Although concertgoers had been away for over a year, they were eager to get back to the business of rocking. The mild inconvenience of providing a COVID clearance outside was tempered by the amazing temperature, a mild 74 degrees.
The Armory, once considered a historic Works Progress Administration building from the Great Depression, was the home of the Minnesota National Guard. The building has accommodated numerous sporting and musical events, including the filming of Prince’s “1999” and Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” videos. Although it was almost converted into a penitentiary, it was saved by the Minnesota Historical Society and the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1993. In 2017, the building regained its glory and began hosting public events.
The venue was packed with individuals who appeared as they were about to attend a biker convention. I noticed two young kids on the way to the pit who could have not been more than five and eight. One of the children, with fair hair and innocent green eyes, stared back at me as he stood in front of his dad who was dressed in a black vest with silver metal plates lining the front. May I add that the dad reminded me of a Viking warrior. Further down was a father holding a petite brown-haired child with a ponytail and noise-canceling headphones. Later in the show, this young girl would gain the attention of both bands and receive an array of drumsticks and guitar picks. Making my way through the crowd with my daughter Bailey, I was asked if I would be interested in photographing the concert earlier in the day and I was thrilled to do so. It was her first rock concert, and I was excited that her initial experience would be rock and roll greatness, the legendary Judas Priest.
When the lights began to dim, the crowd began to chant, “Sabaton! Sabaton!”. As the beams faded, the voice of the crowd reached an ear-piercing scream. Then, an eerie green glow radiated over the stage. The gas mask-wearing band appeared standing in front of their mics which were adorned with machine guns and helmets. At this point, I was totally intrigued and impressed as they began performing their first song, “Attack of the Dead Men” in the masks. Lead vocalist Joakim Broden, in full gear, bellowed their number one European single from the 2019 album “The Great War.” As he sang, I quickly understood their reasoning behind the WWI costumes and macabre visualizations. The song’s history referenced the Russian victory over the Germans at Osowiec Fortress in WWI, where the legend of the Attack of the Dead Men was born. The band, hailing from Sweden, who did not even participate in the war, showed little neutrality on stage. But, again, this is rock and roll.
Let’s talk about the members of Sabaton. Swedish-born lead guitarist Chris Rorland started playing at the early age of seven. His influences included two famous ax-men, Malmsteen and Vai. When he is not playing, you will find him creating the band’s artwork. Behind the massive tank drum is Hannes Van Dahl, a favorite with the ladies. His interest in rock and metal came from his days of skateboarding. Initially a bass guitarist, he lost interest and started playing the drums. Providing backing vocals and guitar is Tommy Johansson. Tommy joined the band in 2016 replacing member, Thobbe Englund. As a tenor, Johansson has recorded three studio albums with the Christian Melodic Neoclassical Power Band, Golden Resurrection. Another crowd favorite, bassist Par Sundstrom, who began playing in both black and death metal bands as a youth. Originally forming the band Aeon in 1999 with Rikard Sunden and Richard Larsson, he added Joakim Broden and Oskar Montelius to develop Sabaton. Sundstrom is not only the bassist but operates as a band manager and pyrotechnic wizard. Finally, there is vocalist, Joakim Broden. His look is rather distinctive with his trademark mohawk, and unusual vest adorned with metal. Holding dual Swedish and Czech citizenship, he is a multi-talented vocalist, keyboardist, and guitarist.
Try imagining photographing this band. After bumping into each other numerous times, the photographers finally worked out our own successful sightlines. As I am photographing the musicians, I could not help but notice that all the songs sounded analogous. It makes me think of Ben Stein in the movie, “Ferris Buller’s Day Off”. The lack of inflection in his voice makes the character sound stiff and boring…” Bueller, Bueller.” If you have not seen the movie, it is a must. Unfortunately, there was a redundancy in the songs and each tune resembled the next. Now, don’t get me wrong, I did not say the guy could not sing. The voices were on point, there was impressive showmanship, and hair was flowing. However, I do not think it mattered to the fans. The band had an impressive following and support, but it just was not my cup of tea. The band put on a great show and seemed to truly have a fantastic time together.
Although the fans had to endure a grueling wait for the Judas Priest 50 Heavy Metal Years Tour, the black leather and metal studded gods of rock hit the stage. As the house music dims, the crowd let out a deafening roar. They began their song set with Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” as red and white lights illuminated a familiar gothic pitchfork/cross symbol. Next, the instrumental “Battle Hymn” began to play and the band exploded into “One Shot at Glory” (there seems to be a war theme tonight). This song is a statement about our leaders and they’re warmongering. As the war songs continued, the lights gleamed on the gold studded jacket of the band’s general, Rob Halford. I asked myself, how much leather can a man wear? Apparently, he can pull it off!
