JUDAS PRIEST - Unleashed In The East Coast

September 11, 2018, 10 months ago

Mark Gromen

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The British metal institution keeps chugging along, firing on all cylinders, like the super-sonic aircraft depicted on the video screen behind the band, throughout the concert. Nice to see the setlist has been altered since seeing them in March: some old favorites in, others out and more Firepower material, including this reporter's favorite, "Rising From Ruins". As before, the band begins behind a curtain, which drops as the latest title track screams forth. Both Rob Halford and Richie Faulkner are wearing sunglasses that they'll both eventually discard. The frontman is in the first of many jackets (seemingly changing after every song), a silver, fringed number, emblazoned with Firepower across the back.

Together with "Delivering The Goods" and "Sinner", a potent triumvirate that gets the blood pumping, heads banging and fists thrusted. The latter begins with Faulkner, much the focal piece these days (just look at all the photogs flock in his direction, as he exhibits the guitar god poses), instrument overhead in a veil of stage smoke. Speaking of smoke, there's plenty of fire, albeit of the video variety, onscreen, behind drummer Scott Travis. Faulkner and six-string partner Andy Sneap, each have a riser to play atop. By "Sinner", Halford has ditched the shades (although they'll return) and opts for a black waist coast, studded around the pockets and collar. 

Not sure why the iconic outline of the Matterhorn was selected for Jumbortron images during "Lightning Strike", which is punctuated by an opening, high pitched Halford scream, the kind many thought he was no longer capable of delivering. Not sure what they're doing to make Rob sound so good and don't care if it's real or Memorex, he sounds fantastic! The two guitars offer twin leads, but Richie holds his axe vertically. The crowd greets "Desert Plains" like an old friend. The guitarists are together, for a rare time, center stage, and when Halford sings "Full moon is rising", the screen shows a matching image. The rest of the tune sees images of motorcycles racing across a desert landscape. 

Faulkner wings picks into the audience, sidearm, snapping his wrist like he's playing Ultimate Frisbee. Video of firing pistons kicks off "Turbo Lover", the chorus sung by thousands who probably were reviled by it, three decades ago. Amazing turn-around, in terms of fan acceptance. Stage right, Faulkner is on right knee, the left leg outstretched, then he lets Sneap take the lead. As it ends, the stage goes completely black, as the band leaves. A flaming, unholy Calvary, complete with three devil's crosses (Priest tri-tone symbol) appears overhead, as "Guardians", the piano intro to "Rising From Ruins" is piped in. Musicians on first, then Halford (now in silver floor length duster, his fourth coat of the night). The two guitars trade leads, Sneap adding some hammer-ons from his white Flying V, while Richie takes the solo break. It might be new, but sorry. the song is more dynamic and lays waste to must-play staples like "Desert Plains" or "Metal Gods". 

Keeping on the new tip, "No Surrender" is next. Red tinted video of a band rehearsal is shown onscreen, a vid that includes Glenn Tipton. Both string-benders and Travis add backing vocals. The pace remains frantic (as many more recognize) "Freewheel Burning", complete with strobes and fans providing the titular chorus. Ending with another piercing screams, Halford heads off stage, for a costume change and otherwise total darkness is broken by a lone spotlight on Faulkner, who introduces "You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’". Rob returns and gets the assemblage to add the requisite "whoa whoa whoa, yeah" accents. Once more, blackened stage, but then the roar of a Harley engine heralds "Hellbent For Leather". True to its word, Halford is resplendent in full biker regalia, including leather cap and riding crop. He sings the entire song astraddle the hog. 

Travis gets to speak and bang out the opening notes of "Painkiller", which is augmented by vintage live footage. Thus ends the proper set. For the encore, Halford is back in Aviator shades (with metal studs) for "Metal Gods". "Breaking The Law" sees Halford sandwiched between Faulkner and Sneap, as the trio sway in unison center stage. Overall, the one drawback is the lack of this type of interaction between the members. Only on a rare occasion, the perpetually pacing frontman will "visit" Faulkner, but there's little of the arm around the shoulders, or standing back-to-back, "We're a band" personal interactions. Maybe with a bit more time? The concluding "Living After Midnight" is a virtual start-to-finish fan sung party, Halford ends the evening in a floor length denim duster, sewn on metal band patches polka dotted down the back. 

Afterwards, a large contingent of their fanbase exits, not waiting around for Deep Purple, yet thrilled with the prospects of the closing video screen message, "The Priest will be back!" Can't wait.

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