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Concert Review: Judas Priest at Hard Rock Live, August 17

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Judas Priest
Monday, August 17
Hard Rock Live, Hollywood

Better Than: A case of the Mondays

The Review:

Classic metal shows are always an excellent bang for the buck -- see previous reviews on local shows by Iron Maiden or Slayer, for example. The bands are drawing on years of a critic- and fan-vetted catalog, so as a fan, you're guaranteed to like at least 90 percent of the songs played. So will everyone around you, who will generally be drunk, possibly sunburned, and generally good-natured and up for a rowdy time. (Try accidentally bumping into an indie rock snob versus a dude in a denim vest, and tell me who's more offended by it.) These classic acts also come from a time in which putting on a stage show was still valued, so you're guaranteed costume changes, pulsing lights, and stage patter that is clearly appreciative of the audience. And hey, there's usually not much of a line at the ladies' room!

The Judas Priest show at Hard Rock Live last Monday didn't disappoint on any of these fronts. Start to finish, Rob Halford and company put on an all-out show that constantly thrilled. My only complaint? It seemed to go by way too quickly and was over way too soon! This was beyond the band's control -- opener Whitesnake dropped off the tour last minute after David Coverdale suggered a serious vocal chord lesion. As such, Priest went on around 8:30 and was done by 10. Oh well, more time to get lost in the casino afterwards (finally, a concert venue situated to satisfy nearly every vice -- damn you, Hard Rock).

Judas Priest's current tour celebrates the (almost) 30th anniversary of its landmark 1980 album, British Steel, and as planned, they played it start to finish. In an early-'80s spirit, the stage show and costumes here were relatively stripped down. Instead of a full leather getup, for instance, Halford went for a studded denim-denim two-piece combo and black gloves. The drum kit was set on simple black risers bedecked with faintly painted Union Jacks, and a simple backdrop of the album's cover completed the setup. Even the lighting seemed a little retro, although I may be searching here -- it was limited to fun, rainbow-colored spinning spotlights, and the occasional flash bulb along the bottom of the stage risers.

The songs were played start to finish with little break in between -- awesome song after awesome song. Halford's shrieks at the end of "Breaking the Law" were still amazingly scary, and there was a lot of rhythmic clapping to songs like "United" and "Living After Midnight." I usually hate forced group clapping when it seems contrived, but to Priest it feels totally appropriate -- the songs were written for fist-pumping, stomping, and general rhythmic noise.

"Living After Midnight," by the way, remains one of the best getting-ready-to-kick-ass rock anthems ever, and I only wished they would magically play it through a secnod time. Well, at least the group singalong that closed it out stretched out the song a bit. The three British Steel songs after that seemed to go by in a flash, and by a little after 9 p.m., the whole album was done.

So what then? A set of Priest classics, of course. "The Ripper from Sad Wings of Destiny, "Prophecy" from last year's Nostradamus, "Hell Patrol" from Painkiller, "Victim of Changes," also from Destiny.... After this last one, Halford finally rode out on the requisite Harley, now in a highly spangled leather outfit. That, combined with a final encore-type performance of "You've Got Another Thing Coming," ensured that all was right in the universe.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Metal and petty gambling? Yes, please.

Random Detail: Eddie Trunk and the other guys from VH1's That Metal Show appeared to introduce the show, as it was being filmed for a live Priest DVD due out next year.

By the Way: That DVD will be bundled with a special reissue package of British Steel, due out on the album's actual 30th anniversary next year.

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