One of the most anticipated tours of 2018 roared into Youngstown, Ohio, and every metalhead in the state seemed to be in attendance. And why not? After all, the mighty Judas Priest had arrived to show off their new CD, “Firepower,” and, of course, to play some favorites from their nearly 50-year(!) career.

Kicking off the show was Black Star Riders. They had a very classic rock-meets metal sound and it was quite a powerful sound since they have three guitarists and a bassist. One of the ax holders was Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy, which explained why the cover of “The Boys Are Back In Town” sounded so authentic.

Fans of Judas Priest will remember that Thin Lizzy opened the Epitaph tour, as well. Drummer Chad Szeliga was promised by Joe “Motion” Waller from Dysfunctional Ray to be very impressive, and he was.

Saxon takes the stage

Next up was Saxon, a legendary metal band in their own right. They were on tour with Judas Priest last time and just as before, the song “Crusader” brought the house down. A new song “Nosferatu (The Vampire Waltz)” was also performed from the bands latest offering, “Thunderbolt” whose title track also got delivered to Youngstown, went over splendidly. Both songs showed how the band has progressed over the years. Closing out the new offerings was “They Played Rock And Roll,” written about their 1979 tour with Motorhead.

Looking back played a role in bands show as “Motorcycle Man,” “Denim and Leather,” and the highlight, “Princess of the Night” were performed with the precision of surgeons. All songs were given a boost of fury by bassist Nibbs Carter who has the energy of ten men as he headbanged for the whole set. He displayed an amazing stage presence.

This meant that by the time Judas Priest was ready to rise, the crowd was primed and rockin'. Opening with one of the most impressive curtain vanishing acts ever seen (after “War Pigs” called the crowd in, as is the tradition), “Guardian” was heard before the band ripped mercilessly into “Firepower.” Rob Halford's signature voice sounded as if it was 30 years ago and he was a wonder to hear.

New songs, “Lightning Strikes” and “Evil Never Dies” were also played from "Firepower," though many fans did hope to hear even more from the groundbreaking new offering. Nothing showed the agelessness of Halford quite like the song “Sinner” did, however. A song from 1979's “Stained Class” platter about angels defeating demons called “Saints in Hell” was done for only the second time...ever. The animated backing graphics were red and black and showed the true meaning of this powerful track.

Rare metal gems were dusted off to the crowd's delight, including “Grinder,” the moving ballad “Angel” (which Rob only just noticed, with a laugh, came before “Evil Never Dies"), “Running Wild,” and even “Bloodstone” were played.

Each was flawless as bassist Ian Hill stayed in his corner and swung is bass as if it were a weapon. The real treat was “Painkiller,” the title track from what some fans believe to be the quintessential Judas Priest CD. Drummer Scott Travis announced the song and dove into the instantly recognizable drum line with absolute force.

The crowd was wondering how producer Andy Sneap was going to learn all of those EXTREMELY complicated solos that Glenn Tipton played for that song (Sneap now has Tipton's post since the guitar legend can't tour due to Parkinson's). The answer was: He didn't. Judas Priest's Ritchie Faulkner, the six-string wizard to took retired K.K. Downing's post stepped up and managed to pull off the solo's with pinpoint perfection as a video of Tipton played on the screen behind the band.

Halford turned and lifted his arms towards the screen.

Bringing out the tears

Some people openly wept. Faulkner also took the solo for the bands well known, “You Got Another Thing Comin'” after Halfords classic “WOH YEAH” chant. Sneap did take solos for a few tracks and each time, he sounded very comfortable. “Electric Eye” saw some of his prowess shine, for example. By the time that the closer, “Living After Midnight” was played, everyone was shocked by how 19 songs had gone by so quickly and it left everyone wanting more.

Thankfully, a banner fell from the stage top that said, “WE WILL BE BACK.” In light of Tipton's illness, many had wondered, so it was good to see. It seems that JP has quite a bit of firepower left still in them.