Photos and review by Alex Seeley
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — As anticipation for the headliner reached fever pitch, the curtain that obscured the stage was ripped away and replaced with pummeling guitars and drums. The trademark shriek of Rob Halford soon filled the Mohegan Sun Arena as Judas Priest rocked their way through “Firepower,” the first cut off their new album by the same name. Dressed in signature leather and studs, the band played loud and fast. It’s impressive that Judas Priest still sound so polished considering the recent lineup changes that have occurred, including the departure of guitarist K.K. Downing in 2011. Additionally, Andy Sneap is currently filling in for Downing’s fellow guitar hero Glenn Tipton, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease; Tipton continues to be a studio musician for the band.
In front of a giant screen that immersed the crowd in visuals to support each song, the band did not show signs of slowing down even as they approach their 50th anniversary. Priest mixed things up by playing the ballad “Angel” before speeding up again with the live debut of the brand new “Evil Never Dies,” which didn’t feel out of place among older cuts. It was great to see these veterans of metal playing with such precision and enthusiasm. Judas Priest wrapped up the show with an encore that included “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” and “Living After Midnight.”
Judas Priest had support from Black Star Riders, who kicked things off with a tight set. Featuring classic-era Thin Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham and former Breaking Benjamin and Black Label Society drummer Chad Szeliga, the band’s hard rock riffs served to heighten the appetite of the fired-up crowd. English metalers Saxon stormed the stage with the title track from their recent release, “Thunderbolt.” Their excitement to perform was punctuated between songs as frontman Biff Byford remarked to the crowd that it seemed like the ’80s all over again being on a bill with Judas Priest.
The Firepower tour began in Wilkes-Barre and will make stops throughout the U.S. and Canada before wrapping up in San Antonio on May 1.