The old is good as new

On Tuesday, Oct. 20, the Bay Area was greeted by the sound of roaring engines as famed British heavy metal band Judas Priest rode into the The Warfield Theatre on their North American Redeemer of Souls Tour this year. Supported by the progressive metal band Mastodon, the concert was electric from start to finish, and even the small issues throughout the night held no sway over the excellent music and showmanship on stage.

The entire, nearly sold out venue was rife with energy even before the bands took the stage. The entire crowd was in sync enough with their excitement and love of metal to belt out almost the entirety of AC/DC’s “Back In Black” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” before the first live song started. Sadly, when Mastodon took the stage some of the energy ebbed, as it became clear how many members of the audience were there to see Judas Priest.

Audience reactions aside, even though the moshing was minimal and the crowd voices low, Mastodon held their own on stage and gave a performance worthy of applause from everyone. The members moved on stage with lively abandon, looking obviously excited to be playing. And though they were plagued by a faulty microphone that reduced the volume of one of the four vocalists, all other notes came through as crisp and well-executed as they did on the albums. Truly, in a room of middle-aged metal heads expecting to hear Rob Halford’s soaring falsetto scream, Mastodon’s thundering guitars and guttural growls attracted more than enough praise.

When the curtain dropped as the roadies set up for the main event, the buzz of the room amplified tenfold. With Judas Priest having been active from 1970 to now, two generations worth of fans eagerly awaited the appearance of the “Metal God.”

Opening the show with the likes of “Dragonaut” and “Metal Gods,” the crowd erupted as frontman Rob Halford took the stage for the first time that night, walking with the aide of a cane. Though the sight of the aging rockers on stage was a momentary shock, the sound of Priest’s signature dueling lead guitars and falsetto screams laid any fears of deterioration to rest. Not to mention the addition of 35 year-old Ritchie Faulkner to take the place of retired former guitarist K. K. Downing brought an obvious liveliness to the stage that perfectly offset the slower, more seasoned members. Luckily, Halford tossed the cane after the first song, opting instead to leave the stage during long solos and interludes, presumably to sit and rest.

Throughout the night, Judas Priest brought out many of their famous tracks, like “Screaming for Vengeance” and “Breaking the Law,” while also appealing to older fans by playing “Beyond the Realms of Death,” “Desert Plains” and “Victim of Changes.” Halford even mounted the stage on his Harley Davidson motorcycle for the track “Hell Bent For Leather,” just as he’s done since the 80s.

It was a long night of metal and screams, and even the balcony audience stood and rocked as hard as they could from beginning to end. The show closed perfectly, with two encores consisting of “The Hellion/Electric Eye” and their famed “Painkiller,” the show couldn’t have ended better unless Priest had actually played “Living After Midnight” after midnight.

The clash of new and old was palpable at The Warfield, but both bands held their own and the classic “metal gods” of Judas Priest show no signs of losing their talent and drive, even if they appeared wearied by age and the pounding beats of the music they love.

The old bands won’t be around forever, and right now, Judas Priest is as good as ever. Catch them while you can, because they’re still worth today what they were worth at their peak.