Tonight’s metal extravaganza in Youngstown was a celebration of legacies, a chance for bands to ply their craft in front of sizeable US crowds as they did in the Golden Age of arenas. First up was the problematic, complicated, and controversial Black Star Riders, a band that some may feel don’t have a right to exist. Being an ardent Thin Lizzy fan, I feel they carry on that torch pretty admirably, Ricky Warwick channeling Phil Lynott in a respectable manner. Their original material I think has a nicely gritty blue collar vibe to it that approaches Thin Lizzy while adding some new tricks and moves. It took them a song or two to find their groove, but ultimately, they turned in a solid set. To me having something approximating Thin Lizzy out on the tour circuit, exposing people to their music, is a good thing.
Saxon747 was next, Biff Byford leading the brigade, charging into battle like a soldier who can’t die, his throat rivaling Halford’s in quality, the man somehow managing to improve as a singer with age. And having a muscular, silver-plated, modern-sounding power metal band (that’s what they essentially are these days) backing him was no detriment. Today’s Saxon is more vital than ever. They proved that in steamroller fashion with no amnesty given.
I was concerned about Judas Priest. How would Halford sound? Would he hit the notes or dodge them or miss the mark? Would producer Andy Sneap fill in for the ailing Glen Tipton adequately? Would it still matter without he and Downing?
Two minutes into Judas Priest’s standoff, it was evident that I’m a hypochondriac. Yes, Robert didn’t always match the recorded material note for note. “Painkiller” is a massive challenge for any singer. And for the most part, Rob weathered that storm, which is what that song has always been. The Metal God isn’t all-powerful even if he’s omnipotent. Some things are beyond his control, but not “Saints In Hell” or “Bloodstone” or “Running Wild” or opening heatseeker “Firepower,” all of which Halford masterfully took in his grasp and hurled at us.
Faulkner and Sneap both rose to the occasion, particularly Sneap, whose NWOBHM experience and pedigree held him in good stead as drum cyborg Scott Travis and ancient thick-strings warrior Ian Hill held it all in place. Riffs glowed with molten fury as Halford’s vocals pierced time amidst innovative lighting and backdrops. Throughout the night, I was reminded of how the very best and most magical metal of the eighties spirited us away to realms of fantasy and allowed us to escape from a world of plastic to a timeless, indestructible place of blood and thunder for a few hours.
Judas Priest are eternal. Their impact will never wane. Kneel and repent.
The Grym Hessian