Judas Priest was back in action and touring for the 30th Anniversary of “British Steel”. I could hardly believe that the album was reaching such a milestone. The tour would bring along Whitesnake who last delivered “Good To Be Bad” to their fans and with such a great pairing we knew we had to be in place to report on it. The first band up was Pop Evil but the fates were not on our side to catch them, but a full commentary and plenty of photos of Judas Priest and Whitesnake are ready to be enjoyed. Just scroll on down past the bands logo to our article.
Artist: Judas Priest
Venue: The PNC Bank Arts Center (Holmdel, NJ)
Opener: Whitesnake, Pop Evil
Label: Epic Records
We last enjoyed a visit from Judas Priest for the 2008 “Metal Masters” tour which found the band combining their might with that of Heaven and Hell, Motorhead and Testament. It was without question one of the best shows of the year and delivered to the fans a few solid hours of Heavy Metal entertainment. Tonight’s festivities would find Judas Priest being supported by Whitesnake and a band that I only knew in name called Pop Evil. The area shows for the region were in both the PNC Bank Arts Center and Jones Beach but we opted for the NJ PNC show based on Sunday being the Atheist show in NYC which we wanted to attend. Getting to the PNC was an adventure unto itself and reminded me a little of how much effort I took in getting to the Iron Maiden show that was held at the Izod Center back in early 2008. A long trek via the conventional means yes, but all worth it to be on point when the Priest comes to call. Here are how the festivities went down for those that might have missed out.
Pop Evil: I arrived early enough to be able to catch them tonight but unfortunately the necessary papers giving the ok to enter with the gear were not in place for me to do so. When I finally did get in there was not a lot of positive reaction being given to me about their set, but I will be the Devil’s Advocate and try to catch them sometime in the future. Openers for bands like Judas Priest and Whitesnake will find that they are facing a very tough to please crowd and while they might not have been what people were banking on or interested in I am sure that they did their best to entertain the audience. I will be looking into the bands CD to see if I like it for myself because I am not someone who often listens to what others tell me about bands in all honesty. I did get in place just a few moments before Whitesnake and I was super excited about that.
Whitesnake: Last year Whitesnake released the outstanding “Good to Be Bad” CD on SPV Records and while it was the first album since 1997’s “Restless Heart”, the sound being delivered on it made it the logical offspring of recordings like its predecessors “Slip Of The Tongue” and “Whitesnake” which came out about a decade previous to it. After a brief intro, the band was onstage and delivering a full on musical tour de force. It’s not the Whitesnake that I last caught so many years ago as openers for Motley Crue, but as long as singer David Coverdale is fronting the band one cannot complain. The opened up with “Bad Boys” and rocked right into “Fool For Your Lovin’” with the band showing that they were on top of their musical game. Coverdale was ever the English gentleman and addressed the audience and thanking them for being here this evening as they celebrated twenty years of their “Slip Of The Tongue” and twenty five years since “Slide It In” – the latter being my own first exposure to the band and a fan ever since. Coverdale looked great and was sporting a very ornate shirt that was more open than closed and his signature moves with the microphone stand were being done with ease. He would periodically hold it out over the fans to encourage them to sing along with him and they responded in kind but probably would have done so without the coaxing. A couple of classics from “Slide It In” were delivered, but oddly enough not the albums title track and then it was onto the new material with “Lay Down Your Love”. This led to a blistering guitar duel between axe slingers Reb Beach and Doug Aldrich and while I love what both of these guys do on the frets I was not alone in the feeling that this went on for far too long. My guess was the length was also used to give Dave a slight breather from the constant singing that he would be doing otherwise. I felt that he sounded fine on many of the melodies but was having some slight issue with those older stratospheric notes that were fondly remembered from the albums.
Rounding out the lineup were bassist Uriah Duffy who was offering up acrobatic moves with his instrument while drummer Chris Frazier did his thing and would also deliver a short drum solo to give everyone the chance to recharge before closing out the set. Keyboards were provided by Timothy Drury and all of these guys were the recording lineup for the “Good To Be Bad” CD which found me surprised that the set was relegated mostly to the US radio hits. I had heard that the band plays a far different set when over in Europe and while I love the traditional “Here I Go Again” and “Is This Love”, I think it would have been cool to hear some of the bands bluesy numbers along with seldom played tracks. The set closed out with the MTV staple “Still Of The Night” that had an extended ending and the band would leave the stage and not return for any encores. I had to admit that I enjoyed parts of the solos but would have readily sacrificed them to hear additional tunes but that was not to be the case this evening. This was an opening slot after all, but one can hope that Whitesnake returns for a headlining appearance soon and pulls out all the stops on it. Now it was time for Judas Priest and the energy level was rising by the minute.
Judas Priest: With the “Metal Masters” tour Judas Priest was supporting their first concept album ever – “Nostradamus”. It was an album that was met with mixed opinion even though it had some high points along with its low ones. The news was that the Priest had planned to tour and deliver the story in full with the closing being a couple of hits but this idea was shelved for the interim and the band decided to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of their album “British Steel”. For many of the bands fans this was a much better idea based on how beloved the release was when it came out and also based on the number of hits that the band still delivers during concerts to this very day. Before the show began a large curtain was set up and it showed the Industrial side of Birmingham, England and on the sign in front of all the factories with their smoke spewing chimneys was the words “Welcome to the home of British Steel”. This could have very well been an archival photo from outside the factories of the company that bore the same name, but I am not 100% certain about this. When the curtain fell the band was poised and ready to deliver their opening number “Rapid Fire”. To many of the US fans this is not the beginning of the album and “Breaking The Law” is, but just check the remastered edition of the CD and you will find that this is how it runs as it now reflects the way in which it was initially released in Europe. From the moment they began they were heavy, thunderous and had an incredible sound. Singer Rob Halford stood center stage and rarely moved around while he was singing. Occasionally during the twin-axe blazing of K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton he would walk closer to the front of stage but he would quickly return for the verses again and again.
