Arriving in the aftermath of the critical and commercial success of their seventeenth studio album, ‘Redeemer of Souls,’ the members of Judas Priest issued in a combative collective of dedicated heavy metal fans spanning multiple generations upon their recent visit to the Hard Rock Live in Orlando, Florida.
The addition of Richie Faulkner quickly proved to be not only an energizing factor in regards to the band’s songwriting chemistry but as well as their live performance, as the band’s newest member gallivanted his way across the stage while frequently interacting with frontman Rob Halford throughout a compilation of new cuts, fan favorites and a medley of hits.
Yet before this veteran heavy metal group would grace the stage, this audience would first be energized by the characteristically chaotic stylings of Steel Panther. Their formula of high octane glam metal in the vein of Poison and Van Halen with overtly explicit lyrical content only left a handful of fans scratching their heads, and it seemed as though even the band themselves were surprised to have the raunchy choruses to “Asian Hooker” and “17 Girls in a Row” come roaring back at them.
As the stage lights began to race above the crowd, beckoning the headliners to rush onto the stage as the opening guitar riff to “Battle Cry” is broadcast through the amplifiers, a few deafening roars of thunder sparks the excitement of the audience, as it can mean only one thing: “Dragonaut” is here. The insignia-emblazoned curtain drops, and behind a wall of fog emerges the formidable Judas Priest lineup, who begin nailing the chord progressions and compelling vocals to one of the strongest selections from their new studio effort.
This was subsequently followed up with the song considered by many as autobiographical for Judas Priest, the ageless “Metal Gods,” before we’re propelled into the ‘Screaming For Vengeance’ classic “Devil’s Child.” Mainman Rob Halford offered a compelling vocal performance throughout the night, but this song was a clear highlight as the metal monarch unearthed a slathering of primal screams for his admiring followers.
A concrete rendition of “Victim of Changes” kept the momentum heading forward, before Halford would once again validate his status as one of the premier vocalists in the genre on another new composition, “Halls of Valhalla,” which showed the frontman plummeting down to death metal-esque growls before soaring to glass shattering heights. Meanwhile, the axe wielding duo of Faulkner and Glenn Tipton could be found backing one another during the song’s neck spanning solo.
“Here’s a little spooky song for you, since we’re close to Halloween,” Halford announced, before the echoing bass lines of “Love Bites” from ‘Defenders of the Faith’ were unleashed. Images depicting a zombie apocalypse overtaking the world complimented the late October mood on “March of the Damned,” while the recognizable synthesizer introduction to “Turbo Lover” continued to feed the crowd’s energy. The title track to ‘Redeemer of Souls’ had the majority of the audience roaring back during the refrain, while for “Beyond the Realms of Death” everyone reverted to raising their fists in triumph as the Judas Priest vocalist nailed the song’s lung busting high notes.
The introduction of “Jawbreaker” was a welcome addition to the set, as Scott Travis took particular delight at hammering down on percussion duties, whereas Ian Hill gave a solid job at hammering the escalating bass lines to “Breaking the Law.” The live tradition of Rob Halford emerging on a blazing motorcycle on stage was met with deafening applause, as the distinctive guitar work to “Hell Bent For Leather” came racing through the hefty stacks of amplifiers.
Halford lead the audience in chanting “Hey! Hey! Hey!” before tearing into another live anthem, “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming,” which closed out the bulk of Judas Priest’s set. However, the group couldn’t even exit the stage before this energetic fan collective began shouting the name of the band collectively for an encore. They obliged, returning for a knockout version of “Living After Midnight” before leading the audience into singing along to the title track from “Defenders of the Faith.”
The traditional passing of the drum sticks and guitar picks concluded Judas Priest’s concert, and Scott Travis created a memorable moment by pointing out a member of the crowd on the second floor of the arena and attempting to throw a drum stick up his way. The first time results in failure, as does the second, but when Travis heads to the back of the stage and returns with a third, energized by determination, and the catch is finally made, the entire place erupts in applause. Consider that a memorable way to conclude Judas Priest’s return to Orlando.