May 02, 2012

Judas Priest

“I’m your turbo lover… BOOM BOOM… Tell me there’s no other!”... It’s been a few days after Judas Priest played in Helsinki and this song is firmly stuck in my head. Writing about Priest is not easy. What can you do? Any critique would be as good as heresy, not that there was anything to criticize, but still. The only thing left to do is to humbly bow your head and praise the lords of metal. That is what I am going to do, not without a few blasphemous comments, and then pray and hope that the gods will forgive this puny mortal that is I.

Let’s get down to business. April 22, Helsinki, packed Ice Hall, anticipation was crazy. Judas Priest were here again on their seemingly never-ending final world tour ever – “Epitaph”. Not that anyone was complaining, mind you. We arrived when the band was already performing “Metal Gods” and immediately dived in to devour the show visually and sonically. With everything going on the stage: the band, light and video effects, it was virtually impossible to take your eyes off the show even for a split second. Judas Priest brought us a 2.5 hour concert that went through most of their discography, with the exception of Ripper’s period in the band. Every time the set-list was going over to the next album/era, the backscreen showed the album cover and Rob Halford presented it to the public with a short story/description of his own. It reminded me of a museum tour and who would mind to have Halford as their tour guide?! I failed to count how many times Rob changed his stage costumes… 7? 10? 100? It was definitely a lot and each one of them was more metal than the other.

The newest addition to the band’s line up – Ritchie Faulkner – looked like he played in Judas Priest all his life. Naturally, I won’t even start comparing him to KK Downing, but I will say that Faulkner does his parts impeccably and even brings a nice dynamic element to the whole show, because, aside from him and Halford, the rest of the band was quite static most of the time.

There was some problem with the sound at the beginning of the show, when I could barely hear the vocals, but fortunately it was gone further on and Halford’s high notes pierced the air more than once. The whole performance was highly choreographed in general and one could see how much work was put into it. The laser show was a peculiar element, I assume had any other metal band tried to pull that off, they would end up being boo-ed and labeled as “not metulz”! But Judas Priest have deserved their right to do anything they please. During “Breaking The Law” Halford let the audience sing the song entirely. As some sort of a metal choir director, he conducted the crowd, and, while I could hear some faint singing, it mostly drowned in the music. Nobody around me said a word, and the song ended up being an instrumental. This also seemed to be the case in other countries, from what I heard. So, Mr. Halford, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea not to sing anything at all, because, surely everyone would love to hear you sing this song. (I am currently looking around in fear of being struck by lightning this instant.)

On “Hell Bent For Leather” the singer appeared on stage riding a bike, with the Finnish flag wrapped around it. After the song was over, he took off the flag, kissed it and raised it over his head, much to the crowd’s delighted cheering. “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” and Faulkner’s guitar solo followed, after which the band bid farewell and left the stage. Most of the audience started to move towards the exit signs, but the die-hards knew the show was not over yet. Surely enough the drummer Scott Travis was back and said they’ve got one more song, which was “Living After Midnight, ironically performed at half an hour to midnight.
I still can’t figure out what is it about those metal stalwarts, like Priest (and others, who are still active), that the younger bands just don’t seem to have. They may be amazing highly-professional performers, yet still something will be missing. Is it the legendary status, that always leaves you in awe? Is it the knowledge of the band being the pioneers of the genre? Is it the decades of playing all over the world? Whatever it is, Judas Priest will forever be one of the ultimate metal bands with a devoted following from different generations.

Rapid Fire
Metal Gods
Heading Out to the Highway
Judas Rising
Victim of Changes
Never Satisfied
Diamonds & Rust
Night Crawler
Turbo Lover
Beyond the Realms of Death
The Sentinel
Blood Red Skies
The Green Manalishi (With the Two Pronged Crown)
Breaking the Law
The Hellion & Electric Eye
Hell Bent for Leather
You've Got Another Thing Comin'
Living After Midnight

Text: Tanja Caciur
Photography: Jana Blomqvist