Definite tour of the year contenders Judas Priest and Deep Purple took their collaborative powers to Camden, New Jersey this past Sunday. While traditionally a day of worship within many faiths, such was no different last night as the metal and hard rock Gods held a late night mass in honour of their local followers.
While metal music is traditionally known to be a style of the informed and rebellious youth serving as fodder for drunken nights and broken bones, fans tend to age with their favourite bands. Teenagers today have many hardworking and lively names to choose from if they want to see energetic performances and mosh, but luckily there is an entire fan base separated by decades of age who salivate at a chance to see the groups who’ve been with them since the start. Luckily for them, the Judas Priest/Deep Purple North American co-headlining tour satisfies such a desire.
Like I said, such an event is prone to spark a certain unwarranted disappointment for those uninformed. The two bands operate under massive, genre-defining names which ring to the ears of those who don’t even associate themselves with rock ‘n roll. So, there’s a portion of the population who might not be familiar with the two’s music, but sure as hell are familiar with their names, so might fork up the relatively hefty admittance cost for the pure face value. These are the attendees who will be disappointed if they are not in it for the music as, despite a blatant effort from both groups, age tends to prevail after being in the business for upwards of forty years.
So, right of the bat, if you fall within the above case of fans, don’t waste your money if your attendance is fueled by an uninformed assumption that big names equal visually unforgettable concerts. While both Judas Priest and Deep Purple (although more-so Judas) clearly dedicate a large portion of their budget to visually-impressive factors, such is to compensate for a lack of youth. You’re there for music and to see the genre-defining musicians who’s names are synonymous with heavy metal.
The night began with opening band The Temperance Movement. The group is fittingly British (as both Judas Priest and Deep Purple are from England) and they play a sort of quasi-mix of blues, hard rock, and country. Their sound is defined by bluesy guitar jams, the use of harmonicas, and steady rhythm. While previous writers wrote that the band choice was odd as their Southern sound didn’t emulate the hard-rocking nature of those to follow, but I think they play well towards the average age of this tour’s attendees as they undoubtedly grew up on artists like Tom Petty, The Rolling Stones, and others alike. I won’t dwell as this wasn’t the band anyone came to see, but I wouldn’t recommend missing them; they’re great musical entertainment.
Following a dramatic curtain-fall entrance, Judas Priest swept the stage, opening with “Firepower”, the title track from their most recent full-length. The tune is quite the opener, especially since it features Halford’s stunning dynamic range, especially in a live setting! The lead singer dominated the night, despite being somewhat handicapped by a teleprompter on center-stage. I’m not sure what his mental condition is like, especially for being 67 years old, but I won’t blame him for using one as all of his lyrics combined could fill a medium-sized book.
As mentioned above, the visual aspect of their show was one of the highlights of the night. The Judas Priest stage was garnished with faux steel walls and tall symbol decorations which was all backed by a massive projection which played various clips all night long. Furthermore, alongside his leather-laden lads, Halford slowly proved that he absolutely is the best dressed man in the business, song after song. The fashion icon used his various breaks between every handful of songs to decorate himself with different luxurious jackets in his arsenal. While opening in a shiny prince-like coat and matching set of pants, he quickly switched to a studded leather jacket, which followed suit with a few more eye-catching accessories, only for the fashion show to be ultimately concluded with a beautiful ankle-long coat decorated with tens of metal patches and a big Judas Priest back patch. Halford is an absolute legend. Oh, and I almost forgot, he rode a motorcycle out on stage for their staple “Hellbent for Leather”.
The setlist featured a trio of songs from their most recent album and the rest being a delicately-picked assembly of tracks from various points of their discography. Highlights were “Painkiller”, “Lightning Strike”, and “Living After Midnight”. The legendary group played for just under an hour-and-a-half and delivered a spectacularly varied performance. Halford’s voice and Faulkner’s impressive lead guitar skills were the two most redeemable factors of the show, among many.
The luxuriously-colourful Deep Purple followed and, albeit a very different performance, the group complemented the powerful contemporary that preceded them. While Judas Priest offered the fans speed, fury, and a “wow factor”, Deep Purple demonstrated their still-excellent musicianship with a sonically-stunning performance. Their setlist mostly consisted of hits and was clearly assembled to match Judas Priest’s speed, as they only played one of their slower songs. Featured favourites were “Space Truckin’”, “Lazy”, “Perfect Strangers”, and “Bloodsucker”. Their stage time matched that of Judas Priest’s.
Although a definitively un-astonishing performance from a visual standpoint, each member of the group was lively and dedicated to delivering a near-perfect show. While his voice has changed a tad over the years, lead singer Ian Gillan still hits those high notes and varying screams/moans with ease, complementing his soothing singing voice nicely. The atmosphere was simply completely different; you wouldn’t want to miss a blink of Priest’s performance, but Deep Purple offered the audience a chance to unwind and close their eyes in order to focus your senses on the music. While not the original keyboardist, Don Airey dominated his instrument, playing the group’s typically-fast and elusive piano solos with ease. Both guitarists and the drummer were also all very lively with the help of a few water breaks between songs, of course. All this to say that the boys still got it, at least from a live concert perspective.
While not necessarily blowing anyone away, both Judas Priest and Deep Purple demonstrated their abilities to entertain a crowd, both in showmanship and quality of music. Judas Priest offered the buzz, the adrenaline, and the fire, and Deep Purple offered their widely-varied soundscape in accordance. Any fan of heavy music should make an effort to attend, albeit only if you can appreciate these guys for what they have done, not what they can do. The duo has a handful of North American dates left, then they head off to Japan and South America to please fans over there. Don’t miss out, it might be your last chance to see either artist.