Live Photos and Gig Review Credit: Dave Burke (Photographer/Live Gig reporter)
Metal legends Judas Priest returned to Wisconsin for the first time in 6 years on an unseasonably cool and rainy July night, headlining the 2nd day of the 5th annual Rock USA Festival in Oshkosh WI.
Preceded by support acts Dokken, Whitesnake & southern rock pioneers Lynyrd Skynryd, Priest took the stage at about11pm, as the rains started up again. As is customary for Rock USA, the band played a slightly shortened one hour set, surprisingly void of some of their biggest hits.
The 13 song set spanned the bands four decade career, reaching as far back as 1976 for “Victims of Change” from the band’s “Sad Wings Of Destiny” LP, but pulling most heavily from 1980’s “landmark “British Steel” and 2014’s “Redeemer of Souls”, with 3 song from each.
As more of a casual fan I was disappointed at the omission of the hits “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” and “Heading Out To The Highway” in favor of the newer material and heard a few others around me voice the same complaint.
As vocalist Rob Halford emerged from stage right cloaked in a knee length black leather jacket, dark aviator glasses and carrying a silver headed walking stick he seemed to struggle just a bit with the opening track “Dragonaut” from the aforementioned “Redeemer of Souls” and left the stage a few times between songs early on. Given that the “Metal God” is now in his early 60’s and has been delivering the goods for 40 plus years it’s not surprising that some nights it may take a few songs to really loosen up. By the time the band locked into “Devils Child” from 1982’s platinum seller “Screaming for Vengeance” he seemed to loosen up & deliver his trademark banshee wail.
Having never seen the band live, only videos of their early 80’s prime, I was surprised how much time Halford spent at the back of the stage or not facing the crowd at all. By contrast guitarist Richie Faulkner, who replaced founding member K. K. Downing in 2011 spent much of the night at the edge of the stage egging the crowd on, head banging, throwing up the “devil horns” and at times joining fellow guitarist Glenn Tipton at center stage for the signature Priest twin guitar attack.
Founding bassist Ian Hill was firmly planted at stage left, locking in with long time drummer Scott Travis as I knew he would be.
Aside from wanting a few more of the hits, particularly considering it was a shortened set, the band gave a solid performance delivering sing along radio classics like “Breaking The Law” and “Living After Midnight” along side deeper cuts and new material. A good time for head bangers young and old.
For all things Priest head over to www.judaspriest.com