Judas Priest + Dragonforce
Enmore Theatre, Sydney
24 February 2015
Review by Gary Grim
I cannot remember the last time I saw a crowd so eager to see a band as those gathered to witness Judas Priest live. Headbangers of all ages were figuratively champing at the proverbial bit to see these metal gods. To kick things off and whet the appetites of the assembled metal maniacs, though, was DragonForce.
Seeing Dragonforce live makes it hard for me to understand why the band cop so much flack from some of the metal elitists out there. These guys provide everything you’d want to see in a metal show; flailing hair and guitars, over the top solos, a guy unironically playing a keytar with vigor, epic vocals and a contagious energy. This isn’t a group of forlorn musos stationary on the stage performing their songs with dreary efficiency and solemnity; Dragonforce go large, playing their instruments (and, at times, each others instruments) with a kind of reckless abandon that hindered their proficiency not a jot. They’re a band that provide a spectacle that is sometimes lacking in the metal scene but not at the expense of substance. It felt as though the large crowd gathered to see them would agree. Provoking sing/clap/chant-a-longs for tracks such as ‘Three Hammers’, ‘Symphony of the Night’, ‘Through the Fire and the Flames’ as well as a bombastic metal version of Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’, Dragonforce seemed the perfect openers on a night such as this.
Judas Priest are often heralded as “metal gods” for good reason and it’s not just because they have a song with that title. This is a band that has been responsible for countless heavy metal classics, songs that are deeply ingrained into the collective subconsciousness of any metalheads who have a healthy respect for the roots of the genre. A respect shared by the guys from Priest as they played song ‘War Pigs’ by the godfathers of metal themselves, Black Sabbath, over the PA to mark the beginning of the gig.
Once the band had graced the stage, they launched straight into some new material from their latest album, ‘Redeemer of Souls’, with the song ‘Dragonaut’. Even though the tour was for this new album, the setlist was not bogged down with an overabundance new material. Onlookers were whipped into a frenzy waiting for the old classics and Priest delivered. One such classic was my personal highlight of the show, ‘Victim of Changes’. For me, the performance of this song showcased just about everything great about the gig that night. It showed that these guys are still rock solid and tight as a band. There were some great solos from both Glenn Tipton and the youngest/newest member of the group, Richie Faulkner. The rhythm section nailed it all down, a classic heavy metal beat keeping everything together. The vocal range required in this particular song was covered practically flawlessly by Rob Halford proving to me, and probably everyone there, that he can still pull off his iconic singing style. Take all of these factors, add Halford’s headbanging along with Faulkner’s energy and charm, and ‘Victim of Changes was a masterclass in what heavy metal is all about.
As the band drew close to the end of the set, a whole lot of renowned and timeless songs came were busted out. ‘Hell Bent For Leather’ (complete with Halford riding a Harley onto the stage), ‘Breaking the Law’, ‘You’ve Got Another Thing Comin” and more got the entirety of the Enmore Theatre singing, chanting and headbanging. The older folks in the crowd were letting loose fuelled on a nostalgic rush whilst the youngsters were hyped up on witnessing a real, old school heavy metal show. Personally, I left there on a rush having attended an amazing gig by one of the pioneers of my favourite style of music. If you love your metal but for some reason missed out on Judas Priest at their sidewave, do everything you can to catch them at Soundwave Festival.