The evening kicked off with excellent support from Michael Schenker’s Temple of Rock. And Schenker clearly understood the golden rule of being an effective support act: unlike the headliners that everyone has paid to see, hit the crowd between the eyes with your best song first – don’t save it ’til the end! So we begin the night with a cracking version of Doctor Doctor. It couldn’t have been a better start to the evening in an absolutely jam-packed Brixton Academy.
I first discovered Judas Priest as a teenager back in the early 80s not long after British Steel came out and the band can still be heard regularly blasting out from my speakers. But as a gay heavy metal fan I can’t also fail to mention my personal admiration for lead singer Rob Halford. In a genre that always seemed so resolutely heterosexual, Halford’s decision to be open about being gay back in 1998 was a big moment both for him personally and for heavy metal generally. Seeing his total command of an adoring crowd tonight it’s hard to believe that Halford’s sexuality could ever even have been an issue. But there must be many a teenage rock fan across the globe who can personally thank Rob Halford for demonstrating so visibly that, yes, it’s ok to be both gay and like heavy metal. Cheers Rob.
Halford is not a frontman who goes for a lot of between-song chat and audience banter but, boy, does he know how to work a crowd: mass chanting, crowd sing-alongs, every stage movement eliciting a multitude of fists in the air and more costume changes than Elton John, Halford knows how to squeeze every last drop of adulation from an audience. His vocal range is as wide and as powerful as it always was. He growls the lowest of the low notes and howls the highest of the high notes just as he always did. It’s a performance of utter brilliance in every respect, as is that of the whole band. The unmistakeable twin lead guitars are as powerful as ever, with Glen Tipton being joined by new guitarist Richie Falkner (who replaced Priest veteran, KK Downing, in 2011).
And let’s not forget the songs of course. They deliver a great mix of songs representing different eras of the band’s history, the relevant album cover for each song flashing up on the giant screens on stage beforehand, fuelling anticipation of what might be coming next. We get some new songs from last year’s album, Redeemer of Souls, of course – the first with new guitarist, Falkner. But as we move through the hour-and-a-half set, more and more of the unforgettable classics of the 80s emerge: Breaking The Law, Hell Bent for Leather, You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’.
Soon we are nearing to a close, however, with the crowd going wild to a high-octane version of Painkiller and a brilliant sing-along Living After Midnight. Always metal. Always Loud. Never just noise. Judas Priest are still on form and are truly still the Metal Gods.
Victim of Changes
Halls of Valhalla
Redeemer of Souls
Beyond the Realms of Death
Screaming for Vengeance
Breaking the Law
Hell Bent for Leather
You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’
Living After Midnight