Photos & Words by Alan Snodgrass
Judas Priest’s latest release, “Firepower,” has been out for over a year but the touring cycle continues, returning to San Francisco’s The Warfield for a pair of shows with openers Uriah Heep.
By the time the doors opened at 7 pm, the line to get in was already down the block but security made quick work of the crowd, getting as many people in the door. Uriah Heep kicked things off promptly at 8 pm by which time the venue had filled up nicely, and those that made the effort to arrive early were rewarded with an impressive hour long set from these old timers. Even if you couldn’t name a single Uriah Heep song, these rock and roll veterans of forty-nine years, sounded surprisingly youthful.
As the crowd settled in for Priest, a quick look around The Warfield highlighted what accounts for their longevity … a truly diverse fan base in terms of age, gender and musical tastes … the metal heads, the classic rockers and even the punks (including Lars Frederiksen of Rancid) showed up in force to worship the Metal Gods.
When the lights finally dimmed and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” began blasting over the PA, the crowd compressed forward noticeably in anticipation as Rob Halford emerged from behind a panel next to the drum riser dressed like a bedazzled heavy metal witch doctor. Anyone who had caught the same tour last year would have immediately recognized that Judas Priest had totally mixed things up for their return visit, both in terms of the product and the setlist (going into some deep cuts with “Starbreaker,” “Steeler” and “Tyrant”).
Noticeably missing this year, however, was guitarist Glenn Tipton who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease last year, but still managed to shred a few tunes for the encore last March. For his part, Tipton’s replacement Andy Sneap seems to have settled into his new leather skin-tight suit, doing the songs justice and making the fans proud as he served as the perfect foil for Richie Faulkner.
Fifty years! That’s how long Judas Priest has been at it. Down a few original members but still putting out new music and as powerful a live act as ever.