Judas Priest in 2005 makes it seem like ’85 all over again



Twenty years or so ago, I took a good old Chilliwack buddy to see Judas Priest at the Pacific Coliseum, so we thought it might be cool to relive the mid-’80s heyday of the NWBM (New Wave of British Metal) by checking out the band one more time. Lead screamer Rob Halford was back in the lineup, and they’d released a new CD, Angel of Retribution, that wasn’t half bad.

Maybe only 40-percent bad.

And besides, there really is no more effective way for two greying, beer-bellied guys in their 40s to feel young again than by going to a metal show and paying 40 bucks for a black T-shirt that says “Judas Priest”.

But when we strolled through the Coliseum doors at 8:30 p.m., half an hour before Priest was set to hit the stage, we were shocked to see the hand-written sign on the wall behind the merch booth: All Judas Priest T-shirts SOLD OUT. How could this be? Then we saw all these guys-no women, just guys-walking around wearing black T-shirts that read “Judas Priest Reunion 2005” on the back. And on the front, strangely enough, was the cover art from the band’s British Steel LP-you know, that hand gripping the giant razorblade.

But that album came out in 1980. Again, we thought, “How could this be?” Sure, British Steel‘s a good record. I mean, it’s got “Living After Midnight” and “Breaking the Law”. But when you’re talking Priest concert tees, nothing tops that stylized dive-bombing eagle from the Screaming for Ven… Huh? What’s that? Quit talkin’ about fucking T-shirts and get to the part about the concert?

No problemo.

When the house lights went down a crimson spotlight shone from the centre of the big blue eyeball at the back of the stage, and a taped version of the 40-second instrumental “The Hellion” came rolling over the PA. As anyone who’s ever worn a Screaming for Vengeance T-shirt knows, that can mean only one thing: “Electric Eye” is imminent. The quintessential Priest song, it’s fast, raunchy, and sports one of Glen Tipton’s wildest lead-guitar wipeouts ever. For a while there it seemed like ’85 all over again, shirt or no shirt.

“Sunday night in Vancouver and the Priest is back!” bellowed Halford, draped in enough studded black cowhide to suggest he’d just returned from a Mack’s Leathers shopping spree. The chrome-domed frontman would switch outfits several times during the show, at one point donning a dressing gown-type dealie that resembled one of Gary Oldman’s wardrobe relics from Dracula.

Visually, there wasn’t much going on besides Halford’s costume changes. The only special effect of note was the big Harley he rode on-stage, resplendent in a long silver coat, for the encore of “Hell Bent for Leather”. How lame is that? The guy definitely should have worn a black T-shirt.

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