Review - Judas Priest @ The Warfield (4/19/18)

Ken McCain
Rob Halford of Judas Priest (Photo: Ken McCain)
It had been nearly 34 years since I last saw Judas Priest as a live act. They came to Daly City in 1984 touring on the "Metal Conqueror Tour", supporting Defenders of the Faith album (iTunes) with a 2 night stay at the Cow Palace. Remember when bands played two or three nights in a row in your city? It was the heyday of metal and rock music in general, and fans couldn't get enough of the stuff. Many metalheads still prevail in the Bay Area, so it was no surprise when Judas Priest announced their latest tour "Firepower" that The Warfield Theater would be a sell-out. And it was! The Priest brought along with them the Thin Lizzy off-shoot Black Star Riders and Saxon for support. A killer three band lineup drew a capacity crowd from around the Bay Area area and far into the reaches of California's metal fandom, some coming from as far as Sacramento and the Central Valley. The Warfield lists their venue as a 2300 person building, but it felt more like 3 times that by the time Priest went on.
Saxon (Photo: Ken McCain)
Black Star Riders took the stage first and mowed through a 35 minute set. As the crowd grew larger they also got louder, giving BSR a deserved applause. It's a tough thing to play for a room that's mostly there for someone else, but these pros held their own and gave their all. Saxon had the second slot for the night, getting their set underway after a 15 minute set change. Saxon is still a huge band in the metal world, playing venues and festivals all over the world. They have released 22 albums over the last four decades, undergoing personnel changes along the way. However, for the last 20 years or so they have been a solid lineup. With a 12 song setlist their night wasn't over quickly. The crowd, many drawn there just for Saxon, sang every word of their favorites, fist-punching the air on the beat in unison. I've heard that rock is on it's last leg, but you wouldn't have known it that night. It was crazy!
Rob Halford of Judas Priest (Photo: Ken McCain)
The headliner was up next, and at approximately 9:05 a draped curtain covering the stage dropped from the rafters to reveal the Metal Gods. They opened with "Firepower," the title track from their latest album (iTunes), and got the crowd ramped up for the show. Lead singer, Rob Halford, was clad in his silver leathers and aviator mirrored sunglasses, belted out the tune with a voice as good as ever. Guitar player, Ritchie Faulkner, had his sunglasses on too, looking California Cool, and held down the lead parts all night. As founding member Glenn Tipton has reduced his role in the band due to his Parkinson's Disease diagnosis, the task has fallen to Faulkner to take up many of the dual lead parts. He is more than able to do so, playing those parts and an as integral member of the band on stage.
Ritchie Faulkner (Photo: Ken McCain)
By the time the second song started there wasn't one person sitting down in the upper balcony, and the floor remained standing all night. Without much room to move around, fans sang, jumped, head-banged, and fist-pumped in unison. What else could you do? It was a collective there for one purpose: support the greatest metal band of all time. A 19 song setlist included a few new tunes, but touched on all eras of their collection. Fan favorites like "The Ripper", "Some Heads Are Gonna Roll", and "Hell Bent for Leather" weren't left out, and the vocal sounded as solid as ever, and at 66 years old Halford is still able to hit the highs and lows of all of their songs. He is remarkable!
The crowd showing their love for Judas Priest (Photo: Ken McCain)
The coup de gras was after their set break. The band emerged from backstage and Halford announced a special guest. It was none other than Glenn Tipton himself! The crowd went nuts. Tipton hasn't played many shows on this tour, so it was anyone's guess whether he'd show for this gig or not. To everyone's surprise he did. They finished up the night with a three song encore with Tipton on lead playing 'Metal Gods', 'Breaking the Law', and 'Living After Midnight'. It was truly a special evening for all, and what a gift to get to enjoy some time with a Metal God like Tipton. He's a real fighter, and shows his love for the music and the fans by being a part of events like this.
Rob Halford of Judas Priest (Photo: Ken McCain)
This tour is winding it's way down south and towards Texas before it heads to Mexico for the Corona Heaven & Hell Festival, and then on to Europe for 28 dates including many summer stadium festivals. Catch 'em while you can!

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Judas Priest Setlist The Warfield, San Francisco, CA, USA 2018, Firepower

Saxon Setlist The Warfield, San Francisco, CA, USA 2018, Thunderbolt

Black Star Riders Setlist The Warfield, San Francisco, CA, USA 2018, 2018 North American Tour

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