The first time I saw the metal gods, Judas “F**king” Priest, in 1984 at the Long Beach Arena, there was a massive brawl in the stands following the show. A few years ago when I interviewed Priest frontman Rob Halford and recounted that story to him he laughed and said he remembered the night well. That night afterwards he went and partied on the back of the iconic Queen Mary until sun up he told me.
Last night (March 15) the mighty Priest brought their 50-year anniversary tour to the Shrine Auditorium in L.A. and damn if it didn’t feel like those wild ’80s days again, in all the best ways. From the amazing people watching, which included a massive amount of leather, to rabid fans in the pit sneaking on stage only to be chased off by roadies, from the dude with white hair openly smoking a joint with the lights up then looking perplexed when the usher yelled at him to those fans crowding the aisles in order to get closer, people were ready to get crazy.
With Judas Priest they had the perfect soundtrack for a wild night of cathartic release. Taking the stage just after 930 to Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” arguably the greatest metal song of all time and a cavalcade of lights to match the ferocity of the guitar wall, the band exploded out of the gates with “One Shot At Glory.”
For the next two hours they continued a sonic onslaught propelled by hits such as “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming,” “Turbo Lover,” “Rocka Rolla” and their standout cover of Joan Baez’ “Diamonds And Rust.” With the band never letting up on the fervor the capacity crowd matched the band’s intensity, screaming for vengeance, so to speak, with every thunderous song.
The group wrapped the main set with a snarling, furious “Painkiller,” before returning for the extended encore highlighted by a guest appearance by Priest guitarist Glenn Tipton, affectionately introduced by Halford as GT.
Tipton stepped down from the touring lineup in 2018 after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, so every time he steps in for a guest appearance (which he also did in Vegas the other night), it is a special moment for both the band and fans.
Buoyed by the presence of Tipton, the band delivered a mini greatest hits set in the encore. Following stellar versions of “Electric Eye” and the seminal “Hell Bent For Leather,” Tipton joined them for a trio of songs — “Metal Gods,” “Breaking The Law” and “Living After Midnight.”
As the band wrapped up just before 11:30, Halford thanked the adoring audience for “Keeping heavy metal safe.” They repaid him by staying a good five minutes after the lights went up to chant, “Priest” repeatedly.
It was a magnificent spectacle of a show, one that united the brilliance of the band and the passion of the fans into one memorable evening. The fans were a big part of it. It was a joy and a trip to see how fans of all ages, many of whom were not born when Priest began their metal journey half a century ago, embraced all the passion that made old metal shows so fun. And for the next nimrod journalist who writes “Rock is dead,” jump into a Judas Priest pit and then see if you still say that. You won’t.