ed. note: Check out the Judas Priest Cleveland photo gallery here.
Tuesday night was big for Cleveland metal fans as the metal gods Judas Priest made their way back to town to rock the Q Arena for one last time as a part of their “Epitaph” farewell tour. Joined by Zakk Wylde‘s Black Label Society and Thin Lizzy, the night was long, loud, and packed with excitement (and metal)!
ed. note: Check out the Thin Lizzy gallery here.
The first band of the evening was Thin Lizzy, and although some fans were still on their way to their seats, the Ireland-based rockers put on a great opening set, with a hit-laden set. New singer Ricky Warwick dedicated the band’s set to the late, great former members of the band, Phil Lynott (d. 1986) and Gary Moore (d. 2011) as he and the rest of the group ripped through such hits as “Jailbreak” and “The Boys are Back in Town”.
The “twin guitars” were in full effect during the set, as longtime guitarist Scott Gorham paired with recent addition Damon Johnson to skillfully recreate the powerful double lead sound that propelled Thin Lizzy to the level of international rock stars in the 1970s and early 80s.
ed. note: Check out the Black Label Society pictures here!
Next to the stage was the incomparable Zakk Wylde and his Black Label Society. The guitarist, notorious for his 20-year career as Ozzy Osbourne‘s lead axeman, really knows how to put on a show! A giant black curtain emblazoned with the BLS skull logo and tagline SDMF (Strength, Determination, Merciless Forever) covered the stage just before the band went on. Suddenly, the first chord of “Crazy Horse” was struck and the curtain fell – to reveal a screaming Wylde, decked out in a gigantic Indian headdress – a little unexpected, and certainly adding to the awesomeness!
Of the three bands that played on the night, BLS was definitely the loudest. The only complaint that one could have in respect to their set was the fact that the guitars were set a bit louder than Zakk’s vocals, making it hard to distinguish the singing from the music. Of course, that wasn’t a problem for the many “Berserkers” (as BLS fans are called) in attendence, many of whom sang every word along with Wylde to such hits as “Bleed for Me”, “Stillborn” and “Fire it Up”.
Wylde’s guitar mastery was in full effect as he embarked on an extended guitar solo after the final note of “Fire”. Showing off fleet fingers on his Gibson Flying V, Wylde’s guitar stamina seemed endless. The solo went on for over 10 minutes, incorporating, among other things, elements of Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush‘s song “Electric Reflections of War”, and (former Scorpions guitarist) Uli Jon Roth‘s “Tokyo Tapes” – a very cool tribute to a pair of underrated guitarists, even if only a few die-hard classic rock fans in attendance may have known. Concert attendee and Auburn Records president Bill Peters was quite impressed. “I found myself mesmorized,” he said, adding, “Black Label Society suprised me. I can’t remember the last time I was at a concert where the support for a major act was turned up LOUDER than the headliner. Loud, even for my standards! Overall, a suprisingly impressive set to this non-BLS fan.”
Finally, it was time for the metal gods to hit the stage – Judas Priest! The “Battle Hymn” filled the air as the legends took the stage. Halford and Co. seemed positively giddy to be rocking Cleveland at the Q Arena, as several band members couldn’t resist the urge to greet the crowd with the customary “Hello, Cleveland!” popularized in the movie This is Spinal Tap.
Any problems the concert-goers may have had with hearing Zakk Wylde’s vocals were quickly erased as soon as Rob Halford sang the first note of “Rapid Fire”, Priest’s first song of the night. Halford’s vocals screamed and soared above the mix, and hearing the legend live is simply incredible to witness, especially for anyone hearing and seeing it in person for the first time (like myself!)
Priest’s setlist covered their whole career, featuring all their big hits like “Heading Out to the Highway” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’, as well as older classics like “Victim of Changes” (from the 1976 album Sad Wings of Destiny) and “Beyond the Realms of Death” (from Stained Class, 1978).
A big highlight of the show was the first encore, as Halford made a big entrance on his motorcycle, holding a riding crop in his teeth and decked out in a metallic leather ensemble. The band ripped through its most powerful song of the night, as Halford’s impassioned cries made sure that everyone in attendance was “Hell Bent for Leather”.
Judas Priest is currently without founding guitarist KK Downing, who retired from the band earlier this year. Richie Faulkner made a nice impression upon the audience as his replacement, highly animated throughout the entire set. Faulkner is the youngest member of the band at 31, about half the ages of the rest of the members, but age was not a problem for Priest on this evening – Halford, Tipton, bassist Ian Hill, and drummer Scott Travis brought the heavy metal thunder all night!
Rob Halford kept things interesting by donning a different stage outfit for nearly every song, and by encouraging audience participation. For the band’s performance of the smash hit “Breaking the Law”, he raised up his microphone stand and pointed it at the audience, allowing the fans to sing the song as he directed! In between another song, Halford also engaged the audience in a back-and-forth vocal patterning battle as he sang a melody, encouraging the crowd to mimic his vocal. For those who participated it was a rare opportunity to sing and harmonize with a metal god – truly a once in a lifetime experience.
Overall, an amazing evening that might not have been possible without the NBA lockout, even though the final attendance total of around 3,200 was not close to filling the Q to capacity. With an empty arena, the Cavs made the choice to book the show directly, bypassing Livenation and creating a great situation for Cleveland metal fans, who might have had to drive out of town to see the tour otherwise. “Give the powers-at-be at Quicken Loans Arena / The Cavs credit,” Bill Peters said, “They took a chance [on Judas Priest] when no one else would bring this tour to Cleveland, and they truly made it a first-class event. The show ran on time, the sound was good for all three bands, staging, lighting and pyro excellent, and the fans energized and enthusiastic. It seemed like everyone had a great time. I know I did!”
Thin Lizzy Setlist
1. Are You Ready?
2. Waiting for an Alibi
6. Killer on the Loose
7. Rosalie (Bob Seger cover)
8. Black Rose
9. Cowboy Song
10. The Boys are Back in Town
Black Label Society Setlist
1. Crazy Horse
2. Funeral Bell
3. Bleed for Me
4. Suicide Messiah
6. Parade of the Dead
7. Fire it Up
8. Zakk Wylde Solo
10. Concrete Jungle
Judas Priest Setlist
Intro: Battle Hymn
1. Rapid Fire
2. Metal Gods
3. Heading Out to the Highway
4. Judas Rising
6. Victim of Changes
7. Never Satisfied
8. Diamonds and Rust
9. Dawn of Creation / Prophecy
10. Night Crawler
11. Turbo Lover
12. Beyond the Realms of Death
13. The Sentinel
14. Blood Red Skies
15. The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)
16. Breaking the Law
18. The Hellion / Electric Eye
19. Hell Bent for Leather (Halford motorcycle entrance)
20. You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’
21. Living After Midnight
ed. note: This article was also published on WNCX.com.