By Anthem Man
Recently Judas Priest brought their farewell tour to Vancouver. The band will still be active in the festival circuit, playing around 10-15 shows a year, but are done with the country-wide tours. The band has had a great run of 40 years at the forefront of hard rock and heavy metal. Their influence has been great and expansive. They brought in the idea of two lead guitar players. Until Judas Priest, bands had a lead and a rhythm player, or were limited to just one guitarist. Priest introduced an element of combative guitars dueling one another in a battle for supremacy. Many bands have since adopted this style; two guitarists are now used by 90% of hard rock and metal bands today. As well, prior to Judas Priest, many hard rock and metal bands included heavy elements of the blues. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple were well versed in this tradition of music. Judas Priest were the first to break out and not use the blues as a foundation in their music. Instead they chose to look ahead and carve their own path, and by doing so they made a major splash in the music industry.
Another way that they’ve impacted the music industry is through their use of vocals. Following in the footsteps of Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, Judas Priest forged forward with blistering vocals. Rob Halford is the man behind the voice – and what a voice. He is the benchmark for heavy metal singers. Operatically trained, Halford has been the focal point of the band. When one puts on a Judas Priest record, there’s always an excitement that awaits the listener. “What’s Halford going to do this time?” “How’s he going to top himself?” His vocals have never disappointed in recordings, and fans couldn’t wait to see this singing trailblazer perform live.
This farewell tour in particular was made special by the band’s choice to play at least one song from every album, doubling up on their biggest and best albums, “British Steel” and “Screaming For Vengence”. It was a great trip down memory lane, touching on all eras in their catalog. Songs like “Blood Red Skies”, “Painkiller”, “Victim of Changes”, “Heading Out to the Highway” and “Metal Gods” got an extensive cheer from the crowd. Priest also threw in some curve balls. “Never Satisfied” and show-opener “Rapid Fire” shocked a crowd that would not expect those songs to be on the set list. Like all Priest shows, we witnessed the usual ride out on the Harley Davidson by Halford, leading into the classic “Hell Bent For Leather”. An encore that had “Breaking the Law” and “You’ve Got another Thing Comin’ ” finished off the show. As per usual with Priest shows there was a back and forth vocal jousting match between Rob Halford and the audience. I think you can guess who won that battle; we didn’t stand a chance! The concert had a spectacular lights and laser show that complimented the music very well. Never a band to stand still, Priests had the stage setup with staircases, ramps and platforms, allowing the band members to leave no space vacant for long. They made sure to travel all over to give the fans an up-close and personal performance.
Lead player Glenn Tipton had a new partner for the first time since the early 70’s in Ritchie Faulkner, who replaced KK Downing in 2010. The replacement of Downing leaves bassist Ian Hill as the lone original member, although Halford, Tipton, Downing and Hill were in the band together for 25 years when they were at their creative best. Halford left for about 10 years to pursue other musical interests in other bands, but returned to Priest in 2002. He now splits duties with Priest and his other band, cleverly titled “Halford”. That side project saw him in Victoria opening for Ozzy Osbourne in 2010. His set that night included a couple Priest songs, but Halford mostly played new ones from his other band. Judas Priest played Victoria in 2008 on their Nostradamus tour, their first visit here since 1980 when their British Steel tour came to town. It’s highly unlikely they will be here again, but don’t be surprised if Rob Halford makes his way to town again. There is another album on the way by year’s end for the mighty Priest – just don’t expect a tour. Hopefully you’ll be lucky enough to get to a festival where they’ll be performing.