It was a sad, sad day in 2011 when fans gathered to see Judas Priest for the final time.

Among a myriad of reason, the legends were calling it quits, with the main reason, perhaps, being that the man with the ageless voice, Rob Halford, was in agony with a damaged back.

Halford did that tour, he had surgery, and something happened with his back that doesn't usually happen with such procedures: IT WORKED!

This meant that Priest did not have to end, after all. It wasn't like KISS who outright lied about being done. Halford and crew really thought that they were.

Technically , it can be said that every time that Halford shouts, "The Priest is back" to the crowd, he means it in a very literal sense. There was no cane usage at all during the performance, something seen on past tours. Rather, the metal maniacs (as Priest fans are called) got to see Halford returning to his old stage presence style more than ever.

Indeed, the Priest was back.

In with the new, in with the old

As is tradition with Priest, the first sections of the Black Sabbath song, "War Pigs," play in tandem with house lights. The English gents like to defend the faith with that as their call for fans to get their beer, to get in and out of the bathroom, and to give it a fast shake, because the show is about to begin.

"Panic Attack,' opened the extravaganza, and as the name would imply, it was pedal to the floor, fifth gear, and moving right from the word "GO!" Bassist Ian Hill, drummer Scott Travis, guitarist and producer Andy Sneap (filling in for composer Glenn Tipton who has Parkinsons Disease) and Rob Halford - dressed in a long black, almost gothic over coat - hit the stage along with guitar virtuoso, Ritchie "The Falcon" Faulkner who replaced K.K.


While the twin guitar attack that Judas Priest created doesn't lend itself to adlibbing to the level of Ozzy Osbourne, there is a reason why The Falcon is compared to Randy Rhodes in many circles. He does tweak his (and K.K.'s) solos a bit each time that he plays and, while not in some of the dark minor and diminished chords as much as Rhodes was, Faulkner's speed, accuracy, and tact are very similar.

Oddy enough, "Panic Attack," is taken from the new powerhouse, "Invincible Shield," which is a CD that presents quite a problem for the mighty Priest, When a band has been around for over 50 years, it is rare that one of the best releases of their entire catalog are going to manifest.

Even when it does, such as Iron Maiden and Anthrax have recently done, fans don't always take notice as they should. Many times, the new music is actually better than the classics because many musicians get better with age, not worse.

Judas Priest has the opposite problem because whispers of "winning a Grammy" started even before the whole album was released and fans are rightly comparing "Invisible Shield" to the flawless, "Painkiller," another Judas Priest release that has absolutely no weak tracks whatsoever.

As such, the mere three songs that were done from "Invisible Shield" left many wondering what other songs may be played at other dates. The song "Metal Gods" was cut from the set and since it seems to have done at almost every show since it's release, it was not a bad call to replace it on this outing.

Will Judas Priest do what Metallica does and play different songs at different dates to ensure that most or all of disk gets done at some point? No one has the answers but hearing the band blaze into "Panic Attack" as they did, it can only be hoped for.

Judas Priest went from 2024 to 1983 when the band ripped into what may be one of the most well-known songs in rock history, "You've Got Another Thing Comin'." The "Whoa O Whoa O" chant that Rob is known to do was not done before this classic song and fans seemed happy to both hear the song and not have it be the expected encore, which it often is.

Likewise, the third song was the equally brutal, "Rapid Fire." While "Breaking The Law" (which was 4th in the set) and "Living After Midnight" get most of the love from the British Steel album, true fans know that "Rapid Fire" is the single best song on the whole CD.

When songs like "Rapid Fire" are done live, it is clear that if they were released today, it would sound just as modern as any new band releasing music currently. The production has changed over the years (often for the worse) but there has never been anything dated about the music of Priest and this was obvious by the second song of the set.

It is worth noting that Faulkner did "Randy" the first and third solo of the four more than Andy Sneap did during his second and fourth attack during the solos in "Rapid Fire," and it is also amazing how far Sneap has come inside of Judas Priest.

There was a time when not as many of the tricky fingering solos went to him but both he and Faulkner brought a lot of that back in full force during the last couple of tours.

One of the most unjust things in metal history has to be the fact that "Breaking The Law" is such a major representation of Priest to so many people because the British metal masters have always had two of the best guitarists imaginable in their lineups and "Breaking The Law" has no guitar solo whatsoever on British Steel.

Thankfully, Downing fixed that problem when they played (which many fans only heard for the first time when "Priest Live" was released in 1987) and Faulkner has kept the tradition going. His solo, while a bit different from K.K.'s, keeps the same feel and intense approach to the idea and the crowd was quick to "Who Oh" the section post solo.

In keeping with the theme and knowing that their fans do not just wait for new music so that Priest can play the same songs every tour, knowing that wondering which cuts will be chosen each time is a favorite pastime for the metal maniacs, the band had a banger ready.

It is like waiting for lightning to strike, which it did.

