JUDAS PRIEST Brings Firepower To The Armory (Concert Review)

Rob Halford and Ian Hill

The Twin cities and greater Minnesota Metal Community were represented well at the Minneapolis Armory on April 2nd, as Judas Priest brought their Firepower Tour to the North Star state.  Renovated and revamped as a concert arena for last February’s Super Bowl, the Armory is starting to line up a lot of heavyweight concerts, with Priest being one of the early headliners.  Bringing along Black Star Riders and Saxon for this trek, there is sure to be plenty of denim and leather roaming the streets of downtown Minneapolis.

From the ashes of Scott Gorham’s tribute version of Thin Lizzy came Black Star Riders. Touring in support of their latest record Heavy Fire, BSR delivered a straight up hard rock opening set featuring 7 of their own songs and only one Thin Lizzy song (“Jailbreak”).  A sign they are fully moving forward with their own music. And Gorham could do worse than the band he’s assembled.  Bassist Robbie Crane, Guitarist Damon Johnson, Drummer Chad Szeliga and singer Ricky Warrick form a band of rock n roll veterans.

Black Star Riders Ricky Warrick

Is there a more “English” band than Saxon. Is it even possible a band from anywhere but England can call themselves Saxon?  I’m quite sure three of their members’ names are Nigel.  And when I picture a diehard Saxon fan, I always conjure an image of a cast member from the Young Ones.  Singer “Biff” Byford and guitarist Paul Quinn have been loading up the van, taking their show on the road since 1976.  And while their eyes and faces (and hair) may show their age, their performance did not.  Watching Byford headbang six feet in front of me is an image forever etched in my brain.  As a casual fan (at best), I was truly amazed at the ageless pioneers of the NWOBHM.

Saxon’s “Bif” Byford

They opened their show with the title track from their latest record Thunderbolt, which was represented heavy in the 12 song set with four songs. Next up they dipped back to 1983 for another title track “Power & The Glory”. They filled the night out with classics like “Denim and Leather”, “Heavy Metal Thunder” and “Princess of the Night”. I would have liked to hear something off of Rock The Nations, Crusader or even the more recent Call To Arms, but just gettting a chance to witness these titans of British Metal was a pleasure.

The band that brought most of the assembled crowd to downtown Minneapolis was Judas Priest. It’s been a bittersweet start to the year. They released their latest record Firepower to some acclaim. However, shortly after, they announcied the upcoming tour would be sans guitarist Glenn Tipton, who had to step aside due to complicatiosn from Parkinson’s. With KK Downing leaving the band a few years earlier, this was a blow to fans looking to catch the band possibly one last time. I don’t care how much energy Richie Faulkner adds to the band, it’s not the same. And even more so with Tipton out. Considering the median age of the audience in Minneapolis this night was in the mid 50’s, it is understandable that some of our (metal) Gods are starting to age as well.

That said. If you are a fan of this band, you will not leave diaspointed. Maybe Rob Halford isn’t the most charismatic frontman, but he is a once in a generation singer. His voice is possibly the definition of metal. And Richie Faulkner is an amazing player. Flanked by Firepower producer Andy Sneap, who was filling in for Tipton, I can report the Priest sound was alive and well.

Judas Priests Richie Faulkner

The setlist could have only been more pleasing if I got to pick it myself. I know British Steel is to Priest as Destroyer is to KISS and I wouldn’t mind seeing less from that record and maybe a song or two more from Defenders of the Faith (they played “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll”), but I’m not going to complain about “Grinder”. Plus we get “Green Manalishi” and “The Ripper” In all the 19 song set came from 11 albums. Any complaints would be nitpicking. And as for Halford, it is hard to believe his vocal chords are in their mid 60’s. He sounded like a man fresh off a vacation with Ponce de Leon.

If there was any downer to the evening, it would be the venue. The Minneapolis Armory sat largely empty and unused for decades until the city was awarded the 2018 Super Bowl. Then a room large enough to host 8000 beautiful people for some pre-game concerts was needed. Much was made about the renovations made to the building and they did a beautiful job. Hopefully, they can do something to help the sound. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. And the sight lines were poor in many areas. Something that could’ve been helped by the band utilizing the jumbo screen to occasionaly to show what was happening on stage.

Fans of this band and metal music in general would be advised to check this show out. We are getting closer to the last time. They are on tour into May.

March 13 – Wilkes Barre, PA @ Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza
March 15 – Youngstown, OH @ Covelli Centre
March 17 – Uniondale, NY @ Nassau Coliseum
March 18 – Washington, DC @ The Anthem
March 20 – Newark, NJ @ Prudential Center
March 22 – Uncasville, CT @ Mohegan Sun Arena
March 25 – Ottawa, ON @ The Arena at TD Place
March 27 – London, ON @ Budweiser Gardens
March 28 – Oshawa, ON @ Tribute Communities Centre
March 30 – Orillia, ON @ Casino Rama
March 31 – Detroit, MI @ Detroit Masonic Temple
April 3 – Milwaukee, WI @ Riverside Theater
April 5 – Green Bay, WI @ Resch Center
April 8 – Bloomington, IL @ Grossinger Motors Arena
April 10 – Casper, WY @ Casper Events Center
April 11 – Loveland, CO @ Budweiser Events Center
April 15 – Kent, WA @ ShoWare Center
April 17 – Portland, OR @ Veterans Memorial Coliseum
April 19 – San Francisco @ The Warfield
April 22 – Los Angeles, CA @ Microsoft Theater
April 24 – Phoenix, AZ @ Comerica Theatre
April 26 – Tulsa, OK @ BOK Center
April 28 – Dallas, TX @ The Bomb Factory
April 29 – Sugarland, TX @ Smart Financial Centre
May 1 – San Antonio, TX @ Freeman Coliseum

Judas Priest Official 

Saxon Official

Black Star Riders Official

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