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– Words by Jordan Buford / Photos by Ronnie Jackson –
Thursday, November 6th, 2014 –
It’s not that often that you get to see a truly legendary band. Probably because there aren’t that many out there anymore, and out of those that do still exist, not all of them tour.
But this night, in the Dallas suburb of Allen at the Allen Event Center, the people of North Texas were going to be treated to such an act.
Judas Priest was bringing their Redeemer of Souls Tour to North Texas; and although I had never been to the venue before, it didn’t take long for me to start loving it. It was spacious, accommodating several thousand people, though still provided an intimate setting for concerts like this, especially when by luck of the draw, you ended up with floor seats.
Steel Panther was the opening act on this tour, which I thought was an odd mix, giving they are a parody metal band. Don’t get me wrong, I like them and had already seen them a couple times this year, they just seemed like an odd fit for Judas Priest, though. That was until I saw them. Their raunchy humor may not have been appreciated by all, but it was appreciated by most, and the band crushed it with their hour-long opening set.
For the most part, people were all about the Priest, though, with a majority of the fan base being comprised of people who had probably been fans for a couple decades or so. There were some younger people mixed in the crowd too, proving that music can reach well beyond the era it was created in.
A large curtain/banner hung in front of the stage, bearing the band’s name and logo, eventually dropping once they started. Their massive set consisted of new and old songs, but the good thing about that is that their new album, Redeemer of Souls, captures that classic 1970’s style of metal, so the lead track from it, “Dragonaut”, still seemed to transport people back in time. From wailing guitar solos to a stout rhythm section, the band delivered a wicked opener that ended with Scott Travis tossing one of his drum sticks into the air before catching it.
They wound right into a song that, over time, has come to describe them, and this night “Metal Gods” was definitely an appropriate title for Judas Priest. Upon finishing the final line, frontman Rob Halford stood at the forefront of the stage and raised his hand into the air, flashing his horns with pride. Much of the crowd followed suit. “The Priest is back!” he declared before asking if everyone was ready for some heavy metal. They churned out some more old school Priest with a track off Screaming for Vengeance, “Devil’s Child”. The newest member of the band, Richie Faulkner, had already been doing an outstanding job, playing well to the fans as he looked at different people from time to time and then pointed at them, but now, he knocked out the first of many solos that came this night, captivating everyone’s attention in the process.
He and Glenn Tipton were soon left as the lone members on the stage, and the two stood side by side as they ripped into “Victim of Changes”, doing a lengthy duel solo and one that had people roaring. Travis also stole the spotlight during it, at least if you were watching close, as you could see him strike one of his drums and then he would flip the stick into the air, doing it all quickly and repeating it several times over. It was a slick move.
Again, if you didn’t know any better, you would have thought “Halls of Valhalla” went way back, as Halford sang about the hallowed territory of the gods. So far, it had been almost non-stop, and the fans were totally caught up in it, to the point that when all the lights dimmed after the song, they began chanting. “PRIEST!” was heard over and over again until everyone could once again see.
Halford mentioned that Defenders of the Faith was celebrating its thirtieth anniversary this year; and they were going to go back to some old stuff now, first off with “Love Bites”, which had the crowd shouting along, and even though they hadn’t requested it, you could tell the band was enjoying the extra love. Travis twirled a stick around in his fingers before they made a quick detour back to the new music with “March of the Damned”, before digging back into their catalog. “You won’t hear me, but you’ll feel me…” Halford sang. From my vantage point, it looked like he was back in the wings when he began singing “Turbo Lover”, before making his way out, adding a certain eeriness to the song. Faulkner was busy pumping up the crowd, starting a rhythm and getting fans to clap along; and there was one cool moment where he looked at someone out in the crowd and did a thumbs up before doing a thumbs down, as if he were asking the person how he was doing. “Turbo Lover” was arguably the most beloved song up to this point, and the entire audience even sang the second chorus while Halford took a momentary break; and it concluded with Faulkner removing his Flying V guitar and holding it above his head by one of the points. It was a solid rock star move.
