Judas Priest

Phases and Stages
Photo By Gary Miller

Judas Priest

Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, Selma, Texas, Aug. 7 Metal breached its Maginot Line somewhere between the Misfits and Metallica's 1983 debut, Kill 'Em All. This coincides with Judas Priest's commercial and creative apex, Screaming for Vengeance, which, while only lesser by degrees compared to AC/DC's Back in Black from the same era, nevertheless sounds almost quaint by today's metal standards. Emerging from the same industrial backwater as Black Sabbath when the Sixties were blackening into the Seventies, Birmingham, England, Priest's hammer 'n' anvil blues alloy plodded less than those of their crosstown peers, yet still relied on songcraft to propel it forward. Sandwiching 80 minutes between Slayer's speeding thrash and Ozzfest headliners Black Sabbath, who were finished at least one reunion ago, the reunited quintet minus "Breaking the Law" drummer Dave Holland came out screaming with Vengeance opener "Electric Eye." Rob Halford, who quit the group after 1990's evolutionary Painkiller, was back in black, dressed like an S&M version of Marlene Dietrich in flowing, studded leathers. "Saturday night in Texas and the Priest is back," he growled before guitarists Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing, himself dressed like Hugh Jackman's Van Helsing, plus bassist Ian Hill took Eighties FM radio staple "Heading Out to the Highway" for a cruise. Millennial metal could use such convertible anthems, although similarly vintage JP set-listers like "Metal Gods" and "Touch of Evil" have rusted badly over the decades. By "Victim of Changes" 30 minutes in, Halford and crew were finally warmed up, the crowd roaring every time the screamer hit hellionlike vocal heights. "The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)," like the whole of Judas Priest's set, was serviceable. The double kick drums of "Painkiller" brought the truncated main set to a close, Halford wheeling the group's hoary old concert prop, a Harley Davidson, onstage for "Hellbent for Leather," "Living After Midnight," and closer "You've Got Another Thing Comin'," which sounded twice as sludgy as the already muddy PA. Tipton continues to chrome a perfect solo on the metal standard. The Selma shed thundered its appreciation like only San Antonio's metal mongoloids fueled on cheap weed and Budweiser can, mostly oblivious to the fact that the band had been perfunctory at best. Texas Saturday night or no, sometimes you can't go back home, something that Metallica, Sept. 3 at the Frank Erwin Center, would be advised to consider.

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