February 2002

Riviera Theater, Chicago, IL

by Dr. Abner Mality

If I didn't have enough reason to hate Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda before, the fact that they scuttled the interview opportunity Dark Starr and I had with Judas Priest would be enough in itself! Damn those lice-ridden ragheads! Starr and I were all set to meet Priest back stage in Chicago back in September 2001 when the infamous day of the 11th arrived. That postponed the Priest/Anthrax/Iced Earth tour and actually took Iced Earth off the tour entirely. We were never able to get back on track.

However, we did manage to see the Thrax/Priest bill on Feb. 7. All good things come to he who waits. So, after being informed that Starr's photopass was a no-show, we made our way into the cozy confines of the Riviera to subject ourselves to a night of classic heavy metal.

Anthrax were tight and the best that I've ever seen them. The Chicago crowd, always a good one, was especially fired up and prodded the New Yorkers to greater heights. Their set was brief and marred by the omission of several classics like "I Am the Law" and "Keep It In the Family", but there was moshin' a' plenty to crunching opener "Among the Living", the strong "Fueled" and, of course, "Caught in a Mosh". There were two nippy covers of Joe Jackson's "Got the Time" and Trust's "Antisocial", which had every one singing along. A new track "Superhero" was debuted from their forthcoming album which sounded pretty heavy. I coulda done without "Bring the Noise" but I'm in the minority. These guys don't seem too depressed by their decline in popularity and seemed in a good mood, joking about the dread "disease" that caused them so much notoriety. They are still a fine band.

That leaves the masters themselves, Judas Priest. Dark Starr and I had a violent difference in opinion on this show. He personally thinks Priest should either hire Rob Halford back or hang it up altogether. He was not a fan of the Ripper Man, Rob's youthful replacement and was heard to say that Priest now seem more like a Priest cover band than the real article themselves.

The Good Doctor begs to differ. It is true that Rob will never be replaced and that the band is not in its glory days, especially following their tepid "Demoliton" album. But this is Judas Fuckin' Priest and on their bad day, they still wipe the floor with any nu-metal pretenders. Ripper Owens does as good a job as possible of replacing Halford and can blow the nuts off an elephant with his incredible high pitched singing. I thought he connected with the crowd well.

The band did a good job of hitting most of their material, playing stuff from "Victim of Changes" to new "Demolition" material like "One on One" and "Hell is Home" and hitting all points in between. I was really surprised to hear chestnuts like "Desert Plains" and "Turbo Lover" in the set but what blew my mind was the inclusion of the dusty "British Steel" classic "United" in the encore. Cool stuff!

This here old schoolheadbanger can think of no better way to spend a night than raising my fist and making the devil sign to the likes of "Metal Gods", "Electric Eye" and "Hell Bent for Leather". It may not be the god-like Priest show of old but it's still better than most.

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