Steel Panther and Judas Priest at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, MI on October 19, 2014
It has been just under three years since their “farewell” tour swung through town and we find Judas Priest on their 40th Anniversary/ 30th Anniversary of Defenders Of the Faith/ Redeemer Of Souls tour. There was a time when I would have been angry that a band went back on it's word (Kiss, I am looking at you) but nowadays I live more for the moment and appreciate the fact that Priest is still with us and move on.
The Fox Theatre is a beautiful, beautiful place, too nice to see a Metal show in to be honest with you. It is one of those pre-Depression movie houses where no expense was spared in design or construction. Detroit has a few of these still left, a remnant from the time when Detroit was one of the three wealthiest cities in the world. As vocal a critic as I am of owner Mike Ilitch and his corporate welfare that he has used to fund new stadiums, he single-handedly saved this place back in the '80s, paying for a complete restoration which stands today, so...yeah, only a Sith sees things in absolutes. That and he has Hot N Ready pizzas at Little Caesars for five bucks, which makes him difficult to truly dislike.
Just walking into the front lobby is an awe-inspiring thing, and it is a trip that this is where folks went to just see a movie. Makes the multiplex seem that much cheesier now, doesn't it?
There were a handful of empty seats in the balcony, fewer than 50 by my rough count. The Fox is one of those places with superb acoustics. Any place made of wood sounds good, as you get no echo like you do in an arena. Shirts ranged from $35-50, and I was this close to buying that Defenders Of The Faith one. I hardly wear the concert shirts that I amassed during my concertgoing heyday so why add more, I figured. My 11 year old self always wanted one...too bad that I am 41 today.
We came in during Steel Panther, a Metal parody act that people seem to enjoy. Not a fan myself but the crowd dug it. Priest came on at a surprisingly early 8:25 PM with the taped intro Battle Cry giving way to Dragonaut off of the new album. Priest always opened with a new song during their 1981-1986 heyday, so this made me smile. Metal Gods is a live staple but I would have rather heard Let Us Prey or Tyrant instead. Devil's Child returned to the set for the first time since 2008, at least as far as Detroit area performances are concerned.
Internet shit talkers have been ripping on Rob Halford's voice on this tour. Tinny sounding Youtube clips do not compare to the live performance. Rob may not have the range that he once did but he nailed the closing screams for Victim Of Changes. A slightly diminished Rob Halford is still better than 99.9% of the vocalists in the world. I will admit that it was suspicious that Halford did the opening scream for Halls Of Valhalla offstage during one of his dozen or so jacket changes, though.
Love Bites was brought back out for the Defenders Of The Faith anniversary portion of the evening. It has not been played in Detroit since 1986! Defenders Of The Faith is one of those albums that warped my then 11 year old brain. The lyrics to that song, coupled with Rob's phrasings, have always killed me. Now you are mine/ In my control/ One taste of your life/ And I own your soul! Lyrical poetry it is most certainly not, but Priest rules.
There was a giant video screen behind the band, and every song had it's video footage created specifically for it accompanying it. Give me a ridiculous Metallian stage set or a giant robot any day! I prefer to watch a band play songs, not video screens. March Of The Damned is Judas Priest's zombie song, so severe is the impact of The Walking Dead it would seem.
Turbo Lover had the balcony bouncing, and it made me nervous on more than one occasion. For starters, this building is 80-odd years old. Second, the average waistband in that balcony was probably in the high 40s. Third, people in the 1920s were malnourished dwarves who weighed 90 pounds. I wondered if the balcony could withstand that punishment that the BMI-challenged Judas Priest crowd was dishing out. It was at this moment that I was grateful to be upstairs and not on the floor underneath it.
I hate it when classic bands live entirely in the past. There must be new material. An occasional oldies tour is fine but with no new music we would have never had the old music. Redeemer Of Souls sounded good with the rest of the set.
I imagine the task of assembling a setlist when you have 17 studio albums to choose from is daunting. Priest seems to have an on-again, off-again rotation of secondary songs, and I imagine them sitting in their basement drinking beer and playing darts to round out that segment of the setlist. I can almost imagine Glenn hitting the balloon with Beyond The Realms Of Death in it and imagine him saying Bloody 'ell! I wanted to hit Heading Out To The Highway.
This was the first time that Priest has played Jawbreaker in Detroit in 30 years. I did see Halford do it on his solo tour in 2000. Breaking The Law was another of those Oh-man-I-hope-that-this-balcony-collapsing-doesn't-kill-me moments.
The taped Harley Davidson rumbling came over the PA and Rob rode out the motorcycle for Hell Bent For Leather. You've Got Another Thing Comin' sounded sluggish, being played slower than the album. It was killed by the crowd chant part and Richie Faulkner's extended guitar solo. Ian Hill and Scott Travis didn't leave the stage, going bump-bump-bump-bump with the bass and bass drum during the solo. Ian looked pretty bored. I could imagine him thinking I hope I get back to the bloody 'otel before they close the restaurant for the night. I want some roast beef. While I have no problem with Richie replacing K.K. Downing, K.K. never got a solo like that. Just saying, as the kids say.
Living After Midnight was next and then another rarity not played in Detroit in 30 years, Defenders Of The Faith, rounded out the night. They were done at 10 o'clock, which was fine by me for a Sunday night. I got home before the town closed the gates and rolled up the sidewalks for the night. Priest is always a great night out. If you have never seen them then by all means do so posthaste.