Thursday, October 20, 2005

Judas Priest / Anthrax - MTS Centre, Wpg 18 Oct 05

Judas Priest with Anthrax
MTS Centre, October 18, 2005
attendence: 6000

Fifteen years after last playing Winnipeg, Judas Priest returned, with the recently reunited Rob Halford (54) on vocals to play the MTS Centre, ranked 20th in the world for concert ticket sales.

The opening track, "The Hellion", was a taped playback, followed by "Electric Eye", with singer Rob Halford appearing at the centre of a large eye, with a strong crimson light emanating from it. Halford paced around the elevated part of the stage, with his eyes focused on the floor, hidden behind dark sunglasses, rather than singing to the audience. He carried himself this way for most of the show, which wasn't as effective as when he did look out to the fans.

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Rob Halford

"Metal Gods" followed with Halford strutting around like a mechanical robot (an Iron Giant, perhaps?) with the band sounding as tight and as professional as ever. Glenn Tipton (57) distinguished himself as being the dominat guitar player in Priest, by taking most of the lead breaks and seemingly playing more of the solos. Without a doubt, he played flawlessly. Part of what makes Priest's music so memorable are the opening guitar parts that are catchy, powerful and distinguishable from one another.

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Glenn Tipton

Still on the upper level, Halford sang one of the singles from Painkiller, the ballad "A Touch of Evil." The background changed as this song ended and the new backgroud with the Angel Of Retribution album cover appeared, which led to "Judas Rising" and "Revolution." Honestly, I didn't like "Revolution" on the CD but live, it took on a new life for me, with the razor sharp guitars and tumultuous bottom end. It was the first of two low points in the show, but it didn't sound too out of place. I thought Priest took the easy way out by opening with the very well known 23 year-old class combination of "The Hellion/ Electric Eye," when "Judas Rising" made for an extremely powerful live statement. It's as strong a potential opener as I can imagine and would have been a great way to proclaim their support of the new album. Still, they probably went with the old classics simply because they are better known and they know not everyone has heard the new album.

Reaching back to their most famous album, 1980's British Steel, Priest offered up "Breaking The Law" with Halford repeatedly asking the audience, "Breaking the what?" like he always does. During the song, Halford, Tipton and K.K. Downing (54) jammed together to perform the one of their well-known poses. It was a fun moment and the crowd ate it up.

Throughout the show, when Halford wasn't pacing up and down, starring strangely at the stage rather than looking at the crowd, he stood still and bent down forward to emit his most highly pitched vocals in "evil troll" mode. Maybe he does this to get the right sounds out. His vocal performance wasn't perfect, but more often than not, it was fine and at times, it was chillingly exceptional, clean and tightly focused.

The other of the two low points in the show came next with the absolutely lame song "I'm A Rocker," from Ram It Down. I would have preferred to have heard the almost 8-minute long, brilliant atmospheric, "Blood Red Skies" or the power metal glory of "Ram It Down."

Sporting and acoustic guitar and his Flying V, KK opended up the old favorite "Diamonds and Rust" on a quiet note and this signaled the slowing down of things for the next several minutes with "Worth Fighting For" from AOR and the Stained Class track "Beyond The Realms of Death" played next. The friend who I was with wasn't too crazy about the this lull in the concert, but I appreciated the break from the furious pace. While often overlooked, 1981's Point of Entry has some solid tracks in the form of "Desert Plains" and "Solar Angels," to mention a couple that would have fit in with this set of slower numbers. A lot of fans have been clamoring for these two tracks, but they weren't played this evening.

While I have reservations about most of 1986's album Turbo, I have always like the guitar playing in "Turbo Lover," which was also met with terrific response from the audience. There was a distinct lack of teens and twenty-somethings in the crowd and a lot more people in their thirties and older - many of whom, with their short hair and overall conservative looks, wouldn't be out of place at a John Cougar Mellencamp concert or in a corporate board room. Back to AOR for one of the best tracks in the Priest cannon, the fresh sounding "Hellrider." Despite my earlier reservations about the lyrics, this songs absolutely smokes live!

The longest and oldest song was up next, Sad Wings of Destiny's "Victim of Changes" from 1976. This is a song that polarizes Priest fans. You either care for it or you don't. I happen to like it and expect to see it live. I appreciate the subtleties in this song and the vocal performance needed to carry it off.

On the album, I always loved the opening to arguably Priest's heaviest track, Painkiller, but live, Scott Travis (44) scrimped on the drums. Still, it was a juggernaut of relentless, pummeling, pure metal bliss. Quite simply, I can't really imagine any band in metal topping Judas Priest's twin guitar attack. Never hailed as virtuosos, KK Downing and Glenn Tipton know the right notes to play, and how not to get carried away. And that's always been more important to me and most fans, I would bet, than pure speed or noodling ability. Watching and hearing these guys unleash melodic, tastefully controlled power cords and colossal riffs has been a metal lover's delight. These talented, influential,legendary musicians are two of the reasons why metal gives a bigger thrill than most ordinary rock music.

Bassist Ian Hill(54) did his thing, standing anchored in place, bass guitar pumping up and down. Never flashy, Hill knows how to contribute and does so without grabbing the spotlight.

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KK Downing

We weren't sure when Priest ended the main set and when the encore really began, but it appears that "Painkiller" was the final song before the three-song encore consisting of "Hell Bent For Leather," "Living After Midnight" and "You've Got Another Thing Coming." The audience sang the opening lines to "Living After Midnight," which is surely now considered to be classic rock. At the end, I felt pretty exhausted and believed that I received more than my money's worth. I spent a fair bit of time dodging this headbanger in front of me who kept on snapping his head back and coming close to nailing me on the chin. I did pony up $40 for a t-shirt with the AOR metallian on the front and the toured countries on the back. They should have printed actual tour dates on the back, like they used to, but so many bands are neglecting their concert t-shirts these days in favour of more generic shirts.

My friend and I were surprised that they didn't play anything from 1984's Defenders of the Faith, one of their best-selling albums or Point of Entry.

While one of my favorite early thrash metal bands, Anthrax's set was in contrast to Priest's in the sense that 'Thrax don't have a lot of excellent but distinctive songs that the crowd recognized. Many of the songs have a narrow appeal, save for Medusa. Still, the band, reunited with long-time singer Joey Belladonna, were tight and very heavy. Dan Spitz mostly stood in one place while Scott Ian did his traditional stomping while bassist Frank Bello ran back and forth and exhibited the most energy. While they didn't have anywhere near as clean a sound as Judas Priest, Anthrax came across like a gigantic metal-spiked canon ball, racing down a hill and shredding everying in its path. Emphasis on the word shred. Ian and Spitz play some of the meanest, fastest guitar in all of metaldom and they certainly didn't let us down in that department. Drummer Charlie Benante didn't have as good a sound as he deserved but thrashed away at those drums like nobody's business. From where I was sitting, Anthrax didn't look or sound any different from when I last saw them 15 year ago. Joey Belladonna sang fairly well and did not disappoint me. While some people prefer the rougher sounding John Bush, Belladonna clearly proved that he is still a fine vocalist after all these years. Tracks that I recognized that didn't really do a lot for me were "Anti-Social," "NFL," "Indians," "Madhouse" and "Judge Dredd." I used to like these songs a lot more when I was younger but they haven't aged as well as I had hoped. Ever loyal to the crowd, after taking their group bow, the band threw generous handfulls of guitar picks out to the audience.

Overall, I would rate this show 4.5 / 5.

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