Published on September 2nd, 2018 | by Darren Paltrowitz0
Judas Priest In Concert: 3 Things That Amazed Me & 3 Things That Can Use Some Improvement
With over 50 million albums sold in close to 50 years as a band, few artists have had the longevity or success of British metal pioneers Judas Priest. With rock classics like “Breaking The Law,” “Living After Midnight” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” in its repertoire, Judas Priest has managed to be one of the few groups of its genre that pumped out radio-friendly gems. And still all these years later, the Priest is playing arena-sized venues and headlining major festivals around the world.
Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Judas Priest live at Long Island, New York’s Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater. Co-headlining the event as part of a North American tour with Deep Purple, the five-piece took the stage at 8:00 PM following an opening set from The Temperance Movement. Below are 3 things that amazed me about Judas Priest’s concert and 3 things that I feel can use some improvement about a future Priest-related concert experience.
1) The Production
The stage looked cool. The sound-mix made the music sound heavy yet melodic, free of the muddiness that often plagues Jones Beach shows. Rob Halford changed coats close to a dozen times during the show, much like how Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen swaps guitars after almost every song in concert. Halford still does the late-in-the-set motorcycle routine. Nothing about this performance hints at Judas Priest slowing down or scaling back.
2) The Performance
If you are serious about Judas Priest, you may realize that only 2 members of its current lineup are from what many call “the classic lineup,” and that is vocalist Rob Halford and bassist Ian Hill. However, Scott Travis has been drumming for the Priest since 1989, making him longer-tenured with Judas Priest than the majority of musicians playing Jones Beach this summer. Furthermore, the dueling guitars of Richie Faulkner and Andy Sneap — as sacrilegious as it may seem to say — help to give the band more punch and personality than ever. Halford is singing as great as ever, hitting every scream and high note from the original recordings. Travis and Hill are still a solid rhythm section. Whether it’s old material or tracks from 2018’s Firepower album, everything sounded top-notch.
3) Glenn Tipton
Earlier this year, it was announced that long-time Judas Priest guitarist Glenn Tipton had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and would no longer be touring with the band. Andy Sneap would be joining in his place. However, at a New Jersey concert last March, Tipton appeared on-stage and played the last few songs of the set with the band. The crowd at Jones Beach was treated to a Tipton appearance, this time for Priest’s last 4 songs — including 1 from Firepower — even taking a solo during “Living After Midnight.” This was an emotional moment, to say the least, and the band is actively raising funds for Glenn Tipton Parkinson’s Foundation; it is unclear this was a one-off appearance for Tipton or a sign that he will regularly be performing with the Priest.
1) The Billing
As noted above, this concert was part of a co-headlining tour between Deep Purple and Judas Priest. Both of those bands are British by origin (aside from Priest drummer Scott Travis and Purple guitarist Steve Morse), have 5 members, are considered influential pioneers within the hard rock genres, and have written plenty of charting songs. What do they have in common otherwise? Not much comes to mind to this writer. Judas Priest performed before Deep Purple — which made many attendees scratch their heads, given that Judas Priest had more production on the stage — and led to a lot of walk-outs early into Deep Purple’s set. For a future Judas Priest arena tour, the band would be better suited to perform alongside either a younger metal-related, arena-level band (e.g. Volbeat, Five Finger Death Punch, Avenged Sevenfold) or with a few other contemporaries that pull from a similar fanbase (e.g. Anthrax, Megadeth, Testament), rather than a random classic rock band. The co-headliners did not reference one another during their sets nor guest during one another’s performances; by comparison, Poison and Cheap Trick both brought out members of opener Pop Evil at this year’s Jones Beach outing, also thanking its tourmates between songs.
2) The Setlist
Since Judas Priest was co-headlining with Deep Purple, and a venue like Jones Beach carries a union-related curfew, the band’s set was kept to 75 minutes. The Priest’s set was largely rooted in classics, with 4 songs from 2018’s Firepower added in. 15 songs in total, no covers, and no solos. Unfortunately, this meant that a lot of key Judas Priest songs were not performed at Jones Beach, including “Heading Out To The Highway,” “Victim Of Changes,” “The Ripper,” “Hot Rockin’,” “Diamonds And Rust,” “The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown),” “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll,” “Electric Eye,” “United” and “Grinder.” In other words, Judas Priest could have done a 2-hour set without it feeling like the group had overstayed its welcome. How many artists can that be said about in 2018?
3) The Fake Encore
10 songs into the set, drummer Scott Travis got on the mic and offered some “Rock 101” banter about Long Island needing to prove it was the capital of rock. Travis also said that this was going to be the last Judas Priest song of the evening. About 50 minutes after hitting the stage. Without having played “Breaking The Law,” “Living After Midnight” or “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming.” In this day and age of Setlist.Fm and the average concert-goer knowing to expect a hit-related encore, instead of faking an exit only to return for an encore that everyone knew was going to happen, why not just show a video package, bring out a special guest or let someone take a solo for a few minutes in lieu of disguising a set break as an (already-planned) encore?
Judas Priest put on one of the best live shows I have seen so far in 2018. Rob Halford is still at the top of his game as a singer and frontman, and the musicianship within Judas Priest is arguably better than ever. Before the band left the stage, a graphic popped up on Jones Beach’s video screens that “The Priest will be back,” suggesting that this is not intended to be a farewell tour for the band as once rumored. In turn, I look forward to seeing Judas Priest in concert soon, and hope to see the quintet in the near-future as part of a more appropriate package while playing a longer set.