the time of 1990’s SOLID BALL OF ROCK (thanks again, Bill!). I did go back and eventually collect all the older studio albums but the more recent, heavier output is my preference. (If you can call 1990 “recent,” anymore…) But as the set unfolded, strong old chestnut after strong old chestnut, I wasn’t really disappointed.

“Motorcycle Man” saw Biff Byford and the band hit the stage running, and the lone newer song “Sacrifice” (the set’s only tune born after 1984!) fit perfectly and was made extra cool by bassist Nibbs Carter’s demonic backing vocals. Doug Scarratt’s solo in “Power And The Glory” was all kinds of excellent — no prolonged five- or six-song warmup needed for his fingers! While introducing “Wheels Of Steel,” Byford noted that Judas Priest had taken Saxon out on their first European tour back in 1980 — the bands supporting BRITISH STEEL and WHEELS OF STEEL, respectively — and here they were again, paired up 35 years later. Very cool. Byford led the expected audience sing-along part, and also filmed the crowd briefly for their Facebook page, exhorting everyone to do better than the fans in St. Louis. (Gotta stoke those rivalries!)

“20,000 Ft.” stormed back in near-thrash mode, with Carter’s maniacal headbanging — in perfect time with Nigel Glockler’s monster double bass drumming — drawing everyone’s attention. Dude’s an animal! “Dallas 1 P.M.” turned a little more serious, before “This Town Rocks” rollicked things back up again. This song is surprisingly heavy live, and served well by Paul Quinn’s whammy bar-filled solo; Glockler was also given a short spotlight section.

My personal favorite of the night — “Princess Of The Night” — came next. It’s heavy, melodic, and has killer solos from both guitarists. What’s not to love? “Crusader” followed, and if you’ve never seen Saxon live you need to, if only to hear this song and experience what a bona fide ’80s metal anthem is all about. Hail. Byford announced the band will return to the States in September for a headlining run, and finished off the show with the aptly-titled “Heavy Metal Thunder.”

I’m not sure why “Denim And Leather” was not played, as it apparently was the closer at the previous night’s show, but we all took what we could get. This is only the second time I’ve seen the mighty Saxon, and both times were with limited staging / production values. Of course there were some cool lights and a snazzy “Warriors Of The Road” backdrop, but I’d really like to see what the band does with a full headlining set-up. And while 50 minutes seemed short — again, more new songs please! — I do kind of fear for Mr. Carter’s well-being if he has to keep up that crazy energy level for a full 90- or 100-minute show!

Judas Priest (105 mins.)
Battle Cry (intro tape) / Dragonaut / Metal Gods / Devil’s Child / Victim Of Changes / Halls Of Valhalla / Love Bites / March Of The Damned / Turbo Lover / Redeemer Of Souls / Beyond The Realms Of Death / Jawbreaker / Breaking The Law / Hell Bent For Leather // The Hellion (tape) / Electric Eye / You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ // Painkiller / Living After Midnight / Beginning Of The End (outro tape)

You know the crowd’s electric when people go absolutely apesh*t for the between-sets music played over the PA, and wow was this ever the case when Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” blared out. Yowza, did the Rosemont Theater come alive. The tune was cut short, though, as a shortened, taped version of Priest’s excellent new song “Battle Cry” — my top pick from 2014’s REDEEMER OF SOULS — officially began the show. I was bummed the song wasn’t played in full, but my frown was soon turned upside down as the mighty Priest hit the stage.

Ian Hill and Glenn Tipton took their familiar places on stage left, Scott Travis’ drum riser lifted up the middle, new blood Richie Faulkner manned stage right, and Rob Halford stalked around wherever he damn well pleased. The band tore into the ripping, rifftastic new song “Dragonaut” — I absolutely love when bands open with a newie, as long as said newie kicks ass, and we had a winner here. The chugging, menacing “Metal Gods” followed, and Halford totally nailed the big scream in “Devil’s Child.”

The epic, ancient “Victim Of Changes” remains a focal point of Priest’s set. Faulkner peppered his solo with a bunch of fist pumps, Tipton sounded great in his solo, and Halford nailed — nay, spiked — two more awesome screams. Yep, he’s still got it. He was also impressive on REDEEMER track “Halls Of Valhalla,” with all its ins, outs, and left turns into death metal growling. I love this intricate song on record and after seeing it performed live I have a new appreciation for Halford’s abilities, if that’s even possible.

