Live Gig Report and Photos by: Robert Cavuoto
Heavy metal was alive and well at the Prudential Center in Newark on March 20th where veteran rockers, Judas Priest, Saxon, and Black Star Riders put on an explosive metal studded event. This tour is the perfect pairing of bands to share the stage as Judas Priest and Saxon led the charge for the New Wave of British Heavy Metal in the 80’s, and Black Star Riders have their roots with Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy.
Black Star Riders
Right out of the gate Black Star Riders opened the show with their heaviest and best song “All Hell Breaks Loose.” The band continued hitting the audience with a barrage of smoldering tracks like “Heavy Fire,” “When the Night Comes In,” and “The Killer Instinct.” The band consists of Ricky Warwick on vocals /guitar, Chad Szeliga on drums, Robbie Crane on bass, and Damon Johnson & Scott Gorham on guitar.
Prior to the show, I asked Ricky, if he felt he had to win over this audience? He replied, “We are playing in front of Priest and Saxon fans. I have to earn their respect. We will be playing every night as if nobody knows who the hell we are and have a point to prove. That’s the way we always play even at our own shows. We want to make people believers at the end of the night no matter who they are or what music they are into.”
Ricky is an outstanding frontman, singer, and guitarist who drew the crowd into the band’s performance. Their music combines commercial hard rock with big riffs and a tremendous sense of melody. He sang every song with a true sense of passion and purpose. Damon Johnson and Scott Gorham did what they do best and ignited the stage with a duel attack of bluesy balls to the wall rock.
They also dipped into their Thin Lizzy legacy paying tribute to the late Phil Lynott by performing “Jailbreak.” In their short 35+ minute set, the band clearly won over the audience over. Not many bands today truly embody the spirit of hard rock, many try, only a few succeed but Black Star Riders continues to hit the mark with each CD as well as their live performance. Their style of crushing riffs, smooth vocals, and infectious melodies help create something fresh that only they can do.
Saxon has been going strong for 40+ years, and tonight they have brought their brand of Heavy Metal Thunder to the Prudential Center. Their latest release Thunderbolt is a hard-hitting anthemic metal CD that captures the true essence of the band; reminiscent of their 80’s sound.
They opened the show with the title track, “Thunderbolt” and then proceeded to put on a brilliant performance – pure unbridled metal. They were in touch with the audience’s desire to hear classic songs; “Denim and Leather,” “Power and the Glory,” “Motorcycle Man,” and “Dallas 1 pm.” They also incorporated some newer songs like, “They Played Rock n Roll” and “Nosferatu.”
Biff Byford was a charismatic and entertaining ring leader dazzling the crowd with his powerful vocal ability making all the classics sound flawless. His voice is every bit as good as it was in the 80’s. Guitarists Paul Quinn and Doug Scarratt have tremendous on-stage chemistry and provided the thunderous rhythms bring the songs to life. Nibbs Carter commanded a lot of attention with his animated style of play and “wind-milling” his hair without missing a beat while Nigel Glockler on drums laid down the back beat to drive the songs home.
Judas Priest is building on the incredible momentum with their 2014 release Redeemer of Souls and their latest release Firepower just landed at the #5 spot on Billboards Top 200!
The show started with the powerful title track from their new CD, “Firepower” and the band proceeded to pound the heavy metal maniacs in attendance with a barrage of epic Priest songs that included; “Running Wild,” “Grinder,” “Bloodstone,” and “The Ripper” as well as some new songs like “Lightening Strikes” and “Evil Never Dies.” The deepest cut of the night was rhythmically powerful “Saints in Hell.” Priest did not become the heavy metal masters they are without knowing what their fans want to hear!
Their music has always stood for honesty, integrity, and still transcends time. Prior to the show, I asked Rob, why does Priest’s music continue to resonate with fans over 40+ years. He responded, “There are certain rock songs that work well today as they did 20, 30, 40 years ago when you play them live, with the modern guitar and drum sound, there is a fluid connectivity that pulls it all together and makes it work. When you strip a song down to its bare bones if it’s a good song it should last.”
Rob Halford’s voice is an integral and obvious part of the band’s sound; he sang all the songs with tremendous vocal conviction and energy. In preparation for all the high notes, he would crouch down and let them erupt out of him like a volcano. His steel belted screams on “Evil Never Dies” and “Painkiller” were clear and strong sounding like the Halford of younger days. Rob’s trademark moment is when he comes out on his motorcycle for “Hell Bent for Leather.”
Guitarist, Richie Faulkner, and Andy Sneap provided the dual-guitar bombardment for the evening and played off each other nicely. Richie showed off his guitar acrobatics while interacting with the band and audience. He did most of the heavy lifting playing all of KK Downing parts on the older material as well as some of Glenn’s leads as well. The comradery was as high among members despite the lack of Glenn Tipton and brought life and energy to the band.
Scott Travis navigated his monstrous drum kit with technical perfection, while bassist Ian Hill stood his ground in front of his bass rig pounding out the unflinching back beat like a freight train.
To the surprise and adulation of the fans, Glenn Tipton came out to perform three songs at the end of the show, “Metal Gods,” “Living After Midnight,” and “Breaking the Law.” It was an exciting and poignant moment that left fans in utter disbelief and screaming the entire time. Glenn looked great and played brilliantly – a true metal hero to us all!
In 2018, Judas Priest is still relevant and may have released the metal album of the year with Firepower. Their new songs continue to yield a powerful combination of heavy riffs, driving bass, killer vocals, and heart-pounding drumming.
Tonight had to be one of my favorite and most memorable concerts in a long time as all the bands played like they still cared about the music and being onstage. Each band gave an invigorating performance that had the audience on their feet all night long to the furthest reaches of the Prudential Center! It was truly a great night of hard rock and heavy metal music.