Judas Priest @ Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – 21 July 2011

After storming the world for nearly 40 years, Judas Priest – one of the most influential heavy metal bands of all time – may not be quitting altogether, but have announced their Epitaph tour will be their final world tour.

Being one of the first metal bands to modernise the twin-guitar sound, Judas Priest have combined this with Rob Halford’s wide operatic vocal to create their own distinctive style. Tonight, guitarists Glenn Tipton and new member Richie Faulkner prove to have blended well as a unit. Faulkner being a hasty live replacement for KK Downing who left the band suddenly in April.

The set spans Priest’s varied career. Opening with a fast-paced and powerful run through ‘Rapid Fire’ and ‘Metal Gods’, both from magnum opus ‘British Steel’. Then comes the first of many trips into neglected corners of the back catalogue with ‘Heading Out to the Highway’ from the more radio-friendly 1981 album ‘Point of Entry’.

Powerhouse Scott Travis demonstrates his authority behind a drum-kit during the bone-shaking ‘Judas Rising’. Throughout ‘Starbreaker” and ‘Victim of Changes’ it is clear that Ian Hill – the only remaining founding member of the band remains rock solid on bass.

In amongst an impressive stage-show of lasers, flames and smoke, Rob Halford is dressed top-to-toe in shining leather and studs. From the debut album ‘Rocka-Rolla’ comes ‘Never Satisfied’, which he jokes: “was recorded in 1823”.

Between songs, Halford highlights album covers that are projected onto a screen at the back of the stage and recalls short stories from their time. Throughout the show he perhaps does not hit all of the high notes with the same ferocity as he did in his prime, but the guy can still deliver the goods.

The slower, melancholy, Joan Baez cover ‘Diamonds and Rust’, seems perfect for a night of celebration and nostalgia, tinged with sadness that the end is nigh. Although, anybody with a heavy heart is pummelled back into life with ‘Prophecy’, ‘Night Crawler’, and the title track from the experimental 1986 album ‘Turbo Lover’.

The ballad ‘Beyond the Realms of Death’ from the classic 1978 album ‘Stained Class’ is followed by: ‘The Sentinel’, ‘Blood Red Skies’ and Fleetwoods Mac’s ‘The Green Manalishi’.

The end of a marathon two-hour-plus set sees a barrage of the biggest hits. Halford lets the crowd sing all of signature song ‘Breaking the Law’, before blasting through ‘Painkiller’ and ‘Electric Eye’. He then traditionally returns to stage riding a Harley Davidson for the anthem ‘Hell Bent for Leather’.

It remains to be seen if the band are to quit the stage altogether, but there is real emotion and feeling in Wolverhampton tonight, In the home of metal an evening’s work for these metal gods is done with ‘You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’’ and ‘Living After Midnight’.

While playing a role in my formative years, I haven’t followed Judas Priest’s entire career. But tonight has been a reminder of just how proficient they have been at adapting to the times, whilst remaining unashamedly 100% pure heavy metal. And for this they should be saluted. \m/

Review & Photography: Steve Johnston

Judas Priest