LIVE PHOTOS: Judas Priest, Saxon, Black Star Riders
Review by Greg Maki
First, in 2011, guitarist K.K. Downing retired, and in response, Judas Priest didn’t just continue; the venerable metal act flourished with the addition of new axe-slinger Richie Faulkner. Then in early 2018, the band’s other longtime guitarist, Glenn Tipton, announced he could no longer tour due to the debilitating Parkinson’s disease. But with a new album to promote, “Firepower” (read Live Metal’s review), the shows must go on, so welcome to the stage, with Tipton’s blessing, one of the new record’s producers, Andy Sneap.
When the “Firepower” tour came to the Anthem in Washington, D.C., it might have made for a jarring visual to see the short-haired, bearded Sneap on guitar at stage left—he did have the studded leather wardrobe down, however—but the sound was pure, classic Priest. The band ripped into the new album’s title track, and there was no stopping it for the next hour and 45 minutes. Vocalist Rob Halford stalked the stage, commanding the capacity crowd and hitting those inhuman notes like no other—the man apparently is ageless—while Faulkner, who’s developing into quite the showman, and Sneap traded licks, and bassist Ian Hill and drummer Scott Travis held it all down.
The “Firepower” material—which, in addition to the title track, included “Lightning Strike” and “Evil Never Dies”—was particularly spirited. I would have loved to hear more, but with a career spanning nearly five decades, it’s hard to dwell too much on any one album. Other highlights of the wide-ranging set list included “Grinder,” “Turbo Lover” (which has become one of the biggest crowd singalongs of every show), “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll,” “Painkiller” and the entire four-song encore (“Electric Eye,” “Metal Gods,” “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” and “Living After Midnight”).
Theatrics were limited to a large video board behind the band (which, in a nice touch, showed video of Tipton during the “Painkiller” guitar solo), Halford’s motorcycle for “Hell Bent for Leather” and the singer’s impressive array of leather jackets.
While we all want the classic lineups of our favorite bands to stay together forever, that doesn’t happen often. Priest has shown changing band members doesn’t have to be a negative. More than simply surviving, the band is thriving.
JUDAS PRIEST SET LIST: (Intro: “Guardians”) “Firepower,” “Running Wild,” “Grinder,” “Sinner,” “The Ripper,” “Lightning Strike,” “Bloodstone,” “Saints in Hell,” “Turbo Lover,” “Angel,” “Evil Never Dies,” “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll,” “Breaking the Law,” “Hell Bent for Leather,” “Painkiller,” (encore) “The Hellion”/“Electric Eye,” “Metal Gods,” “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” “Living After Midnight”
Direct support came from Saxon, a name I’ve seen a lot over the years but a band I’d never actually heard until this night. The New Wave of British Heavy Metal act was a perfect complement to Judas Priest, even if it took a few songs for the energy to pick up. Standout songs included “Nosferatu” from this year’s “Thunderbolt” album and “Denim and Leather” from the 1981 record of the same name.
“Thunderbolt,” which frontman Biff Byford said is the band’s best-selling album in America since 1984, is Saxon’s 22nd studio release. I’m going to have fun exploring that vast catalog in the months to come.
Black Star Riders, which evolved out of Thin Lizzy when the modern incarnation of that band decided to create new music in 2012, kicked off the evening, with an energetic set of no-frills hard rock. They were, perhaps, not what you would think of as an ideal match for Judas Priest and Saxon, but they proved to be solid table-setters for what was to come. They’re another band I wasn’t exactly familiar with before this show, but I’m interested in hearing more, and I’m not going to say no to a cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak.”