On Friday, March 23rd, The Priest was back in Worcester, Massachusetts. The heavy-metal gods, Judas Priest, brought their Firepower Tour to the sold-out Palladium with special guests Saxon and Black Star Riders. Probably one of the smaller and more intimate venues on the tour, the Palladium was jam packed minutes within doors opening. Not only did the crowd have trouble fitting inside the venue, but so did the Priest, who had to have the stage extended to fit their entire production.
The night kicked off with Black Star Riders, who many would recognize from the recent Thin Lizzy lineup. For those unfamiliar, since 2012, instead of releasing music under the Thin Lizzy name, the band decided to change it up and create music under the Black Star Riders name. The band played a short but powerful set that featured both new material and old Thin Lizzy material. Although not the traditional metal band that would be categorized with Judas Priest, Black Star Riders captured the crowds attention and got the evening started.
By the time Saxon took the stage, every tier of the floor was jam packed. The band started off with the title track of their recent release, Thunderbolt. That new release would be the majority of the set. Other tracks like “Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz),” and “The Secret of Flight” were played from the new album. For many classic rock and metal bands, fans primarily want to hear old material and hits. But Saxon proved to the crowd their new material can hold its own
For a band that started in the late 70s, Saxon certainly doesn’t show many signs of wear and tear. Lead singer Biff Byford still belts out the tunes with the best of his colleagues. Saxon ended their night with “Heavy Metal Thunder,” a perfect anthem for the entire night. As the band walked off stage to a huge applause, a giant Judas Priest curtain dropped hiding the stage.
As fans patiently waited to see Judas Priest take the stage, the house lights dimmed and the sound of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” played over the sound system as the entire Palladium crowed sang along. The Guardians entrance music then queued in and the curtain fell as the opening riff to “Firepower” started. The title track of Judas Priest’s 18th studio album Firepower, was the perfect way to kick off the night. With the album only being 2 weeks old, some people may not have even had the chance to listen to it yet. But with 49,000 copies sold in the United Stated and debuting at #5 on the Billboard 200, it’s unlikely anyone in the building hasn’t blasted the album start to finish at least a few times.
While all eyes were on the “Metal God” himself, Rob Halford, it was hard not to stop and stare at lead guitarist Richie Faulkner. Richie, who may be the reason for Priest still going strong in 2018, is absolutely remarkable on guitar. Taking over in 2011 after K.K. Downing left the band, Richie had some big shoes to fill on the Epitaph World Tour. Seven years have now gone by and Richie has completely taken over as the lead axe slinger in Priest. Unfortunately, before the start of the “Firepower Tour,” it was announced that co-guitarist Glenn Tipton wouldn’t be able to tour due to his diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. While that was a huge punch in the stomach for both the band and fans, Judas Priest chose to continue with the help of album co-producer Andy Sneap. Together, both Andy and Richie took care of guitar duties to put on a show no one at the Palladium will ever forget.
While the lineup of Judas Priest has changed over time, they certainly sound fantastic. Rob and the rest of the band are able to jam tracks from any album in their catalog with ease. The Palladium got to hear tracks such as “The Ripper,” “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll,” “Grinder” and more. With 18 studio albums, it’s difficult to pick and choose what is and what isn’t going to make the cut for a live show. Judas Priest certainly gave its fans a great variety of songs from 11 different albums over the course of the night. The most played albums for the night were, the classics British Steel, Screaming For Vengeance, and the latest, Firepower.
The energy in the venue was something that’s probably never been seen there before. Just when it was thought to be at an all time high, Priest started “Electric Eye.” After 15 songs, bands the same age of Judas Priest would be calling it a night, but not the mighty Priest. There was much more in store for the Palladium. After “Electric Eye,” most of the band walked off stage while the spot lights hit drummer Scott Travis. He was accompanied by the Painkiller logo behind him on the big screen and everyone in the sold-out Palladium knew what was next. Scott kicked off the “Painkiller” intro and the crowd erupted. After that, Priest certainly had to be done, right?
Halford and the rest of Priest weren’t done yet. The encore started with “Metal Gods,” with the help of none other than Glenn Tipton! Having Glenn join the rest of Priest on stage brought everyone to their feet. Just like the two shows before, Glenn joined for the encore songs, alongside Richie and Andy. The night ended with the classics, “Breaking The Law,” and “Living After Midnight.”
Judas Priest initially scheduled their “farewell tour” to end in 2012, it’s now 2018 and Priest fans may have just been given the band’s heaviest and arguably best album yet. The release of Firepower will certainly be enough momentum to keep Judas Priest rocking on the road for quite some time.
Photos and review by Mark McGauley