The Metal Gods’ Redeemer of Souls Tour hit the Hard Rock Casino in Coquitlam, B.C. last night for the first of two shows. With a North American tour comprised of about fifteen dates of which six are in Canada, and in which two of those six are in Coquitlam, one might ask what Canada, and the Vancouver area in particular, have done to deserve Judas Priest’s largesse.
One might also wonder for a moment why they’re playing a 1,000-capacity venue, twice, rather than a larger and presumably more lucrative spot. They played Rogers Arena almost exactly four years ago, and most of the other venues on this tour are arena-size at least.
Not that any of the fans in attendance were complaining — quite the opposite. It’s a hell of a treat to see a band of their stature up close and personal in a small venue. With their debut release way back in the misty sepia-toned early Seventies, Judas Priest still put on a bloody solid show. In a heavy metal universe that’s become much more extreme in the decades since then, Rob Halford and company played a tight set at first weighted heavily towards their latest release, before serving up their classics. From 1976’s “Victim of Changes”, to “Hell Bent For Leather”‘s motorbike-based theatrics, to the stomp-and-air-punch-alongable “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'”, to 1990’s thrash metal reply “Painkiller” (drummer Scott Travis asked what we wanted to hear for “one more song”, and it was the near-unanimous answer from the crowd), there was something for everybody.
More than forty years in, it’s no surprise that Halford, Glenn Tipton and Ian Hill are moving a tad slower than they used to. Having said that, the members of Priest were never given to the hyper-dramatic physical flourishes and leaps of, say, Bruce Dickinson — that’s never been their style. And thirtysomething co-lead axe man Richie Faulkner, brought in a few years ago to replace the retiring K. K. Downing, gives the band a bit of youthful energy. He’s clearly pretty stoked to be sharing guitar duties in one of heavy metal’s foundational bands, and it shows on his face. He ain’t Downing but he’s not trying to be, and he fits the band’s vibe well by being somewhat showy as befitting his relative youth, without being over-the-top.
If I had one criticism – and it feels like nitpicking – it would be that the volume or components of it, at times, seemed too low. Personal favourite “Beyond The Realms Of Death” was great to see and hear, but Glenn Tipton’s solo in the middle almost got washed out. And instrumental anthem/fantasy Priest show-opening blast of twin guitar noodling buttkickery “The Hellion” should blow your face off — not struggle somewhat to be heard over the enthusiastic crowd.
All in all, it’s fantastic to see the band still going strong — and releasing excellent new work — in their fifth decade. Priest are familiar and reliable in their brand of metal, and that’s a huge compliment. Sort of like a giant armoured mech carrying five machine guns, but with a roomy interior and plush seating inside. Comfortable, but it still kicks ass.