Even on hiatus, this band has clearly not lost its skill. For the next hour and a half, both the audience and I were mesmerized with such classics as “Breaking the Law”, “Hell Bent for Leather”, and “You Got Another Thing Comin’.” Finally came the edgier, “Pain Killer”, which is noted for its greatest and fiercest guitar solo played by long-time member Glenn Tipton. According to Halford, Tipton is very much still part of the band even though he has not been able to tour since his Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2018. Joining lead guitarist, Richie Faulkner is Andy Sneap who stepped in after Tipton’s exit. Faulkner was impressive playing blazing riffs and showcasing his new Gibson signature Flying-V guitar. There seemed to be a hail of guitar pick tossing, a trait I am sure he learned from his father-in-law and legend, George Lynch. Could it be we see collaboration happening soon? Only one can hope! A little about Andy Sneap who joined the band for the 50th Anniversary Tour. This Grammy-winning producer, musician, and songwriter have produced over 100 albums, including those by Priest. Hanging in the shadows is the bassist, Ian Hill. Hill is an original founding member and has been a mainstay in the band since 1970. Unfortunately, Hill does not move much during the shows; however, he is able to move his bass to the beat of the music as he plays his unique tones. Although static, he seems happy hanging right alongside the drum riser and near drummer, Scott Travis. US-born Travis can keep the beat to all Priest’s fast-paced songs. He joined the band in 1989 after Dave Holland withdrew from the band. He recalled that he always wanted to play for Judas Priest and his dream became a reality after Halford received his studio tape. Who says dreams cannot come true?
After 50 years, Halford’s melodic and high-pitched falsetto vocals have not failed him. At 70 years young, the performer has paired his superb vocals with an equally impressive wardrobe. He changed into eight different jackets during the nineteen-song set and those jackets progressed from artful fringed gold studded to black leather silver-studded sheaths. Midway through their set, he appeared on a motorcycle wearing a thigh-length silver-studded motorcycle jacket and matching leather cap. I found this very fitting for their number, “Hell Bent for Leather”. By this time, I had lost count of the costume changes (I had to go back and count to myself), but I was impressed by his final costume which included a floor-length sleeveless denim duster adorned with patches. Might I add that there was no shortage of props. Leather, studs, motorcycles, radioactive barrels, and a red-eye bull charging across the stage made the night! Halford added his energy and interacted with the crowd by taking time to stop and point his mic toward the audience. Time has been kind to Halford. Certainly, he has cemented his place as a rock legend, and fans are dedicated to him. As their set concluded, Halford thanked everyone for their continued support over the years. He urged everyone to keep the mania going by continuing to support metal music.
As my daughter and I were leaving the venue, I passed several people reveling in the final moments of the show. As I took a final look back, I spotted two friends singing in what I call a “bro moment.” In that moment, they would create a bond as fans for a lifetime. It was truly a heartwarming moment for me after the year we have experienced. The power of music is universal as it brings together people from diverse backgrounds and lives. I am glad to share my love for music with my own daughter and experience this bonding time with her. The night could not have turned out more perfect as my daughter gave me the best compliment a mother could receive. She turned to me and said, “I am so proud of you. You are the coolest mom ever and I love you!”
Judas Priest Setlist:
1.) Battle Hymn
2.) One Shot at Glory
3.) Lightning Strike
4.) You’ve Got Another Thing Coming
5.) Freewheel Burning
6.) Turbo Lover
7.) Hell Patrol
8.) The Sentinel
9.) A Touch of Evil
10.) Rocka Rolla
11.) Victim of Changes
12.) Desert Plains
13.) Blood Red Skies
16.) Electric Eye
17.) Hell Bent for Leather
18.) Breaking the Law
19.) Living After Midnight
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As a Minneapolis-based professional freelance photographer and photojournalist, I feel I have a passion for sharing new perspectives of the world. Since picking up my first DSLR camera, I have been hooked ever since. Striving to capture the rawest forms of emotion through my photos, I am determined to make the viewer feel as if they were there too. Whether I am photographing landscapes, families, children, events, or concerts, I feel I have a way of capturing the true essence of the moment and finding the extraordinary in an ordinary place.
I am always looking for a creative outlet through my art, I find myself drawn to concerts as a rock music lover. You will find me right up front in the pit with everyone else. I have documented tours with some of the biggest artists in rock history including George Lynch, Judas Priest, Billy Idol, Slaughter, Vince Neil, Rick Springfield, and many more. I continue to push boundaries with my work and strive to capture some of the most iconic moments that represent the vibe of the artists and crowd as well as the atmosphere of the overall event. I am a contributor for All Music Magazine and a published photographer including features in Guitar Magazine and a feature cover photo on George Lynch’s 2021 solo album. Some of my clients include Morley Pedals, Rat Pak Records, Two Notes Audio, and many more.
“I capture emotions, not images.”