“Beautiful! We love your energy!” Halford told their adoring fans, mentioning they had been coming here since the late seventies, and the people of Texas had always been there for them. “…It’s official,” he later said, saying that it had now been forty years that they have been making music. That brought them to the title track from their newest record, and afterwards, the vocalist noted “Redeemer of Souls” was a track he loved, because it really pumped you up. It certainly had that affect on the spectators this night.
The thing I enjoyed most about the demographic that was different from what I’m typically around was the total different mentality for things. For example, a lot of bands I see get a lackluster or even hateful responses to any slower songs they might choose to do, yet when Halford said they had something that was more of a ballad, people here were actually happy. “Beyond the Realms of Death” filled that spot. Granted, it wasn’t a true balled, and had plenty of moments where fans were pumping their fists in the air.
“Three words: Breaking the what?” Halford asked a little later on in the set, having the crowd shout the last word back at him. The excitement reached a fevered pitch with “Breaking the Law”, but the band just kept going, showing no real signs of stopping. They did all disappear for a moment after that track, but just long enough for Halford to get his motorcycle and ride back out on stage. He spent all of “Hell Bent for Leather” on his bike singing, while Tipton, bassist Ian Hill and Faulkner roamed about.
Suddenly, Halford was left alone on the stage, and he led the entire arena in singing, “Yeah,” over and over. He just repeated the word, but set it to a different melody each time; and upon finishing it, his band mates reappeared. “You got another thing coming right now!” he said in a harsh tone, as they began “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’”. Faulkner again took the spotlight with a soaring guitar solo, and the only other instrument in the mix was the drums, as Travis supplied a steady beat. The guitarist even raised the axe towards his face at one point, using his teeth for a moment. He can seriously shred.
It seemed like that would be it, as Halford mentioned what a fantastic night it had been, promising The Priest would be back, and then they walked off stage. Well, everyone except Travis. “Dallas, Texas!” the drummer yelled, before asking if he should say Allen instead. He asked if the fans wanted one more, and of course everyone was game.
Shortly into “Living After Midnight” a new backdrop appeared behind them. It was a massive banner with the left side being part of the US flag, while the right half was Britain’s flag, with the band’s name stretching across it. It looked amazing. Perhaps the best thing that happened in that song was when Faulkner locked eyes with one gentleman and threw a pick his way. However, after scouring the floor, the man couldn’t find it. The guitarist kept mouthing, “I threw it!” and pointing, like, “It’s out there somewhere.” It was funny because it looked like they were having a slight disagreement on if he even threw it. Eventually they did find it, though. It had gone down his wife’s shirt.
“We’ll send y’all home with a powerful message,” Halford stated as they bridged things right into the final song of their 93-minute long set. Faulkner set up a clap along, and not only did fans participate in that, but also in singing “Defenders of the Faith”, which was the song they had been wanting since early on this night.
Some of the band stayed on stage and threw out their stuff, from picks to drum sticks, before walking backstage. This is where the younger generation, my generation, could really use some pointers.
So many shows people go to and they duck out before the encore or even halfway through the set. I’m not saying people didn’t leave this night, but there were only a few dozen at most. Instead, the entire arena, from those on the floor to those in the stands were now on their feet chanting, “PRIEST!” repeatedly, and steadily growing louder. They all eventually returned, taking their bows and waving to the all too loyal fans. Not only was it an immense act of love and admiration on the fans parts, but also respect. Respect that Judas Priest has spent decades earning.
I saw them just about a month before this at the Louder Than Life festival in Kentucky, and while they rocked it there, it was so much better seeing them do their full headline set. It allowed for a better taste of what Judas Priest is capable of. They still sound exactly the same. Not even Halfords’ voice has diminished from wear and tear or age; and their show still gives you a shot of adrenaline just watching it.
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