Judas Priest @ Resorts World Arena, Birmingham – 19 March 2024

Releasing their debut album half a century ago, and the most recent in the last few weeks, Judas Priest’s ‘Invincible Shield’ world tour is a celebration of metal and the band’s fifty year career. Tonight it’s an eager and exuberant crowd in Birmingham to see our leather and studded headline heroes join forces with legends in their own right, Saxon and Uriah Heep.

Founding member and lead guitarist Mick Box, along with frontman Bernie Shaw, et al, have little time to air much from Uriah Heep’s twenty-five-album and fifty-four-year catalogue. I’m far from familiar, but the standards ‘Gypsy’ and ‘Easy Livin’ certainly have a heavy prog feel, while ‘Save Me Tonight’ and ‘Hurricane’ from the 2023 release ‘Chaos & Colour’ are really solid and fresh.

During what turns out to be just a seven track set, there’s more to the Heep than anticipated for this first timer. Perhaps not metal, they come close in places, and it’s easy to see how they influenced others who went on to rank highly in the genre. It’s a fine showing from the veterans, who are clearly still going strong, with a wealth of the arena audience backing them to the hilt.

Uriah Heep

On the other hand, I’ve been a fan of Saxon since the year dot. Often overlooked and perhaps undervalued, this is one of the greatest metal bands to have ever existed. I’ve seen them enough times to know exactly what to expect, but with original guitarist Paul Quinn recently retiring from touring, replacement Brian Tatler of Diamond Head gives this one a slight air of uncertainty.

Opening with recent album title track ‘Hell, Fire and Damnation’, tunic emblazoned Biff Byford leads his troops into a storming version of ‘Motorcycle Man’. There’s the usual mix of old and new during the first half of the set, but for this arena show, it feels like classic cuts such as: ‘And the Bands Played On’ and ‘Power and the Glory’ are what the audience are geared up for.


“This is where metal started, right?” enquires the charismatic frontman. “I always thought it was Barnsley!” he quips, before introducing the seamlessly integrated Black Country legend Tatler. The band then kick on to the end with slabs of: ‘Heavy Metal Thunder’, ‘Dallas 1PM’, ‘747’, ‘Denim and Leather’, ‘Wheels of Steel’, and ‘Princess of the Night’. As expected, a fantastic set.

It’s been nine long years since Priest last toured the UK. With long-time guitarist Glenn Tipton’s touring retirement, a COVID pandemic, Rob Halford battling prostate cancer, plans to support Ozzy cancelled several times, and Richie Faulkner’s near death experience – we’re lucky to be seeing them at all. But here we are, and here they come, those metal gods, Judas Priest ..

At the age of seventy two, with relentless energy and enthusiasm embodying the spirit of a man half his age, Rob Halford is a force to be reckoned with. Despite the passage of time, his vocal remains formidable, and as the opening assault of ‘Panic Attack’, ‘You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ and ‘Breaking the Law’ confirm, he delivers a power and raw intensity that few can match.

Disappearing for the occasional wardrobe alteration, Halford’s commanding presence is matched throughout by guitarist Richie Faulkner. Illuminating stage right, his captivating display of skill and showmanship is reminiscent of Tipton/Downing, as he assumes all the necessary metal stances throughout archival Priest numbers: ‘Rapid Fire’, ‘Love Bites’, and Saints in Hell’.

The melodically progressive newbie ‘Crown of Horns’ offers a mid-set soother, prior to 80’s electronica ‘Turbo Lover’ which has the crowd in full voice. It’s then our Brummie host Halford pays tribute to his home town, and the 50 year history of Judas Priest. He thanks “our beautiful heavy metal maniacs” for keeping the faith, before the band launch into ‘Invincible Shield’.

Producer and touring guitarist, Andy Sneap, along with founding member and bassist Ian Hill, might be a little more conspicuous in their performances, but it’s clear by now they are giving their all. ‘Victim of Changes’, and Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Green Manalishi’ take us to a few words from drummer Scott Travis, before his thundering intro and the metal masterpiece ‘Painkiller’.

Into the encore for ‘Electric Eye’, before darkness briefly descends for Halford’s epic Harley entrance, and a fist pumping rendition of ‘Hell Bent for Leather’. Before we know it, Glenn Tipton is out on stage for a relevant more than ever ‘Metal Gods’, and ‘Living After Midnight’, which comes complete with huge, inflatable, red-eyed bull, to put a triumphant cap on proceedings.

In classic rock and metal circles, there’s always speculation about a tour possibly being the last opportunity to see the band in question. But as Halford exits he is keen to declare: “The Priest will be back!” If that is the case, then of course it can only continue for so long. But while it does, who wouldn’t want to witness more superb shows from a band who helped define a genre.

Review & Photography: Steve Johnston

Judas Priest