Stained Class

What a triumphant return it’s been for Judas Priest over the last few years and with a new album on the horizon it’s fitting that they make a return to the main stage at Donington after an unfeasibly long gap!

Singer Rob Halford arrives on stage clad in a silver cape and brandishing a silver staff sporting the Judas Priest logo. Guitarists KK Downing & Glen Tipton are decked out in the traditional Priest garb of studs and leather and for a while it’s like a step back in time, that is until they start playing, at which point it’s clear that they have as contemporary a sound as anyone else gracing this stage over the weekend. The opening track ‘Nostradamus’ confirms that the years haven’t softened the music or the attitude and bodes well for the new album (which shares the same name).

Their influence on metal in general is now widely recognised and as such they get a big crowd that seem determined to show their appreciation and it doesn’t take long for them to get the fists in the air. Even for those not calling themselves fans it’s probably surprising how many of the songs they recognise in the set and they just keep on coming with ‘Eat Me Alive’, ‘Devil’s Child’ and ‘Breaking the Law’ all drawing a great roar from the crowd. Downing and Tipton produced some of the best dual guitar parts your ever likely to hear during the 80s and both prove that they can still cut it during my personal highlight ‘Rock Hard, Ride Free’.

If you wanted to be uber critical you could argue that the odd song from the heyday does sound a little dated and there is the odd drudging number but then they pick it up and when they get going they just own the main stage. The healthier crowd reaction is predictably reserved for the more well known songs but it seems many are genuinely surprised at how heavy the band are.

The encore is another highlight as Halford rides a motorbike onto the stage and proceeds to sing the whole of ‘Hell Bent for Leather’ sitting on the seat! They finish off with ‘You’ve Got Another Thing Coming’ during which Halford leads the crowd in a mass sing along before they leave the stage to a great reaction. Halford summed it all up nicely, “The Priest are back“.