Fox Theater, Oakland
May 12, 2022
Photos by Raymond Ahner
2020 was shaping up to be a monumental year for heavy metal band Judas Priest, who were poised to launch a massive tour in celebration of their 50th anniversary until COVID forced them to change course. Then, when the tour was finally able to resume in 2021, guitarist Richie Faulkner suffered an aortic dissection while on stage and was rushed to the hospital, requiring over ten hours of heart surgery to save his life. So, Bay Area fans had been waiting for quite a while for Judas Priest to return to the area, and this Saturday night performance showed that the group still brings the live firepower.
The band surged on to the stage to play the first song of the night, “One Shot at Glory” a deep cut from 1990’s legacy-defining Painkiller album. With the resurrected Faulker and touring guitarist Andy Sneap trading bone-crushing riffs, it was clear from the beginning that this night was going to be one for the ages.
The following song, “Lightning Strike,” was the only new song of the entire evening, as the focus was clearly on the five decades of material that fans have come to regard as the gold standard for heavy metal music.
After the obligatory rocker “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin”, the band began to dig into some lesser-known material, starting with the frenetic “Freewheel Burning.” Beginning with a chugging guitar riff and some snappy drumming from Scott Travis, the song was one of many rarities performed on the night. The band played a song from just about every single album, including their debut album Rocka Rolla, which is one of their least well-known records.
Another mid-set highlight was a blistering version of “The Sentinel.” The song began with an iconic guitar duet between Faulkner and Sneap before kicking into high gear. While Sneap has been known more for his work as a producer, his lead guitar skills on the song were impressive.
Towards the end of the set, the band played “Diamonds & Rust”, a Joan Baez cover that they rarely play. While it might seem like an odd choice for a heavy metal cover, the galloping rhythm and the soaring vocals of Rob Halford sounded amazing.
Scott Travis took to the mic to introduce the final song of the main set, the ferocious “Painkiller,” which started with an impressive drum intro before launching into a speed metal assault, with Halford sounding as good as ever.
To close out the night, Halford came on stage on a motorcycle to sing the iconic “Hell Bent for Leather” before a surprise guest came on stage to play the final three songs of the encore. Guitarist Glenn Tipton has retired from touring duties due to complications from Parkinson’s, but sometimes he is able to come on stage for a few songs, as was the case on this night. Seeing him up on stage ripping through “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight” was the perfect close to a celebratory evening.
While Judas Priest has now been around for 50+ years, they don’t show any signs of stopping or slowing down anytime soon.
Queensryche opened the night with a powerful set that consisted of mostly older material from their classic 80s output. Frontman Todd La Torre had no trouble channeling the vocal power of former singer Geoff Tate, and in some ways he actually outdid his predecessor when it came to sheer technical ability. This was apparent during the band’s opening song: the soaring “Queen of the Reich,” a pulsing slice of metal that featured plenty of tasty guitar harmonies from Michael Wilton and Mike Stone.
One of the most spontaneous events of the night came a few songs later when a fan tossed his denim vest adorned with all sorts of patches onto the stage. Typically, when fans throw something on stage, the band will either throw it back or throw it away, but this time La Torre actually put on the vest for the rest of the set, which was an impressively cool gesture.
The high point of the band’s set came in the form of their final song, “Eyes of a Stranger,” a progressive ballad from their landmark album Operation: Mindcrime. Anchored by a steady bassline from Eddie Jackson, the song twisted and turned through well over six minutes before the band seamlessly transitioned into the intro of “Anarchy-X” from the same album. It was a fitting way for the band to close out their opening set and proved that they sound just as good live as any previous incarnation of the band.
Here’s a slideshow with more photos of both bands by Raymond Ahner:
Judas Priest Setlist:
One Shot at Glory | Lightning Strike | You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ | Freewheel Burning | Turbo Lover | Hell Patrol | The Sentinel | A Touch of Evil | Rocka Rolla | Victim of Changes | Desert Plains | Blood Red Skies | Diamonds & Rust (Joan Baez cover) | Painkiller || Encore || Electric Eye | Hellbent for Leather | Metal Gods (with Glenn Tipton) | Breaking the Law (with Glenn Tipton) | Living After Midnight (with Glenn Tipton)
Queen of the Reich | Warning | En Force | NM 156 | Empire | Walk in the Shadows | The Whisper | Operation: Mindcrime | The Needle Lies | Screaming in Digital | Eyes of a Stranger (Anarchy-X outro)