Headline Act: Judas Priest
Support: Queensrÿche, Rival Sons
Venue: Bournemouth BIC
Fans gathered feverishly early on a cool Sunday evening in anticipation of Judas Priest’s final UK date on their farewell Epitaph tour. Opening the night was Rival Sons. The American four-piece are building up a reputation as one of the most promising new rock acts and their placement on the Epitaph tour has allowed them to play some of the UK’s larger venues. A decent audience turned up to watch them deliver a convincing half-hour set where they displayed their 70s classic rock roots with essences of Led Zeppelin, Free and the Black Crowes. Amongst the cliché vintage blues-rock is a band with a true identity, and despite frontman Jay Buchanan’s stage presence being a carbon copy of Robert Plant, he thankfully doesn’t try to sound like a tribute act.
Next on the bill was Seattle’s Queensrÿche. Once pioneers of progressive metal, the band has significantly moved on over the years and has recently released their most controversial album to date with Dedicated to Chaos. An album that saw them yet again reinvent their sound has received a great deal of largely unfair frustrated criticism from fans and critics alike. Get Started from that very album opens things up, with Geoff Tate jumping around in a trilby and waistcoat failing to engage Priest’s loyal ‘metal maniacs’. Thankfully the band then strayed away from the current release to perform some of their classic material. Anthems such as I Don’t Believe in Love, Empire and Eyes of a Stranger manage to get the audience singing along, with Empire being a particular standout. Despite Tate’s recent statement that Queensrÿche are definitely not to be seen as a prog band, there is space in the set for the experimental pairing of NM 156 and Screaming in Digital. The sci-fi themed songs work excellently together both musically and lyrically, with the tales of futuristic machine dominance over mankind being expertly executed by the band with Tate’s operatic vocals on top form.
It took around twenty-minutes for Judas Priest’s monolithic stage to be created and as soon as the veil was dropped the crowd was greeted with a display of pyrotechnics, lasers and smoke plumes. Priest ploughed effortlessly through heavy renditions of classics such as Metal Gods, Heading Out to the Highway and Victim of Changes, the latter turning out to be arguably the best performance of the night. Rob Halford’s vocal performance was sublime, and for a man in his sixties his ability to reach all the highs from the record is astonishing. The audience warmed instantly to KK Downing’s replacement Richie Faulkner who does his best to imitate his predecessor’s every move. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Faulkner was also handed the majority of the guitar solos, allowing him the exposure to best display his technical ability and prove himself a worthy replacement. Halford handed over full vocal duties to the crowd for Breaking the Law before giving them the right to mosh during the metal powerhouse that is Painkiller. A blistering rendition of their heaviest song created a wall of colossal heavy metal and an atmosphere that few bands manage to achieve.
To round off the night the crowd was treated to three encores before Priest finally brought an end to their stunning performance. If this indeed turns out to be their final major world tour then they are ending on a glorious high. However, with a new guitarist and Halford’s vocals sounding as powerful as ever, one would suspect that there’s at least another album lurking somewhere on the horizon.
Reviewed by Daniel Aston 26/07/2011
Photography by Daniel Aston