Judas Priest, Steel Panther close out 2014 in Boise, Tacoma
This weekend, Judas Priest closed out its 2014 U.S. tour in the Pacific Northwest with shows in Idaho and Washington. A decade has passed since the last time the mighty Judas Priest has graced Idaho, as part of 2004’s Ozzfest Tour. Logic and time suggests, Boise fans won’t have another Priest coming. The band’s recent Epitaph World Tour was supposed to be the last, but with a new album, the British quintet felt the itch to tour again. While the band might have another album and another tour in them, history suggests Idaho will not be on the itinerary, making Friday night’s show at Century Link Arena all the more special for the fans that were on hand.
The Redeemer of Souls Tour marks the second tour with the current line-up which features founding members, vocalist Rob Halford, bassist Ian Hill, and guitarist Glenn Tipton, as well as longtime drummer Scott Travis. The band’s newest member, Richie Faulkner is the man fans can show gratitude toward, for without his youthful presence (comparatively speaking) and passion for the legacy of Judas Priest, the band might never have recorded a new album, much less given fans one final chance to see their heroes live.
One might call this the Beauty and the Priest tour as the entire tour featured Los Angeles-based parody band Steel Panther as the opening act, making the November 21st show the band’s first (and likely last) appearance in Boise. Steel Panther was new to most of the audience, but for the initiated, the band churned out everything that was expected. They hit the stage awash in make-up, tight leather and spandex, plenty of eye-liner and a healthy dose of Aquanet. They are an intentional caricature of the glam-metal 80s hair bands, ala Poison, Ratt and Motley Crue. Their songs are not simply filled with sexual innuendo, they are loaded down with blatant, in your face misogyny, and that is their shtick.
Steel Panther is a blast to watch, and the songs are just well-written enough to make them enjoyable to endure for the twisted lyrics of songs like “Pussywhipped”, “Asian Hookers”, “17 Girls in a Row”, and “Gloryhole”: All of which were among the 10 songs the band kicked out in a near hour-long set that also featured plenty of tasteless sexual banter. So much banter, in fact, they were 25 minutes into their set before they even performed their fourth song, the popular, “Just Like Tiger Woods”.
In short, Steel Panther is perfect for an adult-only club act, but not built for arena stages, and audiences with young children and teens. Their performance was entertaining, and much of the crowd was certainly into the act, but there was also noticeable discomfort among those with younger kids (likely at their first concert), and even the tweens. The guys, Michael Starr (vocals), Lexxi Foxx (bass), Stix Zadinia (drums), and Satchel (guitar) gave the crowd 110% of unadulterated and tasteless rock and roll entertainment. It just seems Judas Priest would have better suited its fan base and the metal scene by bringing out an up-and-coming band that is deserving of some big stage recognition they might not otherwise get without a leg up from such a notable band. Steel Panther, while fun, will only ever be a gimmicky club act.
As for the metal gods, as Tipton promised in our recent interview, Judas Priest gave fans a heavy dose of the new album, Redeemer of Souls, including the show (and album) opener, “Dragonaut”. The band kept the stage set pretty simple, with large video screens as a backdrop, some steps in front of the drum-riser, and a lighting rig suitable to bring the visual aspects of the performance to life.
Judas Priest played 16 songs in all, firing up “Metal Gods” from 1980’s classic British Steel album and “Devil’s Child” from ‘82’s Screaming for Vengeance, to kick-start the show. Fans got their first taste of truly classic Priest on the fourth song, “Victim of Changes” taking the band back nearly 40 years to the brilliant 1976 Sad Wings of Destiny record.
The band then interspersed Redeemer of Souls songs, like the beastly “Halls of Valhalla”, “March of the Damned”, and the title track, between mid-80s classics like “Love Bites” and “Turbo Lover”. A true test of how strong an album is hangs on how the songs stand up live, and the four songs they played were even more powerful in concert, suggesting Redeemer of Souls is destined to be another seminal slab of vintage Priest.
Throughout the set, Halford paced about the stage with more energy and drive then I have seen from him in years. The recent back surgery and renewed passion have given him back his metal swagger that 35-plus years of touring and back pain had diminished. Conversely, Faulkner was a spark-plug on stage, constantly on the move, engaging the crowd, and clearly enjoying every moment of the performance. The stalwart Hill, remained, as he always does, anchored stage-left of the drums, lost in his rocking, rumbling, four-string precision. Tipton, while not as energetic as his young six-string battery mate, moved about the stage quite a bit as well. His performance set the tone for the show—for metal is all about the almighty riff, and Glenn is the master. Travis, whose double-bass thundering can cave the chest of all those in the first 10 rows, sat high upon his perch, spinning and tossing his sticks in the air amidst his powerful pummeling—propelling each song like a relentless juggernaut.
Halford, who changed outfits almost as frequently as Lady Gaga, talked of the band’s history, setting the stage for a moody performance of the iconic, “Beyond the Realms of Death” from Priest’s ’78 album, Stained Class. They dealt the next blow with “Jawbreaker” from ‘84’s Defenders of the Faith, before closing the main set out with the hits, “Breaking the Law” and “Hell Bent for Leather”—the latter, as always, featuring Halford riding center stage on his rumbling Harley.
The first encore was an elongated version of the monster single, “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin”, which also featured an extended Faulkner guitar solo. Closing it all out in grand Judas Priest style, the guys gave fans “Living After Midnight” and “Defenders of the Faith”. They stuck around to throw picks and sticks to the crowd before a group bow and a well-received walk-off with their new song, “Beginning of the End” playing over the loudspeakers as an outro.
Having witnessed Judas Priest numerous times throughout their four decade career, Friday night’s show was no less an honor than any previous tour, and the performance was as tight and impressive as I have ever enjoyed from the metal gods.
All photos © 2014 Katarzyna Cepek Photography.