Judas Priest – October 18, 2014 – Peterson Events Center, Pittsburgh, PA

Friday, 24th October 2014

Six years ago on their co-headline tour with Heaven and Hell, Priest looked tired, and frankly, due for retirement. Whether it was the combination of the lackluster response to Nostradamus, KK Downing’s increasing restlessness, or Halford’s health issues, the band hobbled and stumbled through a set that needed some serious revisions, including the dropping of long-time staple “Painkiller.” Being that Priest doesn’t play old-man metal ala Sabbath (i.e. it’s more physical demanding for all parties), no one would have found fault with the band for hanging it up after their proposed farewell tour in 2011, but here they are, three years later, seemingly with more pep in their step and a quality new album to boot. What happened?

The band’s live presentation has turned into the Richie Faulkner show, Downing’s replacement and partial doppelganger. Faulkner, who has the appropriate level of licks and technicality in his bag, was the most animated and interesting member of Priest to watch. With bassist Ian Hill and guitarist Glen Tipton largely stationary, Faulkner and Halford provided the most energy across a set that wisely mixed in the stronger jams from the band’s new Redeemer of Souls album (“Dragonaut,” “Valhalla,” “March of the Damned” and the title track) with a selection of vintage songs that were mostly spot-on, which would be “Metal Gods” (which is one of the best metal songs ever), “Devil’s Child” and the always-appreciated “Jawbreaker.”

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Halford’s performance, a noticeable improvement from the aforementioned Heaven and Hell tour, where hitting his patented rafter-reaching highs looked like a difficult task. On this night, he was in a full range, providing plenty of gusto to timeless numbers like “Victim of Changes” and the underrated “Beyond the Realms of Death,” a song that stands as the band’s best-ever ballad. Lest we forget the bald-plated, leather-adorned frontman riding out on his motorcycle for “Hellbent for Leather,” which will never get old.

Parody glam rockers Steel Panther opened the show and offered plenty of comedy, but DR purposely showed up late in order to miss the bulk of their set. Why a more suitable opener in the melodic metal field wasn’t chosen is beyond our grasp of comprehension, but rightfully so, the night belonged to Priest, who realize they’re well past their prime, yet can still hang with the upper echelon of vintage metal when they’ve got their act together. Good to see them in fine form. Anything less would be disheartening.

Judas Priest official website