The one and only metal god rode into Denver on his gleaming chrome Harley last night, revving up metalheads with 40 years of heavy music from the legendary Judas Priest.
There’s no way to overstate the influence of Judas Priest on modern heavy metal; songs like Breaking The Law and Hell Bent For Leather practically created the genre back in the 1970’s along with Black Sabbath. And that made it all the more impressive to see Rob Halford, with Ian Hill and Glenn Tipton by his side, belting his way through glass-shattering notes and singing with the outrageous energy of a man half his age.
Jokes about age were mostly relegated to opening act Steel Panther, the leopard printed tights-wearing hair metal parody band that’s just a little too talented to be a parody band. In between fret-shredding songs about gloryholes and asian hookers, the hysterical Satchel and Michael Starr also joked about groupies, incest, and their own weight, including debating if frontman Starr was a “fat Brett Michaels” or a “skinny Vince Neil” and pointing out the girls in the crowd that they intended to sleep with after the concert.
Steel Panther worked hard to win over the crowd with their music and comedy, and that left 1st Bank Center raring to go when Priest took over the stage. The band kicked off with new song Dragonaut, but quickly jumped back in time with Metal Gods and Devil’s Child to whip the crowd into a horn-waving, headbanging frenzy.
Guitarist Richie Faulkner might still be the “new kid” in the band, but he shreds as if he was there from the very beginning. He and Tipton both ripped through the iconic solos ingrained in every fan’s head, fingers dancing up and down their guitars to deliver sizzling notes that shrieked into every corner of the building.
Faulkner also actively worked the front rows of the crowd, pointing and gesturing at individual fans until they sang along. Even while playing guitar next to Halford himself, Richie still projects the attitude of a die-hard Judas Priest fan who expects, nay, demands the all-out enthusiasm of everyone in attendance.
Priest ran through a virtual “Judas Priest through the ages” setlist, hammering through favorite songs like Victim Of Changes, Loves Bites, and Beyond The Realms Of Death while displaying associated album art over the stage. They also broke out three more new songs sprinkled throughout the night, with title track Redeemer of Souls generating the best response.
But nothing compared to the peak of the night, when the arena went wild for Breaking The Law and Rob Halford’s classic Harley entrance on Hell Bent For Leather. The band followed up with encores of You’ve Got Another Thing Coming and Living After Midnight for a quadruple punch of pure classic metal euphoria. Interestingly, Priest threw out one extra final encore with Defenders Of The Faith, which as San Antonio Metal Music Examiner Jay Nanda noted in his review of this tour, is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its namesake album this year.
Even with recent visits from bands like Slipknot and Korn, Wednesday night’s show will stand out as one of the year’s best metal experiences in Denver. From Steel Panther’s hysterical yet hard rocking opening act to Judas Priest’s unmatched stage presence and song catalog, fans were treated to over 3 hours of brilliant guitar playing, amazing vocal calisthenics, and songs that have anchored the heavy metal genre for decades. If any band can be called immortal, than first in line is Judas f*cking Priest.