BLOOMINGTON, Ill. - In support of the blazing new album of the same name, legendary rockers Judas Priest brought their “Firepower” tour to the Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington April 8.
With more than four decades under their studded belts, Judas Priest is proving yet again that they deserve every accolade they've received over the years.
The show kicked off with Black Star Riders, a project formed out of the current incarnation of Thin Lizzy. With fast guitars and thundering drums, the band got the crowd roaring and ready for more, playing their own hits such as “Heavy Fire” and “All Hell Breaks Loose” while tossing in the crowd-pleasing “Jailbreak” from Thin Lizzy.
Second on the bill was another British metal band. Much like Judas Priest, Saxon was born in the 1970s and became one of the leaders of the “new wave of British heavy metal.” Unlike Priest, however, Saxon never hit quite as big in the U.S. However, they influenced some of the biggest names in hard rock and heavy metal through the '80s and '90s. Frontman Biff Byford still holds court on stage with a commanding presence that's impossible to ignore. With the hard-driving sounds of songs like “Denim and Leather,” “Wheels of Steel” and “Sons of Odin,” Saxon proves that they still belong in the world of live, loud heavy metal music.
Once Judas Priest hit the stage, the night shifted into overdrive.
Opening with title track of the new album, the man known as the metal god, Rob Halford, showed that even after more than 40 years, his voice still carries the power to rattle the rafters. The set list was packed with classic hits from the band's discography, with only three songs from the new album. Even the new tracks, however, carried the power of the classics from albums like “British Steel” and “Stained Class.”
The crowd joined in with the biggest hits. From “Turbo Lover,” “Breaking the Law,” and “Electric Eye,” whenever Halford wanted to hear from the audience, they were right there for him. And he showed his appreciation. The rest of the band fed on that energy, as well. Guitarist Richie Faulkner was on the front edge of the stage all night, playing to the front row, but making the kids in the nosebleed seats feel like they were the only ones in the room.
Andy Snead, the second six-string slinger on stage, has had an impossible task on this tour. After producing the “Firepower” album, Snead was tapped to fill in the massive shoes of Glenn Tipton following his announcement of dealing with Parkinson's disease and being forced to step away from the tour. When you're taking the place of an icon under difficult circumstances, it has to be a challenge, but Snead seemed to fill that slot solidly. He never tried to steal any attention, but attention came to him just for his musicianship and stage presence, the way it should be. And it seemed the crowd accepted him with open arms.
Closing out the night was “Living After Midnight,” a song that the crowd sang word for word from start to finish. And though the show ended a little earlier than the song title, the sentiment was the same.
And there's little doubt the Bloomington crowd was still rockin' until dawn.