It was an odd bill on paper, but one that turned out much better than I anticipated. Two veteran acts, both counsidered founders of heavy metal but in very different ways, and a modern retro-sounding rock band? Who put that together?
The Temperance Movement had the ungrateful task of opening the night at 7PM on a weekday. Focusing on their more rocking material (I would have liked to hear “Oh Lorraine”, but I’ll concede it might not have been the best fit for that night), they quickly won over the people who’d showed up early. The band is fairly static on stage, save for singer Phil Campbell who looked and sounded like a more rocking, hyperactive Rod Stewart (and that’s a good thing). He’s a charismatic frontman, and the band played a high energy set. I like The Temperance Movement on record, but I loved them live where the band’s intensity elevated the material.
Up next were heavy metal pioneers Judas Priest (“We are Judas fucking Priest, Montreal” as singer Rob Halford put it). Down to two original members (Halford and bassist Ian Hill), and the long tenured Scott Travis behind the kit, the band still held legitimacy with the crowd. A lot of it is down to guitarist Richie Faulkner, who replaced original guitarist K.K. Downing in 2011. He’s got the Judas Priest look down pat, plays great and brings a high level of energy that his older band mates are lacking at times. With guitarist Glenn Tipton unable to tour due to the effect of Parkinson’s Disease, most of his solos were done by Faulkner, while Andy Sneap mostly played rhythm and kept out of the way.
The show opened with “Firepower”, the title track from their latest album. It seemed the song was played a tad slower, and lacked the, well, power of the studio version, but there was no shortage of energy as the band then dug deep in its catalog, with “Delivering the Goods” (first time played since 1980 according to setlist.fm), then “Sinner”. “Lightning Strike” was next, followed by another deep cut with “Desert Plains”.
The band really got the crowd going next with “Turbo Lover”, a song that was much maligned upon release for being too commercial but is now a concert staple and huge singalong. Go figure. “Rising From Ruins” was the 3rd of 4 “Firepower” tracks played, a great decision considering how amazing the record is. “Freewheel Burning” brought us back the their 80’s heyday, and set up the final stretch of “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”, “Hell Bent For Leather” (with Halford riding his motorcycle) and “Painkiller”.
That song’s vocals are inhumanely high, and while I thought Halford sang very well for the whole show, he really struggled on this one, switching registers constantly to try to hit the notes. The verses had a weird Mickey Mouse effect that leads me to believe he’s now using an harmonizer to hit the notes. As awesome as this song is, it’s time to retire it if they can’t play it correctly. They have plenty of great material to play anyway.
The band briefly left the stage for the encore, and came back with Glenn Tipton in tow! He’s made a few appearances on the tour so far, and the crowd was delighted to welcome him back. You can tell the devastating effects of the disease just by looking at him. He moved very slowly (Faulkner tried to initiate some of the classic Judas Priest unison moves with him with no success), but he was all smiles and clearly happy to momentarily join his band mates on stage.
The encore was “Metal Gods”, “No Surrender”, “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight”, ending a great set from the band. The video screen assured us the Priest would be back. If they can maintain this level, bring them on.
I didn’t think it was a good idea to have Deep Purple close the show. As legendary as they are, could they compete with the high powered metal of Judas Priest? Well those Hall of Famers did just that, with their equipment set up in front of Judas Priest’s backline, and looking like your cool uncle got his old buddies together to revive their high school band. Kicking off with a driving version of “Highway Star”, they showed from the start they weren’t about to get upstaged.
The band dug deep into its numerous classics, offering a deliciously groovy rendition of “Pictures of Home”, followed by “Bloodsucker” from the album “Fireball” and then “Strange Kind of Woman”. The band then played a pair of Steve Morse-era tracks, “Sometimes I feel Like Screaming” and “Uncommon Man”, two excellent choices from the band’s modern era, although I would have split them in the set. Despite their qualities, they were clearly not as well known as the classics, and the energy level dipped in the crowd. Speaking of the crowd, singer Ian Gillan remarked that he felt a great deal of energy from the fans in attendance, and that they appreciated it very much. Gillan and his bandmates certainly fed it back, as their performance had a liveliness that was lacking the only other time I’ve seen them. With the short set time that comes with a co-headline bill, the band curtailed their tendency to stretch out tracks with extended instrumental passages, but still kept multiple opportunities to prove they haven’t lost their dexterity.
Keyboardist Don Airey had a couple of solo spots that led into “Lazy” and “Knocking at Your Back Door”, the latter unfortunately lacking the cohesion of the studio recording. The classic “Perfect Strangers” got the crowd all worked up and setup an amazing version of “Space Truckin'”. The band navigated the syncopated arrangement effortlessly, and bassist Roger Glover had the biggest grin on his face; clearly he was enjoying himself.
“Smoke on the Water” capped a “Machine Head” heavy set where 5 of the album’s 7 tracks were played. The band then disappeared for it seemed like 10 seconds, quickly coming back for an encore. Ian Gillan motioned to Don Airey that they were late and needed to keep the last song short, and they quickly launched into a rousing rendition of “Hush”.
For me this show was “no filler” from start to finish, with three very different bands coming together for an amazing night of rock. There’s a lot of life left in these old dogs… 🙂
He's also a regular contributor at the very rad site Montreal Rampage