Last Saturday, I saw one of the most iconic heavy metal bands of all time and it was the best time ever to see them. Judas Priest announced this world tour would be their last one. However, the band still intends to continue afterwards but their appearances will be very limited which is why myself along with my sister and a friend of mine had to take this opportunity to see Judas Priest live while we had the chance. For all we know, the show in Manchester on 16th July may have been our only chance.
First support act for the night was Rival Sons. They're a new band who've been around for a few years who offer a throwback to 70s blues rock. They didn't seem to interact well with the audience but maybe they need some time to perfect their performance before they have the confidence to multitask on stage. My biggest disappointment with them was actually not having their CDs being sold at the merchandise. I always want to pick up CDs of support acts who I liked. Putting that aside, they made a great performance with their music which all sounded pretty good.
The second support act opening up was the progressive metal pioneers Queensrÿche. I've heard a lot of bad things about the later works so seeing them was rather doubtful. Much to my surprise, the band was actually good. The setlist was solid and I had a few songs in mind that I hoped they would play (i.e. Revolution Calling and The Needle Lies, both from Operation: Mindcrime) which they didn't but hearing Empire, Jet City Woman, I Don't Believe in Love and Eyes of a Stranger. All good songs and hell, even the one song they played from their new album wasn't too shabby. However, the one song I didn't like was Screaming In Digital for the awful bass which is a shame since Eddie Jackson playing the bassline for Jet City Woman was really good. On another note, Geoff Tate's singing performance amazed me since it didn't sound like age was catching up on him. For someone who's been singing for 30 years now, he's still got it! However, the microphone sound settings did sound off here and there but at the end of the day, Queensrÿche were a hell lot better than I expected!
Last but not least was Judas Priest themselves. It took a while for them to show up but the wait was worth it for the stage display. This show no doubt has had the best staging display I've seen so far. There were many lazer lights, pyrotechnics and Rob Halford even had some special dressing for certain songs such as Prophecy for Nostradamus and Hell Bent for Leather for the Harley appearance. They even put some effort into the staging display for Blood Red Skies where they had a huge banner in the background showing red skies and I'm glad they care that much for a brilliant song such as Blood Red Skies.
The band performance was amazing! Although not a whole lot could be said about Ian Hill or Glenn Tipton, the other three were definitely great to see. Scott Travis was a very vicious drummer (as expected considering Painkiller) and the highlight had to the extended drum solo for Painkiller. Richie Faulkner, the guitarist who replaced K. K. Downing after declaring retirement a few months back, actually fitted right in with the band. I wasn't sure what to expect from the new guitarist considering he was only the guitarist for Lauren Harris (Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris' daughter) but he was very passionate on stage and seemed to like the left side of the crowd very well which was where I was standing for the show.
Of course, there needs to be a special mention for Rob Halford on this night as he made a really impressive performance. It was amazing to see Rob Halford standing close to the edge of the stage and seeing all his fans around. Contrary to what some might say about him these days, Rob Halford's voice is still really good. Hell, he can hit extremely high notes and they were so loud that I expected the speakers to blow up due to the extreme volume from it. Sure, Rob Halford is past the days where his voice could do perfection with Painkiller but for the rest of the songs, he was still brilliant.
The setlist was impressive and although I could comment on no Hell Patrol or One Shot at Glory being played (the latter I expected right at the start as soon as I heard Battle Hymn), the band insisted on playing at least one song from every album. Well, the Ripper Owens era was omitted entirely but that's no surprise. If there was one song I would have been fine with them playing from those two albums, it'd be Cathedral Spires. If there was one thing to change about the setlist, it would be to replace Never Satisfied with Run of the Mill. However, hearing Blood Red Skies, Victim of Changes, Beyond the Realms of Death and The Sentinel easily make that up 100 times over. The biggest surprise of all was how the band turned a song cover they've been famous for into a ballad. This is Diamonds & Rust and hearing the new version of it only makes me hope they have it as a live track someday.
Overall, Judas Priest's show was highly impressive. It's quite possibly the best live show I've ever seen yet. This even goes above Opeth's show at the Royal Albert Hall which made its way to a live album on CD and DVD. The band members were fantastic, the staging display was amazing, the setlist paid great respect to the history of the band and as a nice little bonus, the support acts were satisfying. If this is the only time I'll ever Judas Priest on stage, I'm glad I took that chance.
Heading Out to the Highway
Victim of Changes
Diamonds & Rust
Dawn of Creation
Beyond the Realms of Death
Blood Red Skies
The Green Manalishi (With the Two Pronged Crown)
Breaking the Law
Hell Bent for Leather
You've Got Another Thing Comin'