“We’ll see you on the UK tour” is how Rob Halford signed off from Judas Priest’s brilliant Download Festival performance in June 2015. Fast forward nearly 6 months and it was time for the final night of that tour in London, and Rock Sins was there to witness the action.
With a slightly late arrival into Brixton Academy, the first thing to greet the senses from Michael Schenker’s Temple Of Rock (6) is the enormous chorus from Rock You Like A Hurricane being sung by all those present inside the venue. Unsurprisingly that went down a storm, as did Michael Schenkers impressive display of Fret Wankery on the closing Rock Bottom. What was witnessed was solid, if unspectacular, but entertained the masses perfectly well whilst waiting for the main event.
Sometimes it’s hard to find new superlatives to cover bands that have done it time and again but more are needed when it comes to Judas Priest (9). In particular extra special praise is needed for The Metal God himself, frontman Rob Halford, whose vocal display was jaw droppingly brilliant from start to finish. Halford is arguably on the best form he’s had since rejoining Priest a decade ago, and gave special gloss to what was an already great performance.
The only issue surrounding the evening was an inconsistent sound mix. Elements of the opening Dragonaut were all over the place, as were sections of other songs including the crowd thrilling Painkiller. The setlist too deserves analysis with deep cuts like Desert Plains, The Rage and Screaming For Vengeance all getting rare airings (the latter proving hugely popular). Halls Of Valhalla once again proved itself to be the best song of Halfords second era, particularly the section with Halfords death growl vocals whereby the delivery was so good it made the hairs stand up on the back of 5000 necks.
The classics were, well, classic. Turbo Lover elicited the loudest singalong of the night. Breaking The Law had fans old and young bouncing along – and Rob even broke the habit of a lifetime by singing some of the chorus rather than leaving it to the audience. The Hellion and Electric Eye were restored to the setlist after recent absences to a thunderous reaction, with Ritchie Faulkner leading the way with his absurdly good guitar work. All of which built to the inevitable Painkiller, which sounded as fresh and powerful as the day it was written. Then the obligatory Livin’ After Midnight sent the masses into the London night, having witnessed the brilliance of “some Judas Priest British heavy metal” one more time.
Judas Priest will always deserve their place as icons of british heavy metal and heavy metal in general, but nights like tonight (mixing issues aside) show exactly why they were right to reverse their touring retirement of three and a half years ago. As oft said on this website, they have been revitalised by Ritchie Faulkner and with Rob Halford sounding this good, they might well go on for a long while yet. We can only hope this is the case.