"Firepower" was the last CD released by the band and it dropped with much success and mass critical acclaim in 2018. Priest seemed to release some kind of video for almost all of the disk and many songs from that release have found their way onto the setlist ever since. This time, "Lightning Strikes," one of the more aggressive songs from that album, was the only one chosen.

It proved to be a perfect inclusion because while The Falcon certainly can play the Priest catalog with amazing acuity, like "Panic Attack" prior, "Lightning..." worked to showcase just what kind of a composer and artist he really is. All heads were banging, some in the (far too) closeknit seating were accidently thrashing into one another, and the show wasn't even half over.

Had there been room for a mosh, as there should have been, the throbbing of Ian Hill's bass and the tick tick accuracy of Travis' drum work would have had the place in a frenzy.

"Lightning Strikes" also promised that the golden voice of Halford was not only in fine form as it echoed about the hall, but that many people who have seen Priest since 1974 said that his voice has never sounded fuller or more octavely impressive.

His wails pieced the air like razors yet it found harmony and purpose within the mix.

Time to suck

Nothing about Priest is ever said to "suck" but their subject matter on the next track is famous for it! The lights moved to foreboding red and the screens went grim as Nasferatu himself lit up the fog-drenched stage on the screens behind the drums and "Love Bites" lurched in.

The bass is always strong as a mood of doom is set during the into, but on this night, it may have been that the soundman forgot to turn Hill's bass down once into the song or it may have been that he wanted to rock out a few fillings in a few fangs because he roared during this song. Usually, if one doesn't make a note to do so, one can almost forget to admire Hill hacking away in the back, stage left, but that wasn't in danger of happening during "Love Bites."

Halford talked to the crowd and said that the kind of metal that Priest plays came from an English gathering of working class people like Sabbath and like those attending.

That would mean working class people over the scope of more than 50 years, something that only Raven and a few other metal bands have accomplished. Many of those people own a copy of "Screaming For Vengeance," one of the most definitive 80s albums, and they were greeted by a song of pain and trial which has brought many a saddened person through heartbreak, the anguishing "Devil's Child."

When Halford sang lamenting lines such as, "You took my heart and left it blown to smithereens," "Your torment is fit to snap my soul," or "I believe you're the Devil's child," one could feel the tears in his voice, as cold as winter ice.

Faulkner got to show is inner K.K., showing that he can handle many of both Tipton's AND K.K.'s parts on older songs during "Saints In Hell." The song only appeared last tour, a gem from the "Stained Class" album in 1978.

Though not often played in the past, the internet is full of reasons why this song is so unique.

Copying the psychedelic textures of K.K.'s approach when composing this monster (which tells the tale of Christ conquering Hell) is not only a matter of hitting the right notes, but of capturing a whole style that used noise and distortion in a way that is musical and pleasing while being as harsh as road salt. If done wrong, it sounds like a fax machine played through a bullhorn.

This was a feat that The Falcon, son-in-law to Dokken, guitarist, George Lynch, also achieved on the even harder to emulate, "Sinner" just two songs later. Both he and Sneap traded solos like the Tipton/Downing days and with all of the power that modern sound and live production offer.

The timing changes, the insanely complicated way that the song changes direction, and the finesse was all present.

Before that, another new song, "Crown Of Horns" was played. Some reports are that "Sword Of Damocles" from "Redeemer Of Souls" has filled this slot in other shows and while the former is a much more technical and in some ways better selection, "Crown..." was the only ballad to be played during the night since "Beyond The Realms Of Death" and "Diamonds And Rust" were absent.

Faulkner did a bit of a stand alone solo during the start of the song, shorter than in time's past, but it worked as a red carpet welcome for the new song.

"Crown..." seems to talk about the weight of being a Christian (which Halford is) while being the "metal god," with the "horns" replacing the word "thorns" showing that he isn't a God but an artist who has a responsibility to his fans and friends that he takes very seriously.

It was a welcomed inclusion.

After "Sinner," the gears changed and the more mechanized "Turbo Lover" was next, a song that was on an album that was so far ahead of it's time that even industrial bands were not able to accomplish what Priest had done, and they lived on keyboards and synths.

Sadly, it seems like there is again a sequence now in place of the guitar synth that Tipton used and since Judas Priest used those synths in ways that even bands which also used them at the time (such as Iron Maiden during the "Somewhere In Time" era) didn't think of, it is kind of sad to seem them chucked. Having that kind of innovation altered still seems strange, though it has been done for awhile now.

Still, Priest slowed the song down a bit during this performance and this made the song quite dark and menacing (it seems to be written about two lovers in a motorcycle who crash, though it can also seen as a sex reference). With the speed down a notch, it seemed as though the former interpretation was felt by many, so even with the guitar sound different, Priest delivered the goods and nailed quite a landing on the song that still divides fans to this day.

Guitar wizardry unparalleled

The last of the new songs arrived next, the title track from a CD which fans can not easily pick a favorite from, this year's "Invincible Shield." To imagine that any song, even the bonus tracks like "The Lodger," from this CD would not be done live at some point is a travesty of thought. There isn't a single song on this platter which doesn't deserve a live play, but if they had to pick only one more to add, "Invincible Shield" was the best choice.

