Pop Evil w/ Judas Priest @ Freedom Hill Amphitheatre in Sterling Heights, MI on July 15, 2015
Freedom Hill is a mid-sized venue with a capacity of 7,200 located a dozen or so miles to the northeast of Detroit, far enough out where it almost feels like a concert in a different market. It's newer and super nice and clean with ample restrooms and concessions. My only gripe about the venue is the lack of lighting and signage in the parking lot. Finding your car after the show is a trick because you have no point of reference. An easily remedied problem for an otherwise nice venue.
First off, this show was announced with Saxon opening. Saxon dropped off the tour. The least that they could have done is gotten a comparable-sized replacement. Armored Saint, Metal Church, Overkill...there are plenty of bands around that level of popularity that would have warmed the crowd up better than Pop Evil. It wasn't a fair trade.
Outdoor shows are entirely dependent on the weather. A rainy night or blast furnace heat can suck the life right out of a show. We have had a super mild, wet summer in Metro Detroit for the second year in a row. The high was in the 70s and it dipped into the low 60s as the night wore on. Perfect weather for an outdoor show.
Priest came on at 9 PM sharp, or rather the recorded intro Battle Cry did. Dragonaut, the first song off of their most recent album, kicked things off. Priest had giant video screens, but unlike most bands they had footage for each song rather than just showing themselves on the screens. I really hate it when bands do that. Footage of flying fire breathing dragons is cool. Close ups of a band's nostrils is not. Metal Gods is a standard. I have seen Priest thirteen times over the past 25 years and they have done this every single time. Devil's Child is one that has been brought out a few times since Rob Halford rejoined the band in 2004.
Victim Of Changes was cool, but Halford's highs are not what they once were. This is not a knock, merely an observation. He skips screams and cheats on others nowadays. People get older and shit happens. I would rather have a 95% range Rob Halford than no Rob Halford at all. Halls Of Valhalla is my favorite off of the newest album. Turbo Lover is one that I can take or leave but everyone seems to enjoy it when they play it.
Redeemer Of Souls works well live. Beyond The Realms Of Death has been rotated in and out of the set over the years. It is a proggier, heavier version of Bad Company's Feel Like Makin' Love. Jawbreaker is one that they brought back out on this tour, and they could play it every time they roll through town. I never get tired of this song. Breaking The Law is a standard but also a must. One thing that many diehards lose sight of is that every show could be someone's first. If someone had never seen them before they would be disappointed if this song were not played. Anyone who groans when a band plays the hits needs to suck it up.
Rob Halford rode out the Harley to a ridiculously loud taped motorcycle sound and sang Hell Bent For Leather in his classic biker cap and sunglasses. This song has always been one of my favorites. This was the end of the set proper.
The recording of The Hellion intro gave the guys a piss break before launching into Electric Eye. They had dropped this from the set when they were in Detroit last fall so it was cool hearing it again. You've Got Another Thing Comin' sounded sluggish. The tempos were mostly played at album speed, but time was that Priest used to blast through songs live. Painkiller sounded great. Rob nailed most of the highs even if he sang the verses a little different. Living After Midnight ended the night at 10:35. I am getting old so I don't need to live after midnight because I have to get up and go to work at the dawn. Rob promised us they would be back. I suspect that won't be until they do another album, so it will be a year minimum.
Attendance was weak. The pavilion wasn't sold out and the lawn was a ghost town. Everyone from the lawn ended up coming down into the pavilion. Even with the lawn people there were some empty seats. I had the $49.50 seats and snuck into the $100 seats. I think that is the reason why attendance was soft. The show was simply priced out of the reach of many fans. Metal fans for the most part are working class people. Couple that with a midweek show and this is what you get.