As I wrote not too long ago, Judas Priest has returned to the metal world with an amazing new album, Firepower. Firepower, is the band’s highest charting record ever in the US and it’s no surprise why as its one their strongest in their entire catalog. The band recently launched a tour of North America with Saxon (who I’ll be writing about later this week) and Black Star Riders. If you haven’t seen Priest in a while, this is a tour you want to catch. If you have seen Priest recently, this is still a tour you want to catch. Not only do Halford and company deliver incredible performances of the first three songs from the new record, they treat the audiences to some classics that haven’t played in years (if not decades). In DC last Sunday night we got to hear “Grinder,” “Sinner,” “Turbo Lover,” and “Some Heads are Gonna Roll.” Personally, I can’t remember hearing these songs live nor could I remember “Saints in Hell” which they also brought out for the packed audience.
If you’re a fan of the really big hits, don’t fret because they are certainly there as well and in full force. It was a long set in DC, clocking in at nearly two hours but the crowd didn’t seem to tire at all and the sold out Anthem on the newly revitalized DC waterfront was deafening with crowd noise song after song. The Anthem is a beautiful venue that can hold many comfortably, even with a completely sold out act like Priest. The band also had a sizable stage to work and very few obstructions in the sight lines.
As previously reported, this tour is the first one without Glenn Tipton on guitar who is stepping down from regular touring because of his health issues. Andy Sneap fills in on guitar on this tour. In case you’re wondering if Sneap is up to the task, wonder no more. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Sneap, with his impressive resume, is more than apt to play with the band on this tour. Andy clearly did his homework as he was flawless hitting Glenn’s guitar parts note for note. I couldn’t discern any slip whatsoever, and I was listening (hey – I’m a music critic!). And, quite appropriately, Sneap didn’t try and put his own spin or signature on Glenn’s parts – he clearly kept his guitar work very true to Tipton’s original and it wouldn’t surprise me if Sneap is actually using much of Tipton’s gear on stage. The fans want to hear Glenn’s sound even if it’s not Glenn playing the instrument.
A particularly moving moment for the crowd was the finale of the main set, “Painkiller.” Halford gave yet another miraculous performance of one of the band’s greatest songs. Of course, this song contains Tipton’s signature solo, and, knowing that it would be played by Sneap, the band featured live footage on Tipton playing the solo on the main screen as Sneap matched the solo note for note down below. The audience was able to visually match the picking as each note progressed. Undoubtedly a highlight of the show and I watched many a fan literally tear up at the sight.
I spent much of the night on Richie Faulkner’s side of the stage. Faulkner continues to impress. His relentless energy and love for the crowd is painfully contagious and the interactions between Faulkner, Sneap and Halford are precious. Sneap was clearly thrilled to be up there on stage and it was difficult to hide his smile as he returned from the stage after guitar changes. Long time drummer Scott Travis proves, yet again, that’s he’s one of the most professional in the metal world and original member, Ian Hill is simply classic Ian Hill – hanging out in the back of the stage with his dependable bass while the front three perform in their classic high energy live endeavor.
People always ask, “can Halford still sing at sixty something years old?” And yet, they always come out with the same answer at the end of the show… “Of course he can!” Halford is an international treasure and a master of his craft. He works so hard and he looked particularly energetic in DC. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I would think he was significantly younger than he is. Halford, like Sneap, was unable to contain his joy and excitement at being on stage.
I was overjoyed at the number of younger fans in the crowd but clearly the Priest vets were out in full force as well. The buzz was overwhelmingly positive and so many were surprised at the some of the live rarities we were treated to. When this tour comes to your town, it’s a no-brainer – but act quickly because there were tons of folks outside who didn’t buy tix in advance and were left… well… out in the cold.