One of the UK’s most iconic metal bands of all time, Judas Priest decided that there was nowhere to finish off the current part of their Epitaph World Tour than at home. London’s famous Hammersmith Apollo, the sight of many great shows over the years was a fitting venue for the tour’s conclusion and the first time I’ve not seen The Priest at a festival or in an arena, so the show promised to be extra special.
Unfortunately we arrived in time only to catch the very end of opening band Kobra and The Lotus, but judging by the reaction of the masses who had got there early enough to enjoy their set it seems like they did a great job and band and fans alike were happy.
The absolutely thunderous roar that greeted Saxon as they took the stage could’ve easily confused anyone not in the know about who the headline band were at this show. Launching into the classic Heavy Metal Thunder, the crowd went absolutely batshit and levels of enthusiasm for Biff and friends were maintained for the whole hour (Biff commented several times how good the crowd were throughout the set). 20,000 Feet had the Apollo rocking from front to back and this was taken up another level by the singalong that accompanied 747 (Strangers In The Night). Despite having to pick and choose songs to drop from the setlist due to it not being a headline show, no one could have had any complaints and the one-two punch finale of Wheels Of Steel and Princess Of The Night was brilliant.
When alluding to their forthcoming appearance at Download, Biff remarked “We’re on at some ungodly early hour again, we’ll just drink through the night and not sleep”. He also speculated whether it would be the last time they would play at Donington so let’s hope that Saxon aren’t planning on calling it a day just yet. As with Judas Priest, age has not dulled the power of Saxon whatsoever and they remain one of the tightest, most impressive metal bands in a live environment. If you haven’t seen them and you like classic, british style heavy metal, you’re seriously missing out. Catch them whle you can!
The Saxon Setlist was:
Heavy Metal Thunder
Hammer Of The Gods
Power And The Glory
I’ve Got To Rock To Stay Alive
747 (Strangers In The Night)
Denim & Leather
Wheels Of Steel
Princess Of The Night
It’s not often you get a support band performance as impressive as Saxon’s, so Judas Priest had some stiff competition on their hands. However as soon as the opening Battle Hymn ceased, the Epitaph safety curtain dropped and The Priest had launched into Rapid Fire the crowd volume went up yet another level. Early highlights included Metal Gods and the superb Judas Rising, while the most hardcore of fans will have been pleased by the inclusion of some of the bands earliest material such as Starbreaker and Never Satisfied.
At the point of Dawn of Creation / Prophecy from the band’a last album Nostradamus (complete with Halford’s awesome Nostradamus costume and get up) the show really kicked into higher gear (not that it hadn’t been great up until that point anyway) with wall to wall Judas Priest classics. Nightcrawler had people going thoroughly crazy (and was one of Halford’s best vocal performances of the night), Turbo Lover was the metal disco classic Priest fans all know and love and The Sentinel was as heavy as they come (though sadly Rob skimped on some of the falsetto for that one).
The loudest response of the night thus far was reserved for the magic Blood Red Skies (song of the night for fellow Rocksins writer and Judas Priest devotee Matt Hill), which was worth the considerable price of admission by itself. This was followed by what I’m sure was one of the loudest karioke versions of Breaking The Law ever sung, as Mr Halford turned the vocals over to the occupants of the Hammersmith Apollo, who did the band proud. One Scott Travis drum solo special later and The Apollo was getting a collective bangover to the always awesome Painkiller, drawing the main part of the evening to a close.
In what proved to be the first of three encores, we did not have to wait long for the return of the Priest as The electric eye peered out at us all from the video screen as The Hellion blared over the PA to be followed by an epic rendition of Electric Eye (my song of the night). Within moments the familiar rev’s of a motorbike could be heard as Rob Halford drove across the stage before Richie Faulkner kicked off Hell Bent For Leather. A traditional Judas Priest “woooahhh oooooahhh oooaaahhh oohhh” singalong was conducted in masterful fashion by Halford before seemingly finishing off the evening with You’ve Got Another Thing Coming.
The whole band then departed apart from Scott, who took the mike from behind his drum kit and informed us all that they’d had the cameras rolling all night long and that tonight’s show was going to form the DVD for the Epitaph World Tour, to the delight of all present. He also told the masses they had one last chance to enjoy themselves, and thus the evening concluded with Living After Midnight, a fitting end to a fantastic two hours plus of British heavy metal.
The full Judas Priest setlist was:
Heading Out To The Highway
Victim Of Changes
Diamonds & Rust
Dawn Of Creation / Prophecy
Beyond The Realms Of Death
Blood Red Skies
The Green Manalishi
Breaking The Law
Hell Bent For Leather
You’ve Got Another Thing Coming
Richie Faulkner Guitar Solo
Living After Midnight
There are several things you expect from a Judas Priest live show: A lot of metal (the clothing, the staging and the songs), an elaborate stage setup, pyro, lasers and falsetto vocals. This performance had all of the above in spades. As much of a fantastic guitarist as K.K. Downing is, Richie Faulkner has played a huge part in revitalising Judas Priest and has stage presence comparable with Rob Halford’s, as well as being an absolutely superb guitarist. In my opinion Richie is a big part of the reason that the band are continuing for the foreseeable future (and long may that be so).
Tonight’s show was also one of the hottest London gigs of all time, but that didn’t dissuade four and a half thousand metallers from having a brilliant time. Over three hours of classic British metal was delivered by Judas Priest and Saxon in top notch fashion, and if that’s not enough to send the metal maniacs home happy I don’t know what is. The news that “The Priest Will Be Back” didn’t hurt the mood either!
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