Concert Review: Judas Priest with Steel Panther – Bell Centre, Montreal – October 6th 2014

Two years after the end of their so called Farewell tour, Judas Priest came out of retirement to present its latest album, Redeemer of Souls. The band came out with all guns blazing, taking the stage with the new track Dragonaut, before going into Metal Gods. The band was backed by a giant screen showing mood footage, with two smaller ones on each side of Scott Travis’ drum riser. Then came Devil’s Child from 1982’s classic Screaming For Vengeance album, with Rob Halford proving age hasn’t struck down too much his vocal power. And that was a good thing because up next was Victim of Changes with its blood curdling screams! While his voice is not as clean as it used to be, it still generated huge reactions from the small crowd (I’d say 3-4000 people max).

Judas Priest is often linked with fellow Brits Iron Maiden, even though they were on the scene much earlier than Maiden, but one has to admit that Judas Priest hasn’t been as adept at drawing in a new generation to their shows, despite releasing records that are arguably stronger in the last 15 years. It’s sad to see a legendary band like this play to an empty arena.

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The setlist included 4 tracks from Redeemer of Souls, and, to the delight of the fans, 3 tracks from the criminally overlooked Defenders of the Faith album. The title track, Love Bites and Jawbreaker hadn’t been played since the 80’s and were a fine addition to the set. Beyond the Realms of Death was another highlight, as was the once maligned Turbo Lover. In the 80’s, you’d have gotten your metalhead card revoked if you’d admitted to liking this fine piece of pop metal, since that was proof that Priest had “sold out”, a feeling that lingered on until the Painkiller album buried it for good. But they’ve been playing it live for a while and the crowd sings along every time. Proof that while some songs do not age well, some get better, like wine?

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The show started with a good momentum, but soon the band started leaving the stage between almost every songs, to cover for Halford’s wardrobe changes and the band’s guitar changes, and it sort of made the show a little disjointed. I’m hoping it’s just because it’s early in the tour (this was the 4th date I believe) and that it’ll get tighter as they move on. Performance wise, everything was spot on though. The band’s a little static on stage, except for newcomer Richie Faulkner, who’s replacing founding member K.K. Downing who retired before the farewell tour, but that doesn’t matter. I was a little disappointed that Faulkner has started using Flying V’s now, as it seems they want him to imitate Downing a little, but musically he’s up to the task.

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The last stretch of the show was filled with the classics Breaking the Law, on which Halford continues to let the crowd sing the entire track, (Come on Rob! We want to hear you!), Hell Bent For Leather, still sung on top his motorcycle, You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’, with its needlessly long singalong and finally Living After Midnight. Everyone expected them to be done at that point (and that last stretch was so on autopilot that it robbed these legendary songs of a lot of their fun), but they surprised everyone by ending with Defenders of the Faith. Good choice!

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Lots of great songs, great musicians, but a presentation that is getting a little cumbersome and predictable. A good show from these legends, but far from their best.

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Opener was hair band parody Steel Panther, who played a solid hour of music and comedy. How do you parody an era known for its excess? By being even more excessive! If you thought bands in the 80’s made thinly veiled sexual innuendos, well these guys just lay it all out (figuratively). With more naughty words than a Kevin Smith movie, their songs extoll the virtues of sex, lots of sex, and some more sex. With songs like Pussywhipped, Asian Hooker or Gold Digging Whore, there’s no doubt as to what they’re singing about. The songs are pretty good even without the comedy, some of their set’s highlights were Eyes of a Panther, Party Like Tomorrow is the End of the World or their power ballad Community Property where singer Michael Starr sings soulfully “My heart belongs to you but my cock is community property”.

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The comedy bits are gold (“Our singer is like a chubby version of Bret Michaels” “Hey, actually I’m a skinny Vince Neil!”) They played a high energy set, filled with laughs and cheap shots at the hair era (Bass player Lexxi Fox constantly refreshes his hair spray at a side stage vanity mirror). They take the piss out of that era, but still come across as having genuine affection for it. Your enjoyment of Steel Panther is probably tied to your tolerance to foul language, but they’re worth checking out. Death to All But Metal indeed.

 Judas Priest setlist

Metal Gods
Devil’s Child
Victim of Changes
Halls of Valhalla
Love Bites
March of the Damned
Turbo Lover
Redeemer of Souls
Beyond the Realms of Death
Breaking the Law
Hell Bent for Leather
You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’
Encore 2:
Living After Midnight
Defenders of the Faith

Steel Panther setlist

Party Like Tomorrow Is the End of the World
Asian Hooker
Just Like Tiger Woods
Gold Digging Whore
Community Property
Eyes of a Panther
17 Girls in a Row
Death to All but Metal
Party All Day (Fuck All Night)

Jean-Frederic Vachon
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