The album sounded as fresh as I first remembered it being and while I loved it quite a bit, I had wished that the band opened with another number, spoke of the monumental status that “British Steel” had attained and then delivered it from beginning to end as opposed to starting us right off with it. I felt its special anniversary merited a lot more discussion than it was getting from the Metal God Rob Halford. Needless to say as it was being played my fellow Metal heads and I were being reminded of its overall importance as a musical release for the genre. Hearing it in full was taking me back to the time when I had first purchased it and how I played it again and again and based on the smiles and air-guitars going on around me in all directions I was pretty certain that my peers were feeling the same effect as I was. I’m sure all of you readers have played some air-guitar to either “Living After Midnight” or “Breaking The Law” or perhaps even both at least once in your life, and if you haven’t well I question your actual status as a fan of the bands material. Outside of the hits from the album it was great to hear “You Don’t Have To Be Old To Be Wise” and “The Rage” which went over well, and “United” that had the entire arena singing along during its chorus. The twin guitar attack of Downing and Tipton was outstanding this evening and as opposed to some guitar duos which seem to compete with one another on stage during the show, the music of The Priest was finding these two exchanging riff after riff with respect and perfection. Scott Travis probably enjoyed the breather during this tour based on the slower paced 4/4 tempo of much of the material as opposed to a lot of the double bass drum thunder that he lays down and through it all standing in place to the right of the audience was bassist Ian Hill. While he does the swaying back and forth to the tunes, he remains in place until the very end of the night when the band takes their final bows.
Halford sounded great and delivered the goods in his usually excellent manner and for most of the show he would sport his mirrored sunglasses. After “British Steel” was completed the group would present us with some of their other hits and there were some songs that people might now have expected being delivered while some others were not even on the set list this evening. From “Nostradamus” we would get “Prophecy”, and Halford came out in a metal laden jacket and not in the shades while he did what many felt was one of the few brighter points on the last release. For that tour last year he did the song covered in a cloak but tonight he would not which was a welcome sight. “Hell Patrol” surprised me and warmed up drummer Travis to his double kick technique which he would need for the always crowd pleasing “Victim Of Changes”. It’s amazing about how powerful this song sounds in concert and how it also never gets stale. while he would briefly call and response for closing number. They would wave goodnights but Halford’s motorcycle would be heard and out he came on it as the band steamrolled into “Freewheel Burning” as opposed to the expected “Hell Bent For Leather”. It would be followed by “Diamonds And Rust” and then Rob would deliver his typical call and response to the audience that leads him into “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’”. I like this song, but I feel the band drags it on too long and makes them sing far too much. Instead of this as a closer I would have loved for something like “Painkiller” to be used or maybe even something unexpected like “Exciter” or “Sinner” from the archives.
All in all this was a great night of Metal and the initial threat of rain had seemed to hold out until everyone was leaving the arena. It started to show that it was as much of a powerful force as the Judas Priest show that we had just enjoyed and it came down almost as heavy as the Metal did for the past couple of hours. Knowing that the band wants to still tour “Nostradamus” in its entirety, I say do this back home at someplace like the Hammersmith and pull out all the stops in the stage design. Record and film the whole enchilada and release it as a limited edition piece as opposed to using a whole tour run to deliver it. Doing it like this might awaken more people to the recordings special moments and make them forget the ones that they found lackluster. Keep shows like these blockbuster presentations of your best material coming because we are not growing tired of them. I can only hope for some anniversary celebration of “Screaming For Vengeance” or “Defenders Of The Faith” or perhaps even a gig that focuses on both of these incendiary Metal recordings. Thank you Judas Priest for making the long trip that many fans took this evening very much worth it.
Full Whitesnake Photo Gallery:
Full Judas Priest Photo Gallery: http://piercingmetal.com/judas-priest-live-photos-pnc-bank-arts-center-7112009/
Whitesnake Set List
2. Bad Boys
3. Fool For Your Lovin’
4. Love Ain’t No Stranger
5. Slow & Easy
6. Lay Down Your Love
7. Guitar Duel
8. Crying In The Rain
9. Band Intro’s
10. Is This Love
11. Give Me All Your Love
12. Here I Go Again
13. Still Of The Night
Judas Priest Set List:
1. Rapid Fire
2. Metal Gods
3. Breaking The Law
6. You Don’t Have To Be Old To Be Wise
7. Living After Midnight
8. The Rage
10. The Ripper
12. Hell Patrol
13. Victim Of Changes
14. Freewheel Burning
15. Diamonds And Rust
16. You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’
Editor’s Note: Metal Fans that have interest in seeing the Judas Priest “Metal Masters” article from last year can click HERE to do so and those Whitesnake fans that wish to enjoy our images and words from a media only CD listening can click HERE. Keep the horns raised for the Metal and remember to support your bands.