Review by Robert Cavuoto
Judas Priest touched down in Newark, NJ, at the Prudential Center on March 22nd. Their 50 Heavy Metal Years Tour was rescheduled from last October while guitarist Richie Faulkner was recovering from an aortic aneurysm. Tonight’s long-awaited return promised to rock the Prudential Center off its foundation and possibly level it to the ground.
Priest has been going strong for over 50 years, and the band appears to have brought a renewed call-to-arms to metal fans. Rob Halford [vocals], Richie Faulkner [guitar], Andy Sneap [guitar], Scott Travis [drums], and Ian Hill [bass] hit the stage to their anxious followers, crushing them with the opener “One Shot at Glory.” As soon as the first chord to the song was struck, ravenous worshipers rocked back and forth and chanted their name in unison while pumping their fists in homage as all Hell broke loose.
As the song closed with Richie’s blazing solo still ringing in their ears, Priest delivered the perfect one-two punch with “Lightning Strike” and then ” You’ve Got Another Thing Comin.” In an interview before the show, I asked Rob, In your 50-year career, was there a song that resonated the most with you? He shared, “One of the greatest moments for me was how the Screaming for Vengeance record turned out with its surprise hit single with “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin” here in America. It helped propel the band into the 80s.” Tonight it was played with the unbridled passion and energy from when it was written four decades ago.
Buckle your seat belt, secure your safety harness, and kiss your ass goodbye as the performance was off to epic portions of metal savagery. Priest put on a soul-crushing display of British metal in the Brick City. Every song in the 90+ minute set was played with a sense of power and fury from beginning to end. Their setlist touched upon almost all their albums, with several songs from Painkiller, like the high-drama title track, “Touch of Evil,” and “Hell Patrol,” were all delivered with swaggering and almost jaunty cadences.
Adding some dimension to the performance, the band showed their lighter side by performing “Desert Plains” and “Diamonds and Rust.” The band then turned things back up with their arena-friendly metal classics like “Hell Bent for Leather,” with Rob coming out on his Harley Davidson and Glenn Tipton performing the last three songs of the night; “Metal God,” with him taking the solo, “Breaking the Law” and best closing song in metal ever; “Living After Midnight.”
Rob’s powerful vocal abilities helped launch the New Wave of British Heavy Metal and have always led the charge. His undeniable and identifiable singing is the perfect pairing to his songwriting and gut-wrenching vocals. It is evident that Rob, at 71, still has the vocal chop to crush “Victim of Changes” and “The Sentinel” perfectly. Fans enjoyed every steel-belted scream he had to offer.
Richie and Andy’s dual bombardment gave the songs the heft and lift they deserved. Richie’s energy has not diminished in the slightest as he ran the stage side to side, front to back, giving the classics song a fresh, visceral impact. Drummer Scott Travis has an insane style of playing where every hit on the drums was a full wind-up swing like he was pounding nails with a sledgehammer while playing flawlessly in the pocket to Ian. The drum kit took a monstrous beating tonight, and Scott only picked up more steam and power with each passing song. Ian and Scott laid down a solid driving beat like a runaway train giving Richie and Andy plenty of space to provide clarity in the song’s rich harmonies. The legendary British metal band’s accessible blend of hook-driven guitar riffs, thundering rhythms, and full-throttle screams had the metal maniacs playing air guitar and, in some cases, the entire airband unto themselves.
Priest has always impressed me with their uncanny ability to perform a wide variety of song styles and then tie the collection together with a ribbon, so they all sound like a cohesive unit, whether written 50 years ago or from the Firepower. They have assembled the perfect combination of songs for the setlist that mirrored that sentiment. To witness all these elements come together on a stage was pure nirvana.
Just as furious as the show started, it came to a close. Priest are musical masters who can take pure emotion and angst and turn it into a defiant irreverence celebration while remaining an unmovable core of fans’ metal musical vision.