Judas Priest / Anthrax
Rockford Metro Centre, September 28, 2005
By Dr. Abner Mality
When I was messing around in the lab trying to perfect my new East Nile Chicken Flu virus earlier this year, I must have gotten careless. The Good Doctor was seized by one of the worst bouts of illness he has had since my unfortunate encounter with Bucolic Plague a couple of decades ago. Hacking up blood was not the least of it. The unfortunate upshot of this malady was that I had to miss Judas Priest playing the Tweeter Center early June in Chicago with Queensryche opening. This was the first headlining Priest tour with Rob Halford in the lead position for about 15 years.
Fate works in mysterious ways. I missed that show with much regret, hoping that Priest would come back to the area in my lifetime. Well, the Metal Gods smiled, for Judas returned just a few months later to my very home town of Rockford, Illinois only a couple of miles away from my lair. Not only that, but they managed to pull Anthrax...also reunited with a long lost frontman...along for the ride. Now THIS even Lou Gehrig's Disease couldn't have kept me from seeing.
It's been a long and twisting road for Anthrax, but things seem to have come full circle for them. The band has once again settled into the same classic configuration that unleashed seminal albums like "Among the Living" and "State of Euphoria" upon the world and I must say, it seems very natural and comfortable. Talking to singer Joey Belladonna, it was obvious he felt it was destiny of these guys to reunite and attack the masses once again. Joey also said that Anthrax's show would get straight to the point and hit the crowd with nothing but classic hits. He was right on the mark with that remark.
Opening with "Among the Living", first thing I noticed was the conspicuous absence of Dan Spitz. About three quarters of the
Most of the stage is commanded by Belladonna, who is an archetypal metal frontman. He hasn't changed his hairstyle since 1985 and God bless him for it. Vocally, he was just as strong as ever and during the opening of "NFL", he hit a LONG sustained note that few could have matched (one of the few happening to be Mr. Halford from the headlining band tonight). He's still one of the most distinct and melodic frontmen in thrash metal.
Only one real surprise amongst the set list, that being "Medusa" from "Spreading the Disease". The rest of the set was all standards...an excellent "Indians" which the crowd sang along with, "Antisocial" (ditto), "Caught In a Mosh" and a bone-crumbling closer of "I Am the Law". As you might expect, nothing from the lengthy John Bush era was touched on, which I feel was a shame. "Only" is as good as tune as Anthrax ever wrote.
Nevertheless, the "real" Anthrax is back in action and they fulfilled their function very well tonight...setting the table for the Metal Gods, Judas Priest.
There's an easy familiarity to Priest live, as you pretty much know you are going to see a thoroughly professional metal band blow the doors off. The very choreography of their stage movement has become set in stone...the "robot walk" from Halford during "Metal Gods", the weird tangle that begins "Breaking the Law". It is comforting but there's not much danger or unpredictability in Priest's setlist. There was one glaring exception which I thought was VERY cool and that was replacing the typical old encore "Hell Bent for Leather" with the moody and haunting "Desert Plains" from "Point of Entry". This has always been one of my favorite Priest songs and the band did a superb job of it tonight. This minor deviation from the gameplan resulted in probably one of the night's most enjoyable tunes.
The sound tonight was absolutely magnificent and I have never heard Glenn Tipton's guitar sound better. It had the purity of a ringing Tibetan temple bell! But who would expect less? The twin guitar attack of Tipton and K. K. Downing is just as breathtaking as ever...their work on the new tracks "Judas Rising" and especially "Hellrider" was outstanding. "Victim of Changes", already one of the best metal songs , was delivered tonight better than I have ever heard it...guitar, vocals, rhythm. K. K.'s solo was absolutely INSANE! It was a sublime convergence of metal forces that makes this lifetime headbanger reach a stage of intense enjoyment. Really, time seems to melt and disappear when you see and hear something as pure as this.
There was a bit of a slow spot in the middle of the set where the band trotted out an unlikely "I'm A Rocker", an affecting
Other highlights included a moving "Beyond the Realms of Death", an intense "Painkiller" which had Rob sporting some of his most pained, bizarre vocals ever and a fist-pumping "Revolution". If the band were put off by the mediocre crowd size, they never showed it and seemed genuinely touched by the warm response they received. These guys are pro's and don't need to yell and curse at the crowd to get a response. A shame that that's what so many people want these days.
Rob Halford is a stern and elegant presence on stage. He probably changed costume more times than Madonna. He is a consummate showman and a credit to the world of metal. To heap more praise on him would sound like I'm kissing up, but really, he is the METAL GOD and thank GOD he is back with Judas Priest. It was a privilege to see him in action up close.
Judas Priest's Official Website
Anthrax's Official Website
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