The Shrine Auditorium is a Los Angeles landmark. Sitting on the outskirts of the campus of The University of Southern California, these hallowed halls have played host to numerous spectacles of the glitterati. The Academy Awards, The Grammy Awards, People’s Choice Awards and Primetime Emmy Awards shows have all been held within the Moorish Revival Mecca. On Tuesday, March 5th, a different kind of luminaries were on hand as the metal gods, Judas Priest set up shop on the altar known as the Shrine stage. The glittering was not of jewels and rhinestones, but rather of spikes and studs.
An elaborate stage set, resembling a metalworks, replete with chemical drums, pipes, steam gauges and smokestacks establish the borders of the massive boards. In addition, a large video screen displaying various thematic graphics and video footage accompanies the music. Unfortunately due to the shooting constraints of the venue, the photographs included here will not be able to convey the full grandeur of the feast for the senses that is this production.
After guitarist Richie Faulkner’s unfortunate health issue derailed the Priest’s tour last September, the band finds themselves back at it with Faulkner seeming fully recovered. Of course the father of leather and studs himself, Rob Halford is still holding the position of master of ceremonies. Halford is not the performer he once was, but at 70 years of age, he can still incite a crowd as much as he ever did. He mostly wanders around the stage and does a lot of the two-handed mic grip while leaning into his vocals. There is one thing that has not changed though, he can still scrape the rust off a decommissioned battleship with his razor-like vocal chords.
Fellow founding member Ian Hill remains where he always has, in the back in one spot, establishing the sonic floor for the band. Andy Sneap, the second touring guitarist who was officially not in the touring band a month ago, being the beneficiary of some reconsideration from Halford, is there and handles the occasional solo just like in the old days when Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing would share those duties. Drummer Scott Travis, a veritable veteran of the band, with his 20 plus year tenure is arguably the best drummer the band has had and definitely proves that on this evening.
The band sounds fantastic and the sound in the room is on par with their performance. Repeatedly the room would sing in unison as Halford turned it over to them, all the while throwing up fists and horns. The set is enjoyable and the atmosphere of the room is one that can only be achieved at a metal concert, metal maniacs of all ages worshipping at the altar of the originators.
The show really starts in the encore. The band reconvenes for The Hellion, which of course leads into Electric Eye. Next, Halford leaves the stage for one of the many slight wardrobe changes he would make on the evening. He reemerges on to the stage on the seat of his Harley where he will remain perched for the entirety of Hell Bent For Leather. More of a concert within a concert, this five song set continues with the introduction of Tipton, who is apparently on this tour for this portion each night. Tipton, who announced his Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis some four years ago, and his secession or at least minimal touring activity, enters the stage and looks very frail. However, when they break into Metal Gods, he proves that he can still play. The finale of Breaking The Law and Living After Midnight are a crescendo to the evening that leaves the audience ecstatic. The show ends with the band, sans Halford, showing appreciation to the fans, Tipton distributing picks, and Travis selectively looking for worthy recipients of his drumsticks. All this while the video monitor displays the message: THE PRIEST WILL BE BACK.
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