I’d read somewhere Priest would play a few tracks off DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH, which turned 30 last year, and the first of which was “Love Bites.” I loved this song as a teen-ager but I guess I’ve outgrown it… I’d have rather heard “Rock Hard Ride Free,” personally, but as the crowd was going nuts around me I figured I was in the minority. Faulkner was into it again, with his energetic hand claps firing everyone up. “March Of The Damned,” in the same mid-tempo anthem space as “Metal Gods,” came next and once again blended right into the set.

Then… “Turbor Lover.” Man, I dunno. I know the guys brought it back during the “Ripper” Owens era and fans seemed to dig it, so it remains in the set. Yes the live version is way heavier than the studio version. Yes the solo is dang tasty. Yes it got a huge response. Yes I inexplicably found myself singing along. Yes I appreciate them playing a TURBO track, but… dammit… I still view this one as their “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” in some ways. “Reckless” would’ve been cooler. 🙂

Halford’s voice was again in fine form on “Redeemer Of Souls” and “Beyond The Realms Of Death” (cue the big weed cloud from the guy behind me), two songs that showcase the band’s expertise and versatility with pleasant melodic metal, touching balladry, and spine-tingling aggression. I will never tire of hearing “Beyond The Realms Of Death,” another all-time classic centerpiece like “Victim Of Changes.” Tipton shone again here. A second DEFENDERS tune, “Jawbreaker,” came next and was boosted by Halford mentioning the album’s big anniversary.

The main part of the set closed with “Breaking The Law,” which saw the crowd singing the choruses, and Halford letting a few people in the front row sing into his mic, and “Hell Bent For Leather,” which of course featured Halford astride a motorcycle, plus had ripping solos and a tempo boosted up a notch or three. Everyone in the audience completely ate up these two.

After a (thankfully) brief timeout, “The Hellion” was piped in and the band returned with a scorching rendition of “Electric Eye.” Halford then trotted out his “Whoa-whoa-whoa yeah!” call-and-response for the crowd, and I’m happy to report he jazzed up this somewhat tired bit with a little operatic yodeling at the end that was totally cool and funny. The first encore concluded with “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” which was slowed down and heavied up, and surprisingly featured an extended Faulker solo spotlight section. I thought this was a Very cool move for the band to let the fans get a solid, good look at their new young gun. One more sing-along part, a Big Concert Ending with everyone whaling away on their instruments, and then it was time for the waiting game.

Once again, the “head offstage, wait for the crowd to cheer” ritual was kept short. And in another surprising move, the second encore section began with Travis asking if the audience wanted to hear another one. (I was floored that someone besides Halford was talking to the crowd. FLOORED.) Travis conducted a mock vote on what song would be played, but everyone knew “Painkiller” was coming. It’s still a hell of a song to end on, and I’ve heard less-than-stellar versions of this in the past, but let me tell you — on this night, Priest scored a perfect 10. Halford was screaming and growling all over the place, Tipton was energized, and the strobe lights were going crazy. Very, very impressive. The actual closer, “Living After Midnight,” was kind of anticlimactic after all that, even if it started off unexpectedly fun with Halford, Tipton, and Faulkner all singing lead.

As far as theatrics, there was some smoke, and Scott Travis’ drum riser was surrounded by a nifty four-part video screen; images shown on each screen, taken together, composed larger visuals. Before many of the older songs started up, the relevant album cover was projected on the screens. There was also a lot of conceptual imagery displayed — Viking ships and helmets during “Halls Of Valhalla,” atomic bombs and fallout during “Jawbreaker,” animated celestial bodies during “Beyond The Realms Of Death,” zombies during “March Of The Damned,” scenes from “Nosferatu” during “Love Bites,” biker gang logos during “Hell Bent For Leather,” etc. — as well as the Redeemer character and the ELECTRIC EYE DVD artwork, plus standard “metal stuff” like gears, fire, and various pulsating light patterns. The visual of a bus being blown away during “Jawbreaker” did get repetitive, but otherwise the screens were used well.

-This show was important to me for many reasons. Judas Priest is my favorite metal band and I really had to see for myself what’s left in the tank. Let’s face it, nobody’s getting any younger and fewer and fewer “classic bands” are releasing new music and touring behind it. I was hoping Rob Halford & Co. would play a bunch of new stuff, prove they still have their chops, and kick my ass. They did. This was definitely NOT an old band, on its last leg and merely going through the motions. The vitality and sense of purpose was there. Let’s hope the recent talk of another studio album (and, presumably, tour cycle) bears more heavy metal fruit.

Thanks to the fine folks at Chipster PR and Live Nation for setting me up for this show.

Relevant links:

Judas Priest


*** OUT ***

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