Judas Priest w/ Black Label Society and Thin Lizzy @ Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, MI on 11/13/2011
Judas Priest hasn't played Joe Louis Arena since the Turbo/ Fuel For Life Tour in 1986. Ticket sales for this show were soft. I had upper bowl cheap seats and was treated to a free lower bowl upgrade upon arrival. They had black curtains covering the entire upper bowl, and forcing all of us down still didn't fill out all of the seats. I would guestimate attendance at around 5,000 people out of a 15,000 seat venue.
I am surprised that they didn't try to “paper” the show with free or discounted tickets. This is being billed as Judas Priest's farewell tour and is called Epitaph. Even the threat/ promise of this being their last visit to Detroit didn't bring folks out on a Sunday night.
Thin Lizzy was up first, and they were really good. I am a sucker for old school, European sounding, Marshall amp drenched '70s Rock. Guitarist Scott Gorham and drummer Brian Downey were the only surviving members from the old days. Thin Lizzy is a six piece band these days, with three guitarists and a keyboard player. The entire band played excellent and I was pleasantly surprised at how similar the new singer's voice is to Phil Lynott's.
Their setlist was a pretty by the numbers greatest hits/ fan favorites affair, which is fine by me since I had never seen them live before. Are You Ready?/ Waiting For An Alibi/ Jailbreak/ Warrior/ Emerald/ Killer on the Loose/ Rosalee, which segued into Cowgirl Song/ Roisin Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend/ Cowboy Song/ which segued into The Boys Are Back In Town, clocking in at 45 minutes. They didn't waste a second of stage time, with only minimal banter with the audience.
Black Label Society were up next. They played for an hour.
Judas Priest took the stage around 8:40. This tour marks the longest set that the band has ever done, clocking in at 2 hours and 20 minutes. The past several tours has seen the band do setlists ranging from 75-90 minutes. They came out to a recorded intro of Battle Hymn off of the Painkiller album. I always wondered why they didn't use this instrumental as an introduction on that tour way back when.
Priest tore into a pair of British Steel songs, Rapid Fire and Metal Gods. Heading Out To The Highway followed in it's once traditional spot as the third song of the evening.
This tour marks the first time that K.K. Downing hasn't occupied stage right in the history of the band. While I am disappointed that he wasn't participating in this farewell tour, his replacement, Richie Faulkner, proved a more than capable replacement. He reminded me of Randy Rhoads in appearance and ability.
Judas Rising was a weak choice to represent the Angel of Retribution album. Every Priest album with Rob Halford on vocals was represented on this tour. Speaking of Rob, his voice sounded great. I saw Priest in 2005 and his voice sounded blown out, with him clipping high notes left and right. The past few tours (Nostradamus/ Metal Masters Tour in 2008 and British Steel 30th Anniversary Tour in 2009) have seen his voice return and get stronger.
Starbreaker was a real treat to hear live. They haven't performed it live since 1979, and since I didn't see them way back then this is the first time that I've ever heard it in person. Victim of Changes is a classic song, and the solo was way extended. Glenn Tipton really got to stretch and go off.
Never Satisfied was another great moment. The band has shied away from performing anything off of Rocka Rolla since 1976, so this was just fantastic to hear live. I love the early post-Prog Rock/ proto-Metal Priest. Diamonds and Rust was done half acoustic/ half electric. The second half kicked in and sounded like the studio version.
The taped intro Dawn of Creation led into Prophecy, with Rob wearing the Nostradamus robe, complete with the Metallian trident. It was a total Spinal Tap moment, but Priest is one of the few bands where I'll let it slide. Night Crawler was an odd choice, considering that they omitted a true classic like The Ripper.
Turbo Lover, Beyond the Realms of Death, and The Sentinel offered nothing new, as I've seen all of them performed live many times over the years. Still, they deserved to be in this set if it will indeed be their farewell tour.
Blood Red Skies was the last of the rarities for the evening, this one never performed live until this tour.
The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown) ruled as always, and the arena was bathed in green light.
It was refreshing to see Priest go all out with the stage production. They have been gradually integrating larger productions back into their stage set since Rob Halford returned to the fold in 2004, and this tour is probably their biggest production since Defenders of the Faith tour in 1984. Tons of lasers, pyro, etc.
Breaking the Law was disappointing, since Rob allowed the crowd to sing the entire song. While it has been customary to let the crowd sing the chorus over the years, this was bullshit. Scott Travis has earned the distinction as the longest serving drummer in the history of the band, serving for over 21 years now. He did a drum solo that went right into the percussive blast introduction to Painkiller.
The recorded intro The Hellion preceded Electric Eye as it has for almost every tour since 1982 (2009 was the only time that it was dropped from the set). This is one of those flawless Priest songs that I have never tired of hearing live. It also makes for an effective set opener, as they did in 1982, 1983, 1988, 1998, 2004 and 2005.
First encore: Rob rode out on the Harley for Hell Bent For Leather. It cracks me up how they have the taped motorcycle sound come over the PA, as there is no way that a real motorcycle is that loud, even in a hockey arena. Priest has always straddled the line between being serious and Spinal Tap, and I love them for it.
You've Got Another Thing Comin' is a classic, and is the song that the band is ultimately remembered for.
Second encore: I had to laugh when Scott Travis took the microphone and talked to the crowd. He told the crowd how Priest played this venue 20 years on the Operation Rock N Roll tour with Alice Cooper, Motorhead, Dangerous Toys and Metal Church. Umm, no they didn't. I was at that show, and it was at frickin' Pine Knob, an outdoor amphitheater, on August 3, 1991. They only did one show with Rob after that (Toronto), and then he left the band until 2004. This faulty memory coincides with the band's Facebook posting of the day, asking Milwaukee if they were ready when they were scheduled to play Detroit. Priest may have a faulty memory in their old age but they still rule live.
Living After Midnight rounded out the set. Oh, and farewell tour my ass. Rob said “See you next time”.