“We hold each other closer, as we shift to overdrive
And everything goes rushing by, with every nerve alive
We move so fast it seems as though we’ve taken to the sky
Love machines in harmony, we hear the engines cry.
I’m your turbo lover
Tell me there’s no other
I’m your turbo lover
Better run for cover”
“Turbo Lover”, Judas Priest
We looked like we had either just stumbled out of the Sunset Strip circa 1988 or Folsom Street 1993, but we were actually coming from a really nice restaurant at the Cosmopolitan where we had a multi-star meal and too many drinks and, because we watch a lot of ’80s/’90s era professional wrestling, we though it was appropriate to take turns making Nature Boy “WOOOOooos” as we made our way over to Planet Hollywood. It was time to let loose. Live a little!
About a 100 years ago, we had planned to go to this show in Texas before moving back to California. I don’t go to nearly as many concerts as I used to, and my main focus now is seeing the artists that somehow I hadn’t seen yet. Yep, it’s true: I HAD NEVER SEEN JUDAS PRIEST BEFORE. TAKE MY METAL CARD!
Let me explain: this has to do in part with the fact that when I was coming of age, Priest sounded, well… cheesy as hell to me. Maiden, too. This was the metal that your friends bad uncle who had done some time listened to, and while you let him buy you beer, you did not like the way he made you hug him for it; also, it was just not cool at the place and time where I was forming my musical tastes. Ugh, this is embarrassing to admit.
Many years would pass, and I would try, and try again… and sometimes it would sound ok, but there was always so much else to listen to and see. It just wasn’t a priority.
Then I turned 35. Some people start thinking Yacht Rock suddenly sounds good; this was when what I used to call the “cheesy metal” started sounding really good to me. Then I got my ’78 Bandit Trans Am and….
….YOU HAVE NOT LIVED UNTIL YOU’VE TORN ASS DOWN A BACKROAD IN A TRANS AM BLASTING PAINKILLER!
So, I’ve been making up for lost time. We listened to the audiobook version of Rob Halford’s Confess when it came out, and I have to say, it was really difficult to get through (even though I highly recommend listening to him read it). It made me incredibly sad.
One could say we are living amongst a time of really complex intersections of Hemingway’s Law of Motion
. From his 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises:
“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.
“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”
This quote has been thematically bastardized and misattributed a lot recently, but ultimately it does well-encapsulate the culture-vomit that is currently happening as a result of The Great American Experiment. Change has happened slowly in fits and starts, and now suddenly, all at once. Confess is a great book to encapsulate this; think of how many of us turned to metal because we felt like outsiders and didn’t fit in anywhere else; and “The Metal God” (as he is called) couldn’t even outwardly be himself! And now, the rest of the world is just waking up to learn that sexuality is on a spectrum, when some of us have known this for a very long time. And the Earth keeps on turning…
Because sometimes I’m a bougie-ass bitch I had VIP tix to this show, so my wobbly ass got to skip the line. This was my first BIG show in years, and it was overwhelming to be escorted to the cushy seat overlooking the stage. Queensrÿche were on, and it was SO LOUD. Because I have friends of all kinds, I will take a moment to say that even though this was another ‘Health Check’ show – this was yet another show where my vax card was not asked for. That would be 4/4 now! I am honestly shocked.
Between sets, we chatted with a funny Vegas-ite who had lived there since the ’70s and seemed like he had lots of stories to tell… but I could barely understand him so I just kindly nodded along.
It was the first day of ‘Spring Forward’ and I was tired as hell, but when things went dark and “War Pigs” started blasting my skin prickled and I jumped to my feet. There was even a sign when we entered the venue that said that even though there were seats, people were encouraged to stand for the music! Unfortunately… that wasn’t always the case… but hey, this was kind of an old timers show and everyone was missing an hour of sleep.
Watching them walk out on stage was truly like seeing 50 years of metal history unfold in front of me; the costumes, the stage setup, the instruments, the vocals; everything was a giant reminder of ‘who did it first’. Now, ‘my’ legacy metal band that I’ve seen over and over again through the years is anything Ozzy is in… and it has always been a crap shoot as to: will he be in good voice? Will he be wearing black sweats and New Balance? This was most definitely not the case here; Halford had more costume changes than Cher. As he should. And he sounded great!!!
Since this set was celebrating 50(!) years of the band, it covered a great swath of albums. This was heavy metal theater: it was unfortunate that the wall of Wizards were covered, but the industrial wasteland featuring multiple platforms, risers, A/V screens and enough lights to induce all the seizures was cool; no part of that stage was left un-meddled with. And the devil’s tuning fork! That thing was HUGE! I mean, nothing could beat Slayer’s burning upside down cross Marshals, but this was a good set piece. And for a girl who spent the majority of her life thinking that Judas Priest was “cheesy”, they would spend the next two hours reminding me that I can be a close-minded, dumb bitch.
Because no, the word I would reach for when describing Priest live would be something more like “triumphant”, “empowering”, or perhaps just “awesome”.
We live in such a post-metal society now; I mean everything at your corner fashion store has spikes and studs on it and Hannah Montana is doing Metallica covers and people consider this “important”- and maybe it is– and while this both terrifies and titillates me I felt like I was in some sort of black (glory?) hole staring back in time watching Priest play on stage. Movements were mostly stoic, some synchronized guitar action, Halford mostly slightly bent over screeching like a stuck pig into the mic, in between struts. And I can barely talk after my second Zoom call…They knew this was a celebration; they knew they were on top.
I’d have to say that the highlights of the night for me were:
“Turbo Lover”: the synths were so loud the theater was turned into a gay death disco that night…while most of the dudes there were high-fiving each other during other songs, this one seemed to make them… uncomfortable. I enjoyed this thoroughly and cannot stop thinking of this moment since. It was ultra-cinematic and I thought a ray of red light was going to pick me up and set me on that motorcycle in the video in 1986. FOR REAL! One thing I both love and hate about concerts is that it allows me to trek into the lore and land of a band for a couple hours… but my inquisitive ass wants to start interviewing fans around me. What popular Priest songs do real Priest fans hate? Does the guy in the ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ shirt know
?? Who is this mom type clutching her purse that knows every word?? How on Earth could people believe that this music would make you hear demonic messages and shoot yourself
and not something more like this
“A Touch of Evil”: my favorite Priest song, also does not get a lot of love live because it’s slower maybe? This was a very exciting moment for me!
“Painkiller”: ok, obvious choice… HOWEVER! I have seen every loud band and evil band alive today and this performance this night might take the taco as the loudest, most evil sounding performance I have witnessed that I can remember right now. What assists this is because I could not NOT think about the fact that guitarist Richie Faulkner almost fucking died playing this song
, which caused this show to be postponed, which allowed me to be here seeing it… so there’s that. But it was SO! FUCKING! LOUD! That the echos echoed back on the echoes and it was just like…
The encore featured three songs with their original guitarist Glenn Tipton. Halford’s energy noticeably piqued when Tipton entered the stage for “Metal Gods”, “Breaking the Law”, and “Living After Midnight”. It was an awesome way to end the show.
I have to say that, while the show was great, it was a “show” and it did not have that wild, I’m-at-a-metal-concert energy that I was kind of looking for/needing. I know, I know… I’m old, he’s old, maybe these days are over? Nah… no way.
“He is the painkiller
This is the painkiller
Mankind’s on its knees
A savior comes from out the skies
In answer to their pleas”
“Painkiller”, Judas Priest