Show Review: Judas Priest at Grossinger Motor Arena, Bloomington IL 04/08/18

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Heavy Metal in Illinois was alive and proud and a bit grey on the Night of April 8th, 2018 in the heart of Bloomington. I had taken a near two hour car ride to stay down there for the weekend hoping the trip was worth it for the show.  Considering I had never heard of the venue I was curious because I’ve been to some I’d never been to and they were absolutely terrible. However, space wise they didn’t even use the whole arena and almost smacked the stage right in the middle. Either way it was a good call considering no matter where you sat or stood it was a fantastic view of the stage. Besides the halls becoming a little crammed it wasn’t too bad of a venue.

Black Star Riders

First band up for the night was Black Star Riders who are essentially Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy fame’s solo band. Their sound meshes that classic whole vibe of classic Thin Lizzy all the way to their vocalist having a similar style to Phil Lynott’s. While I am not a gigantic BSR fan, They are an enjoyable band enough live and their songs definitely are more lively and heavier in a live atmosphere. Mostly, I am happy to see Gorham still up there doing it and seeing them pull out “Jailbreak” was a nice little throwback. Besides the shoddy feedback that seemed to resonate from time to time, I’d say they were a reasonable and energetic opener.

Saxon

How many times can I talk about Saxon this year? Seriously especially since this was my second time seeing them this week. However, for this show I was in the seats even though I really wanted to be back down in front like the week before. However, I found the most enjoyable part just seeing the band play on such a large stage in America, and the crowd turn up for them wasn’t bad either! However, after their set I was still pleased to have seen them do an intimate show on this tour considering this set was mainly an abridged version of the week before. Nearly same songs(take away a few) and some numbers cut in half like”Denim And Leather”. However, seeing them get a relatively healthy reaction from the crowd at the closing notes of “Heavy Metal Thunder” made me happy to witness these British metal legends. Seriously seeing Saxon live will never get old, even after four times I feel they almost always outperform the show previous.

 

Judas Priest

Finally, as the current fell over the stage, it was time for the almighty Judas Priest to take the reigns much more. This was my second time seeing the band since 2015 and I have to say holy hell they sounded a lot better this time around. Now don’t get me wrong, the band was very hot on the Redeemer of Souls tour and pulled an impressive setlist that time around. But the band overall sounded very alive and were mixed better here than when I saw them at Rosemont. The biggest drawback obviously was not seeing Glenn Tipton on stage. To me he is the real icon of Priest and it was weird just not seeing him up there but I have to commend Ritchie Faulkner for really taking the reigns. He has proven himself to be one of the most vital members in Judas Priest history. He essentially saves the band and Im sure if he wanted to, he could take over all solo guitar duties. However Andy Sneap I feel did a stand up job and felt really tight and gelled well with Ritchie on stage. While richie took some of the most well known solo’s such as the middle segement in “Sinner” and all the part on “Painkiller”, He did duel with Sneap on songs like “The Green Manalishi” and “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll”. He even pulled off the solo’s in “Electric Eye” and “Hell Bent For Leather” very well. The stage set even felt super 80’s and even looked like something out of the “Turbo” tour which I really dug as well instead of just big screens. Halford holy hell, he sounded way more lively than the last tour as well even pulling deep cuts like “Saints In Hell” show just how well is voice has still aged. And finally, the setlist was about as solid as can be. While I would have liked to see some more cuts from Defenders on this tour or even Turbo or Ram It Down considering they are celebrating anniversaries, it was very solid with cuts like “Grinder”, “Bloodstone”, “Running Wild”,”Sinner” and plenty of others including three cuts off the new amazing album “Firepower”.

In short, go see this tour if you havent bought tickets for future dates. the band is still as hot as ever and still dish out these songs with faith and plenty of fury live. With new blood brings new life and Judas Priest in 2018 have entered a new era that keeps them running strong and this show proved just that.

Album Review: Judas Priest- FirePower

 

Judas Priest are a band that need no introduction. They are one of the most revolutionary acts in both Rock and Heavy Metal music as we know it today. And here we are with the band actually nearing their 50th anniversary since formed(although no members from that line up exist at this time) and they are pushing out their 18th studio album entitled “Firepower”. A very anticipated record indeed since the release of their 2014 cut “Redeemer of Souls” which I still enjoy to this day even though the record felt a bit bloated and inconsistent with production in spots. However, with classic Priest producer Tom Allom and Accept revivalist Andy Sneap at the helm, can they bounce the band back to sounding like absolute monsters once again?

Right off the bat, we see the title track coupled with “Lightning Strike” showing that Priest sound heavy and fresh on record again. The guitars are extremely crisp with the low end really holding down the songs creating an all around bigger sound. Ian Hills bass on the record as a whole is a lot more present but not overwhelming as it should sound. Halford, what can you say. He sounds fresh and full of life especially on songs like “Evil Never Dies” with some very evil and shrill vocals styles throughout the chorus. Some of the songs presented on this album are just as good as cuts on Painkiller. Songs like the epic almost power metal-esque “Traitors Gate” show Priest at their absolute best. Even songs like “Spectre” which even has a bit of a “Ripper” feel to it but still feels fresh and energetic. The album does have a modern feel throughout with songs like the heavy and very catchy “Necromancer” and the more hard rocking and almost sludgy sounding “Lone Wolf”. However, the classic sounds are still present with songs like “Never The Heroes” which could have been on “Ram It Down” or even “Flame Thrower” which sounds like a cut off of “Defenders Of The Faith”. However, the biggest and greatest fact about this album is that these songs, coupled with the absolute lively and sleek yet organic production really give Priest a fresh sound they need this far along. The band sounds ten times more powerful and alive than they did four years ago. Even on slower mid paced songs like “Children Of The Sun” and “Rising From Ruins” coupled with the excellent and emotional opening instrumental “Guardians” really hold their own as well with such power and emotion conveyed through them. Another favorite of mine is “No Surrender” which has a very up beat rocking feel and is one of the most energetic songs on the album. Even the album closing ballad “Sea Of Red” is a fitting end to this juggernaut of a record. Simply put, there really are no bad songs on this album. Through my near twentieth full listen, no song has grown tired for me. The soloing is lively and even with Faulkner’s solos feeling a lot more organic on this record and Glenn still giving it all he’s got this late in the game it really is a feat considering his recent decision to cut out touring(instead we will see Andy Sneap slinging his axe on stage). It really is sad to see but if this is the last record from the almighty Priest, then it is possibly the best way the band could go out.

Overall, I have to say that this album is easily an early contender for album of the year. This is easily the best modern Priest album and although it  honestly is more of just straight forward Heavy Metal with no real surprises, the music that is presented has so much life and substance to it with the band really giving it their all. Don’t miss out on this record and even though we won’t see the same line up as presented here, the shows will still be great and hopefully they pull a lot from this record, it is a beast!