OCTOBER 27th 2015

Review by Lana Muirhead
Photos by Peter Ruttan

PHOTO GALLERY: http://www.metaltitans.com/concertpics/judas-priest/

The first thing you would say about the fact that Judas Priest came through Coquitlam (other than “they came through COQUITLAM?!?”) would be that they played at a venue such as the Hard Rock Casino. How small and intimate for such metal legends! It was a little surprising there was no warm up act but let’s be honest: no one present would have been there for the opener.  Most of the crowd were in their mid-30s and upward with a few young ‘uns sprinkled in for flavour. Rest assured though the whole of the crowd adorned themselves in their best Priest regalia: be that leather and studs or concert its from the days of metal yore.

As the lights dimmed and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” blared from the speakers, the crowd erupted with cries of anticipation. The booze flowed freely and the sequins shone through the darkness. When Ian Hill (bassist, backing vocals), Glenn Tipton (guitar, keys, synthesizer, backing vocals), Richie Faulkner (guitar, backing vocals), and Scott Travis (drums/percussion) came into view amid the cursory smoke and fog lighting, it was to strum a few bars from “Dragonaut” off their new album “Redeemer Of Souls” (also the tour name). Then Mr. Rob Halford himself appeared in signature floor length leather and studs, sunglasses, and a leather busboy hat. Whether or not it was a prop, Halford also had a cane which he seemingly relied upon as he belted out the notes from the new single. Thankfully he got rid of this on the second song and got down to grooving with a modernized “Gods of Metal” from the era of “British Steel”. Somehow he even got himself into doing the robot…

I was one hundred percent impressed by Hill, Tipton, Faulkner and Travis when it came to instrumentals. Although these boys have only been playing together for four years collectively, they were spot on for every note.  Not only that, they all seemed to be having the time of their lives!  Hill, Halford, and Tipton have been playing together since the early 1970s, and Travis since 1989, but newcomer Faulkner has only been with Priest since 2011 when he replaced the irreplaceable K. K. Downing, who amicably split from the band.  Regardless, all players fed off each other, and the crowd, the way professional musicians do and put on an energetic and crowd pleasing show overflowing with monster guitar riffs, heavy baselines, and pounding skins.  The ripened nature of over 40 years playing together (mostly on, sometimes off) made for an easy Faulkner infusion.

Halford was notably keeping himself a distance from the edge of the stage, where everyone wanted him, until about 5 songs deep.  For anyone who hasn’t seen Priest in a while (I saw a festival show side-stage in Columbus, OH, in May) they may not know that Halford often reads from a tele-prompter set up in the stage floor.  Whether there’s just too many lyrics bouncing around in his naked noggin or he just feels more comfortable focussing this way, I am not one to speculate.  But I was a little worried when he kept himself off in the back corner of the stage during all the throaty high screams on “Victims Of Change”, thinking he may be using more than a tele-prompter to make it through a set. Sacrilege!

I was thankfully choking on my own thoughts when during “Halls of Valhalla”, another new song off “Redeemer of Souls”, he was front stage-centre growling and screaming right in my face. This is arguably one of the songs that really dug back into the metal roots that Priest is credited with planting as far back as 1974 with their debut album “Rocka Rolla”. I have to say that critics have that one pegged and although formulaic metal (there is such a thing), it is what the people crave. The boys played a great cross-section of their catalogue, of which there were way too many stellar tunes to choose from. At the end of the day we got to hear multiple cuts from the “British Steel”, “Screaming for Vengeance” and “Painkiller” albums, as well as “Beyond the Realms of Death” from “Stained Class” and “Hell Bent for Leather” off the “Killing Machine” record. Not only was the show a treat for the ears but it was eye candy as well.  The visual stimuli included multiple costume changes by Halford (a leather studded trench to a silver sequins trench, to a cut-off jean vest, to a sparkly long-sleeved number) and a throw-back to the performances of old when the singer came out on a Harley for “Hell Bent for Leather”.  Faulkner, Tipton and Halford would amass at the front of the stage and belt out their parts, and “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” was just growly back-to-metal-basics goodness from the lot.

It was not only a great time but a privilege to have been able to experience the grandfathers of metal in such a small venue. This is how concerts are supposed to be and how they will live on forever in our memories. Every one of the band members were playing their part, engaging the crowd, and every one of the persons in the crowd felt like they literally had taken part in Judas Priest history. It is demonstrations of talent like this, and epic for-the-ages tunes that keep a 40 year old band relevant even in a day of computers and sound machines.  Though the years take their toll and time erodes the necessity for actual skill, one must remember that without bands like Judas Priest, there would be no Metallica, no Guns’n’Roses, no Motley Crüe. There would be no foundation on which the parents and newborns of metal may stand. Without Judas Priest, there would have only been The Beatles. Think about it.

Myself, I prefer the world of leather, studs, and sequins. I will continue to support the forefathers of the metal world in whatever way possible to solidify the fact that they are the ground upon which we rock today. I will rally to keep metal alive in an age where the metal torch has no hands to be passed to. May the metal gods smile upon the day that we can preserve men like Halford, Hill, Tipton, Travis and Faulkner in jars to perform for our grandchildren so they know what real metal music is about.