October 29th, 2011
The Judas Priest “Epitaph” farewell world tour (said to be their last major world tour) triumphantly stormed into Seattle tonight. There was a long queue waiting for the doors of the WaMu Theatre (theatre isnt really an appropriate name, it is effectively a giant concrete room under the Century Link Football Stadium with a capacity for 7000 patrons – must have been close to that tonight) to open at 5pm for a show start time of 6pm (very early), but luckily security was efficient, so once the doors opened everyone got in relatively quickly. My first port of call was to get a tour t-shirt then I headed into the cavernous performance area.
Old school hard rock and metal tunes were pumping the place in preparation for the show. The DJ was the uber-cool Lady Starlight a performance artist from New York City who is a friend of Lady Ga-Ga (they performed together before the latter became famous). Lady Starlight was having a blast dancing and banging her head to the music. She played tracks pre-show and in between the various band on the bill and what a lineup it was (5 hours of mayhem for about $60 – awesome)!
I located my hard rocking friends enjoying their $9.50 cups of beer (!) and then we got a good spot close to the stage for the opening act Thin Lizzy! “What?” I hear you say, Phil Lynott the legendary Irish rocker, who lead the band from 1969-1983 has been dead for years (died in 1986 at the age of only 36 in a typical rockers early death from pneumonia and multiple organ failure due to septicemia)?
I was dubious too, but my friend insisted they were great. The band still has 3 members from the Phil years: Scott Gorham (lead guitar and pretty much a mainstay of the band since 1974), Darren Wharton (keyboards on and off since 1981) and Brian Downey (drums – who has basically been with the band from day one in 1969). Their new singer Ricky Warwick had the songs down pat. They really rocked (loudly) and I was impressed, as was the growing crowd! They played a tight set list which included crowd favourite and classic Thin Lizzy track The Boys Are Back In Town. I hope to see them again some time soon as they were great!
The second act was Black Label Society fronted by lead guitarist and singer Zakk Wylde, famous for his great guitar playing (gloriously long solos) and chest beating prowess! I have never seen the band perform before but they have been around on and off since 1998 and Zakk has played in Ozzy Osbourne’s band in numerous stints between 1987 and 2009 (1987–1992, 1995, 1998, 2002–2004, 2006–2009) and this is where I have previously seen him play.
Black Label Society had a lot of support in the crowd (their black band t-shirts were highly visible) and they also did not disappoint. Zakk Wylde appeared wearing an Indian feather headdress and the crowd went crazy! Although I wasn’t familiar with their songs (have only ever listened briefly to one album previously) they really rocked the place, and the crowd had grown significantly around the stage during their set. Zakk did his signature epic guitar solo and the crowd went insane! I am now a convert to their music (here is a crazy video for their song Overlord)!
Then 4 hours after the doors had opened the mighty Judas Priest hit the stage with full pyrotechnic and smoke machine glory! The crowd went wild and during the mayhem a few fights broke out in the packed crowd near the stage – at least 5 near me (fuelled by the long wait and plenty of alcohol I guess?)! Luckily most people including me were solely focused on Judas Priest and these few idiots didn’t hamper too many people. A bizarre moment occurred when a woman accused me of stealing her camera (she was temporarily claiming my camera that I have had for almost a year), this matter was set straight very quickly! In all this mayhem I got separated from my friends for about 2 hours and ended up in a mobile phone coverage black hole for most of that time! Crazy but fun!
Although I have been listening to them since the 1980’s this was only the second time I had seen Judas Priest perform live (the first being on the Nostradamus world tour in 2008 in Melbourne, Australia). The only difference is that their original lead guitarist K.K. Downing had retired prior to this tour, he was ably replaced in 2011 by awesome guitarist Richie Faulkner.
The band Judas Priest rose out of Birmingham, England in the late 1960’s and along with their hometown compatriots Black Sabbath more or less created Heavy Metal music in the 1970’s and set the bench mark for the metal look and sound in the 1980’s. They have had a number of singers over the years but Rob Halford the “Metal God” with a very wide vocal range has been the key to their success (with Priest 1973-1992 and 2003-present).
The set list was an epic 2+ hour journey through the history of Judas Priest, playing 21 songs from 15 albums including 2 encores:
1. Rapid Fire (British Steel 1980)
2. Metal Gods (British Steel 1980)
3. Heading Out To The Highway (Point Of Entry 1981)
4. Judas Rising (Angel Of Retribution 2005
5. Starbreaker (Sin After Sin 1977)
6. Victim Of Changes (Sad Wings Of Destiny 1976)
7. Never Satisfied (Rocka Rolla 1974)
8. Diamonds And Rust (Sin After Sin 1977)
9. Prophecy (Nostradamus 2008)
10. Night Crawler (Painkiller 1990)
11. Turbo Lover (Turbo 1986)
12. Beyond The Realms Of Death (Stained Glass 1978) – found a really cool 1978 video for this!
13. The Sentinel (Defenders Of The Faith 1984)
14. Blood Red Skies (Ram It Down 1988)
15. The Green Manalishi (With The Two-Pronged Crown) (Hellbent For Leather 1979)
16. Breaking The Law (British Steel 1980)
17. Painkiller (Painkiller 1990)
Encore 2 (a bonus because the band were enjoying the crowd so much):
21. Living After Midnight (British Steel 1980)
The background of the concert set changed for each song to represent the applicable album. The encore set had a huge eyeball for The Hellion/Electric Eye. Halford often interacted with the crowd in between songs giving an intro to the song and discussing other bands from each applicable period. Pretty cool.
Interestingly Halford didn’t really sing Breaking The Law during this show, he got us, the crowd to do it instead! The 1986 album Turbo sold pretty well, but it was such a diversion from previous albums that back in the day it created quite a rift in the fans, so it was ironic that the song Turbo Lover received one of the biggest roars of approval from the crowd tonight and was another huge sing along (it is one of my favourite songs and was one of the highlights for me as they didn’t play that last time I saw them). It was cool when Halford burst onto stage on a motorbike for Hellbent For Leather this resulted in another huge crowd cheer!
This was an awesome and ear shatteringly good show (especially Painkiller – love it)! My ears are still ringing as I write this blog! Although I hope to see Judas Priest again (perhaps in the rumoured tour next year with the potentially reformed Black Sabbath and the still going strong Motorhead for a classic British Heavy Metal assault) this show truly was a fitting epitaph to their career!