JUDAS PRIEST – Icehall, Helsinki, Finland June 3rd 2008
Concert review and live pictures by Luxi Lahtinen
Judas Priest – one of the true veterans of the NWOBHM sound and innovators of the whole heavy metal scene wolrwide, have come a long way since its formation (1967); 16 studio albums, many successful world tours, overwhelmingly good positions in album charts everywhere in the world, etc. (the list could be continued and hyped up by many superlatives for sure), have got their world tour up and running, starting it from Helsinki, Finland on June 3rd 2008 this time around. The band´s latest studio album, titled NOSTRADAMUS, behind which the band is touring, has caused mixed feelings amongst many Priest fans, some of them saying the Priest have traveled to the end of their road, and should stop making music any more. But then again, there´s the other section of Priest fans to whom Priest is considered as a sort of a holy institution that the fans of the band will be following ´til the band ceases to exist some day. Also, regarding this group of Priest fanboy-ism, whatever Priest do musically, sympathies will eventually be on Priest´s side – even if they cannot repeat their classic STAINED CLASS or PAINKILLER or whatever albums any longer. However, the nostalgic vibe is always present as a part of Priest – and there´s no denying that these relatively old gentlemen of heavy metal can still deliver the goods live.
Priest entered the stage, starting off with "Prophecy" off the new album, NOSTRADAMUS. During that song, Rob Halford was dressed on a silver cloak, carrying a prophet’s sceptre in his hands. As most of us were still unfamiliar with the new songs of NOSTRADAMUS, "Prophecy" didn´t raise the spirit of the concert up to the ice hall´s roof, but instead left the Priest fans to a ´wait-and-see´ state. As soon as the next song, "Metal Gods", came out from the speakers, the whole spirit of the concert changed. The fans welcomed Priest the way I have never seen them doing before, not in Finland anyway. Overwhelmingly wide smiles in the faces of the Priest members reflected the sheer gratification and happiness at the fact they are not forgotten amongst the Finnish Priest fans. And like another gift, handed over by Priest to their fans, "Eat Me Alive" continued supporting all the Priest fans attempt to go absolutely nuts at that night. When Priest deliver their songs, it´s always the old classic hits that can only do that trick, the Priest fans going berserk whenever they are hit by those evergreen Priest classics.
"Between the Hammer & the Anvil" was pretty well received as well by the loudly screaming fans, but yet again it was the next two Priest live numbers – both "Devil´s Child" and "Breaking the Law", that started the party in the supportive Priest crowd. Both Glen Tipton and K.K. Downing seemed to be in a good shape for delivering their goods well – and yes, Ian Hill is still Ian Hill, hilariously looking like a captured animal that he has been doing the same movement in its cage for the last 3 decades already. Rob Halford looked very charismatic as a stage person as always even if he doesn´t move on the stage the same way like he did when he was at his 30´s-something. He has aged, and unfortunately it has also had some effect on his voice. In "Hell Patrol", he was struggling a bit to keep his pitch, but still managed to avoid the worst traps in which he might have proven something totally opposite about his skills as a great and respected heavy metal singer. Anyway, no matter how you look at it, but Rob´s character is still very powerful and captivating - and even if he wasn´t in that communicating mood with his audience, the fans surely did scream their lungs out whenever Rob wanted to hear them screaming for him.
"Death", another song from the band´s latest studio album, hardly made the fans any crazier than the set´s opener, "Prophecy" did. It would have been a whole different thing if the fans had had an opportunity to hear the new album before the concert, I believe. "Dissident Aggressor", a classic song that even Slayer once decided to cover, gave again one reason to the crowd to go berserk, which they indeed did. Then "Angel" tamed the fans just a little bit before the Priest machine started catapulting a cavalcade of some of the most known Priest songs toward their fully supportive fans. It all started from the intro "The Hellion" – and a classic Priest song after another ("Electric Eye", "Rock Hard" and "Sinner"), followed each other and it could easily be said – according to how the fans reacted when Priest performed their instant hit tracks one after another, that´s why we were here for: to hear all that classic, killer Priest stuff.
Most of the old classic songs went down really well into the audience, but as much as "Painkiller" is a great song and all that, unfortunately that´s one of those songs Priest should avoid playing live any more. Namely I felt almost sorry for Rob as he couldn´t reach those high pitches in his voice that the song would have deserved in order to sound at least somewhat decent to the ears of the audienece. Aging is something you cannot do anything about, but you can at least try to pick up such songs for a live set that you can think to perform live well enough, without sounding forced with your voice or anything. Poor Rob, at least he tried his best – that´s for certain, but anyhow, slightly referring to an old Priest song, you need to be older to be wiser in order to perform the right songs for your own age, eh? Oh well, whatever…
The encores were also nicely chosen for their set: First "Hell Bent for Leather", then "The Green Manalishi (with the Two-Prong Crown)" and last but not least, "You´ve Got Another Thing Comin´", all were like the final nails of joy of pure and classic heavy metal to the coffin of Priest´s well-done live performance. The magic of Priest isn´t still lost – and gladly that is so. Long live the mighty Priest…!!
More pictures taken from Priest´s show at Icehall, Helsinki, Finland on June 3rd 2008…
A list of costumes that Rob used during their set in Helsinki on June 3rd 2008