By Steve Newton
Judas Priest has been headlining arena concerts in Vancouver since the Screaming for Vengeance Tour back in 1982, but this time around things are different. Local headbangers will be able to see the British metal legends in the comparatively cozy confines of the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver for two shows next week.
“We’ve been mixing it up on this tour,” explains Priest vocalist Rob Halford on the line from his home in Phoenix. “The last show we played before we took a break was in Germany at the Wacken Heavy Metal Festival outside of Hamburg, and that was, like, 80,000 people. When you’re playing to that amount of people you’re trying your best to connect, but it can be quite challenging because of the distance between the stage and the crowd. At the same time you’re aware that you’re on the big gigantic screens on either side of the stage, so everybody gets a chance to see right up your nose, you know.
“Having said that, on that particular European leg we played a tiny little place in Holland where the stage was just about big enough to get the band and gear on. And I gotta tell you, when you are playing those tighter, more intimate type of venues, it’s extra special. It’s got a bit of a throwback vibe to when you first started as a band, you know. So we’re gonna get all that when we come up to play for you.”
When the band hits town it will be touring behind its 17th studio album, last year’s Redeemer of Souls, which is a return to the straightforward Priest sound after the intricacies of the sprawling 2008 concept album Nostradamus. It’s also the first to feature new guitarist Richie Faulkner, who took over from original member K.K. Downing in 2011.
“We were so looking forward to writing with him after we did the Epitaph world tour together,” notes Halford, “I remember the first day of being in the writing sessions with Richie and the room was electric, you know; there was solid things happening hour after hour. We just kept writing and writing, but we had to put the brakes on because we were on a time schedule.”
Although Downing’s aggressive playing style had become an integral part of Judas Priest’s sound over the years, Halford says the band welcomed whatever musical traits Faulkner brought to the game.
“He’s his own man!” he asserts. “We didn’t want a copycat, we didn’t want somebody that was just gonna replicate things. The basic components of the song are already in place, but we said to Richie: ‘Don’t be afraid to do your own thing, because it’s important that you establish your own identity.’ Which he did.
“And the fans were so receptive,” he adds. “There was no negativity towards the guy. Let’s face it, to some extent Richie saved Judas Priest, because if we hadn’t have found him at the crucial time that we were looking for a guitar player things could have turned out quite differently.”