Every music journalist will readily admit there are concerts on your assignment calendar you double-circle, and the rescheduled date for Judas Priest’s 50 Heavy Metal Years tour stop in Georgia on Friday night, with support from Queensryche, fell squarely into that category for me.
Built in 2008, the 12,000 capacity Ameris Bank Amphitheatre finally played host to these two iconic bands on a chilly night in northern Atlanta, following Priest’s original show postponement from October 2021 after guitarist Richie Faulkner suffered a ruptured aorta during their September 26th performance at the Louder Than Life Festival in Louisville, Ky.
After picking up my credentials and entering the venue, the nostalgia really started to set in, especially if you paid attention to all the legacy, decades-old concert t-shirts being worn by the fans. I had not seen either of these bands perform live since their respective 1991 summer tours — Operation Rock & Roll featuring Judas Priest, Alice Cooper, Motörhead, Dangerous Toys and Metal Church, and the Building Empires Tour featuring Queensryche, Suicidal Tendencies and Warrior Soul. And as a little piece of trivia, the Judas Priest concert I attended in 1991 was hosted at the Capital Centre, the same venue where the infamous “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” documentary was recorded before a Priest/Dokken show in 1986 (and sadly, no, I didn’t make that show).
In full disclosure, I have been a huge Queensryche fan for a long time, which made me question how it had been 30 years since I last saw them! Their discography from Empire back to The Warning is a collection of broadly underappreciated work, in my opinion, and I admittedly experienced fan giddiness when the lights came down shortly around 8pm with the band launching into “Queen of the Ryche.”
My fellow All Music Magazine contributor, Scott Diussa, had the pleasure of catching this tour in Nashville a few nights prior to Atlanta, and I agree with many of his same Queensryche-related sentiments. I also respect that there are “traditionalist” fans that want to poo-poo line-up changes over the years, but Todd La Torre has vocally fronted this band for a decade now and the setlist (below) was an amazing showcase of La Torre’s range and talents. “Take Hold of the Flame” is still one of my all-time favorite songs, and the band simply nailed it.
Founding member Michael Wilton (guitar) still oozed coolness behind his ESP with logoed QR fretboard inlays, while fellow co-founder Eddie Jackson continued to lay down the distinctive bass tones Queensryche fans have grown accustom to throughout the years. The band was rounded out by familiar faces – and stellar musicians in their own right – Mike Stone (guitar) and Casey Grillo (drums).
Hopefully when this current tour supporting Priest comes to an end, Queensryche will hit the road again as a headliner in more intimate venues. Their 12-song, less-than-an-hour performance Friday night only left me craving more, even if I was secretly appreciative that the truncated set kept me from hearing “Silent Lucidity” for the umpteenth time!
1.) Queen of the Reich
3.) En Force
4.) NM 156
6.) Walk in the Shadows
7.) The Whisper
8.) Operation: Mindcrime
9.) The Needle Lies
10.) Take Hold of the Flame
11.) Screaming in Digital
12.) Eyes of a Stranger
The tarp was removed from Priest’s ceiling-suspended pitchfork/cross symbol as the nine o’clock hour approached, followed shortly thereafter by the lights going dark in the amphitheatre to the sound of “War Pigs.” The evening temperature had already crept down into the crisp low 50s, but the night was about to heat up as Judas Priest took the stage with the familiar silhouette of singer Rob “Metal God” Halford standing with his back to the crowd in front of the drum riser.
The “metal works” factory-esque stage set burst into view as the band launched into their opening track, “One Shot at Glory,” from their 1990 album Painkiller. Now I will readily admit that I am more of a “radio hits”-type Priest fan than someone intimately familiar with their 50-year-deep musical catalog, but I am old enough (49!) to appreciate and understand what this band has meant to generations of metal fans. It also goes without saying that 70-year-old Halford is an institution that is synonymous with heavy metal. Supporting Halford through Priest’s 19-song setlist were musician mainstays Ian Hill (bass), Scott Travis (drums) and Richie Faulkner (guitar), with Andy Sneap (guitar) returning to tour with the band.
As was expected, concert photographers were limited to the first three songs in the pit, with the third tune luckily being the hit “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’.” I thoroughly enjoyed watching Halford stalk around the stage, singing deeply into the microphone, with the chanting of the crowd backing him up. Faulkner also looked happy and healthy following his recovery from recent heart surgery, even if perhaps he isn’t “as crazy on stage now” as one of my friends commented.
Following a cover of the Joan Baez song “Diamonds & Rust,” the main part of the evening was cresting towards its end with Travis asking the crowd, “It’s Friday night! We have time for one more song. What do you want to hear?!” This of course lead into one of Priest’s signature songs, “Painkiller,” before they head off stage to settle in for the encore.
After a very brief break (maybe because the temperatures had already dipped into the low 40s?), Priest reemerged to “Electric Eye,” followed by Halford driving onto the stage with his signature motorcycle for “Hell Bent for Leather.” Then, as Priest fans have come to appreciate, guitarist Glenn Tipton joined the remainder of the encore set for performances of “Metal Gods,” “Breaking the Law,” and “Living After Midnight.” (Atlanta fan video below)
Normally I would not end a review on a somber note, but on my drive home Friday, I (like many of us) learned of the tragic and unexpected passing of Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins. You never know when the music may stop, which is why I encourage each of you to go out and see artists like Priest while you can. Faulkner’s recent health scare is well documented, but Halford is also in remission from prostate cancer, and Tipton has been battling Parkinson’s disease for some years. Buy a ticket, have a fun night out, and build a memory because one day the tour bus is sadly going to stop coming to your town.
1.) One Shot at Glory
2.) Lightning Strike
3.) You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’
4.) Freewheel Burning
5.) Turbo Lover
6.) Hell Patrol
7.) The Sentinel
8.) A Touch of Evil
9.) Rocka Rolla
10.) Victim of Changes
11.) Desert Plains
12.) Blood Red Skies
13.) Diamonds & Rust (Joan Baez cover)
15.) Electric Eye
16.) Hell Bent for Leather
17.) Metal Gods (with Glenn Tipton)
18.) Breaking the Law (with Glenn Tipton)
19.) Living After Midnight (with Glenn Tipton)
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