Review by John Jeffrey, photos by Thomas S. Orwat, Jr.
Rochester, NY – The current Judas Priest “Epitaph” tour is not being billed as the ‘Farewell Tour’ for the group, but more of a statement of the band’s intentions to start slowing things down, in terms of touring and recording. However, anyone on hand for the group’s recent concert at the Main Street Armory, would not come away from the show thinking Judas Priest has any intentions on stopping anytime in the near future.
With some fans voicing their concerns regarding lead singer Rob Halford’s lack of stage mobility on recent tours (he’s had the tendency to stand in one spot on stage, hunched over the teleprompter, reading the lyrics to the songs as he sang them), combined with the unexpected, recent departure of founding member K.K. Downing, there seemed to be some doubt surrounding this tour, as to whether or not the band would be firing on all cylinders. But when the ‘new’ lineup of Judas Priest took the stage, the reinvigorated Halford and co. proved to Rochester, NY that after 40 years, they are still the “Metal Gods.”
It was evident that new guitarist, Richie Faulkner, brought a lot of enthusiasm to the group and his youthful energy seemed to energize the band as well. Although I’ve always considered K.K. Downing as a great guitarist, his lead technique seemed to be on the sloppier end of the spectrum. Stylistically, Faulkner is more of a meticulous precision player, which creates a much different dynamic, when combined with the playing of elder axeman, Glen Tipton. While some people criticize Priest for fashioning him to look too much like a K.K. clone, I picked up more of a Randy Rhoads vibe, especially when Faulkner pulled out his white Les Paul. Either way, Faulkner is a great addition to the band and I don’t think Priest fans could ask for anything more from a guy who is filling some very big shoes.
Perhaps after hearing some criticism regarding his recent stage presence (or lack thereof), Rob Halford made sure that he domineered every inch of the stage throughout their 2 hour+ performance. Although he still uses a teleprompter, it didn’t seem as though he relied on it as heavily as he did in the past. And at times where he did use it, it wasn’t painfully obvious, and it didn’t hinder his performance in any way. His voice sounded great and he didn’t seem to have any issues hitting any of the high notes.
Pulling at least one song from each of their studio albums gave the set list a refreshing overhaul. Even with all of the ‘greatest hits’ being played, they made sure to include enough B-side material, to keep it interesting for all of their diehard fans. The only lame part of the night was when they did a ‘crowd karaoke’ version of “Breakin’ the Law.” The song was performed as an instrumental, while Rob Halford turned his mic stand towards the crowd, encouraging the audience to sing the song. While I got the idea, the crowd didn’t sing loud enough to be picked up through the microphone, and it didn’t do anything for the song.
As the show came to a close, I started realizing that I have may have witnessed my last ever Judas Priest concert. The thought of it was saddening, but when you think about it, these guys have nothing left to prove. They’ve done everything they wanted to do over the last four decades (aside from a full “Nostradamus” tour), and when they do decide to call it quits, they can rest assure that they are doing so, while they are still on top of their game.
Special thanks to Chip and Jennifer from Chipster Pr for making this review possible. For more on Judas Priest, please go to www.judaspriest.com
Judas Priest setlist 0-11-16-2011
3.Heading Out to the Highway
6.Victim of Changes
8.Diamonds & Rust
11.Beyond the Realms of Death
13.Blood Red Skies
14.The Green Manalishi
15.Breaking the Law
18.Hell Bent for Leather
19.You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’
20.Living After Midnight