This complicated, technical, harmony-driven song is easily one of the best Priest songs of all time, certainly a better representation than wildly popular "Living After Midnight" in terms of just what this band can accomplish. There are timing changes, poly rhythms, guitar harmonies that have Sneap and Faulkner playing different parts, which are not to be confused with the parts which are exactly alike and need to be played such.

If there was any doubt whatsoever as to whether or not Glenn Tipton was still really the composer of much of this music regardless of his ability to tour and play it every night, one brief listen to the harmony movements in this song will prove it to be true. There is no question that he is still writing a lot of the music and that he has taken his ability to have seemingly conflicting parts melt together like pure bliss to the realm of perfection.

Travis, as much as on any song, including the collosal "Painkiller," shows that from the time that he was in Racer X and on since he joined the band in 1990/1991, he has aged to a perfection that wine would envy. Double bass is a dime a dozen today but he still keeps it fresh, not overdone to the point of monotony, and it was a wonder to see how the band came together for this song around him.

Many songs remained, as well. "Victim Of Changes" saw Halford hitting the highest notes imaginable at will. Much of the song has become so vocally challenging over the years that the original version on 1976's "Sad Wings Of Destiny" almost pales when listened to beside what Halford does on the live DVD, "Battle Cry," released in 2014.

Each of those impossible notes were hit in Youngstown, Ohio, a few growls were also put in, and the song of ruined love was delivered with enough genuine emotion as to draw tears. In terms of songs that left the "verse/chorus/verse" format behind in terms of a deeper structure, "Victim Of Changes were one of the first songs in rock history to do that, a fact that many people do not know.

Many people also do not know that Fleetwood Mac released "The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown) before Judas Priest did because, much like "Diamonds And Rust" which was done by Joan Biaz, Priest do such a breathtaking job of playing it that it sounds like they wrote it.

Travis took the mic as the band stepped aside after the sing along at the end "Green Manalishi'" and the fans started to cheer before he even spoke to thank the crowd. This is because when Travis talks, when the drum lights go bright, he is about to announce "Painkiller," which he did.

Easily one of the most iconic drum intros in all of music, "Painkiller" is also a finger killer, featuring a tangle of wrist twisting notes and phrasings which one could spend their whole lives trying to emulate. The Falcon did the deed again (he had an aortic aneurysm, which kills almost everyone who it strikes in 2021 but the adrenalin needed to play "Painkiller" kept him alive, according to doctors) and as video of Tipton playing the song played on the screens behind The Falcon (as is tradition for the genius who wrote it).

Vocally, even King Diamond would likely vote "Painkiller" as one of the hardest songs in all of music history to sing. The whole song is at such a high register that only a handful of singers in the world at any given time could do the song any justice whatsoever, and yet Halford proved that age means nothing as he belted out the song. As Travis kept the drums in the flurry that he created many moons ago, everyone there was in a thrashing state of bliss.

To close out the night, "The Hellion" played (pre-recorded again) and "Electric Eye" was next. The song that uses a simple E and A chord pattern to develop into a song that is far trickier than many would imagine it to be was met with heartfelt cheers from everyone.

During many Judas Priest solos, including "Electric Eye," Tipton had a way of playing that seemed as if he hardly touched the strings at all, even when he was flying with 32nd notes at the speed of gunfire. Faulkner has a bit of a heavier touch but with no loss of purity.

Vocally, the first verse alone has such a differing of styles that first time listeners often think that two different people are singing it, even today, 42 years later. It conveys the horror of Orwell's 1984 (and our current time, to some degree) in stark, realistic terms.

Following that, the roar was heard, the lights were crimson, the engine rumbled, and Rob Halford again rode a motorcycle onto the stage. Halford changed outfits a few times, coming out this time in a light blue jean trench coat with patches.

Much like opening band Sabaton with their gas attack, Rob on the bike is a highlight of the show, as was the Judas Priest trident which hovered massively over the crowd with lights blazing and with arching movements.

It was time for "Hell Bent For Leather," and that meant that it was again time for Andy Sneap to show that blistering solos are nothing that he isn't ready for. He locked into Faulkner for the display of musical triads that seemed to zoom by like snowflakes in a blizzard while Hill kept the low end strong, preventing the rump of the song from falling out while the solos captivated the ears of the Ohio faithful.

From there, "Living After Midnight" did make it in time to end the metal mayhem, and while simple, the joy that that this ditty brings to so many is always a joy to behold. This wasn't only true of the aged, either. Many children no older than 12 were rocking out, throwing their fists in the air, and going totally insane during many of the songs, particularly during the encore songs, for some reason.

A short show it was not, yet anytime that Judas Priest closes a set, it seems to be too soon. Alas, there was a silver lining though: 2011 was the only time that "WE WILL BE BACK" didn't show on the screens which were peppered all over halls where they played and, thank God, those wonderful words DID again appear for all to read.

That, more than anything else, was the painkiller.