On a sticky-cool Chicago, Illinois, USA evening, Judas Priest and Queensryche – two of the heaviest of heavyweights in the history of Heavy Metal – played to an enthusiastic, if not nostalgic, Metal-thirsty crowd estimated at 10,000. Chicago is the 3rd largest city in the USA, and the local radio there generally supports Metal acts … especially Classic Metal acts … so both bands knew that this, their third show on the USA leg of the tour, was one of their more important stops that they would encounter.
Taking a step back … has there ever been a better one-two punch on paper in the Metal world on a FULL tour together than Judas Priest and Queensryche? Both bands have walked the walk, talked the talk, and have enjoyed immense success over the years … along with weathering the storm through some tough and uncertain times, both internally as bands and within the music industry as a whole. To the benefit of the Metal community (especially the older generation), both bands still have a passion for what they do and represent, along with an engrained know-how of what it takes to put on a show and to deliver an entertaining product in a 'classy' environment.
On a quick side note, the Tweeter Center may have been the ideal place for such a powerful twin bill to demonstrate their continued prowess … this place is nothing short of phenomenal! It’s a 28,000 capacity outdoor venue (about 16,000 covered seats with the remainder comprised of general admission lawn seating), complete with the latest sound and video technology, 2 layers of corporate suites perched high above the seats and accessible via enclosed catwalks, and one incredibly large stage. The Tweeter Center is as awe-inspiring as a concert ticket featuring possibly the two best, most complete vocalists in the history of the genre. Bottom line -- if you ever get a chance to see a Metal show at this venue … don’t pass it up!
Now on to the shows …
Like a stranger in the night walking out from beneath the shadows, the guitarists Michael Wilton and Mike Stone (the newest and most radical band member), waltzed suddenly onto the stage, catching the audience a little by surprise, to play an intro as a prelude to “The Whisper;” the song that kicked off the Queensryche set. A good thing to see, which only happens when a stalwart such as Queensryche serves as the opening act, was that essentially the entire audience was already in their seats, rather than half of them hanging out in the parking lot to party, or simply just showing up late to catch only the headlining act. Nope, not this audience … and it sent a clear message about how grateful this crowd felt for the opportunity to be part of this soon-to-be memorable event.
Geoff Tate entered the stage last during “The Whisper,” dressed fashionably in black, wearing even more fashionable specs, and although a bit mysteriously subdued at the beginning, was immediately on top of his game vocally. The man can flat out sing, and was totally in tune with respect to both the high and low spectrums of his voice -- he seemed to be on a “serious” mission of sorts right from the start. It wasn’t until Queensryche was 7 songs into their 14-song set, with “Desert Dance,” that Tate began to let his emotions effervesce … but once he did, there was no holding back, and it was pretty evident that he, along with the rest of the band, still loved what they were doing and were prepared to continue putting “their all” into the performance.
Musically, the band was tight, however, the set list was a bit surprising. 9 of their 14 songs were from their first 3 albums, with Operation Mindcrime and Empire, their 2 best known records, only briefly touched on via “The Needle Lies” and “Empire,” respectively. Queensryche’s latest album, Tribe, was represented by the aforementioned “Desert Dance” and the killer track “Open,” which was introduced by Tate as a song directed towards those who become less and less open minded with age.
The crowd went berserk when Tate announced that the next studio album was circling towards completion (entitled Mindcrime 2), and Queensryche went on to perform a track called “I’m American” from that forthcoming thematic album, which was very well received. “Empire” enjoyed a thunderous response from the audience, along with the final song of the set, “Take Hold Of The Flame,” and Tate’s comments leading into it – “This is a song about hope … and boy we need a lot of that these days!” – met up with a huge roar from the appreciative audience.
Overall, Queensryche played a fine show … the set list was definitely more aligned for old-time, serious fans of the band, being that most of their more recognizable hits were left off this time around, but Tate and company showed great Metal maturity on stage and played a flawless set from start to finish. A true treat from the “opening act” of the evening!
Queensryche Set List (60 minutes)
The Whisper * En Force * Neue Regel * NM 156 * Screaming In Digital * Open * Desert Dance * Queen Of The Reich/Nightrider/Blinded Medley * Walk In The Shadows * The Needle Lies * I’m American * Surgical Strike * Empire * Take Hold Of The Flame
As the sun set in Midwest, USA at precisely 9 :00 p.m., the lights went black at the Tweeter Center to the delight of the crowd, and the now customary opener by these stage legends, “The Hellion/Electric Eye” blasted through the speakers, signifying the Metal Gods themselves had again returned to bestow on this worthy crowd an onslaught of Heavy Metal of the highest quality. Compared to last summer’s tour with Ozzfest (read the review by clicking here), the stage set was much more intricate … Priest implemented a U-shaped platform perched about 10 feet (roughly 3 meters) above the stage, supported by a silver Priest cross symbol on each side, with a lift in the back of the drums, several different stage backdrops, very cool lighting emanating from both above and on the stage, and, of course, tons and tons of stage smoke !
The Metal Gods played very tightly this evening, and with great enthusiasm, especially from guitarists K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton, who were clearly into the boisterous crowd reception all night, and were all over the stage. Ian Hill even seemed to be a bit livelier than in the past for this show. The set list included some welcomed change-ups this time around, with Priest including such “lost” classics as Screaming For Vengeance’s “Riding On The Wind,” “Turbo Lover” from the almost forgotten Turbo album, and “Exciter” from the once controversial Stained Class release. Even Ram It Down, the most underrated Priest record, was represented in the mix with “I’m A Rocker!” Four songs were played from Angel Of Retribution, “Judas Rising,” the first single “Revolution,” the historically relevant “Deal With The Devil,” and the “Painkiller” sequel, of sorts, “Hellrider” … you kind of got the feeling, as a side note, that the fans were ready to hear a few more choice cuts from this potential "Album of the Heavy Metal Year," but, as Halford explained at one juncture during the show, Priest has put out so much quality Metal throughout the years, it becomes more and more difficult with each new tour to determine what to include/exclude from the set list. The customary practice of pretending the album Rocka Rolla never existed continued, but surprisingly no representation was made during this evening from Point Of Entry and Defenders Of The Faith.
Other than the highly energetic Harley entrance by Halford to start the encore set and “Hell Bent For Leather,” highlights during the evening rolled out aplenty. The acoustic “Diamonds & Rust” version, crescendo-ing into an electric ending, was performed in excellent fashion, Tipton’s solo during “Beyond The Realms Of Death” was out of this world, and the fact that Halford can still sing like a wild banshee out on parole clearly made lasting impressions. However, the most memorable aspect of the 2-hour set was the incredible play of drummer Scott Travis. The sound engineers seemed to have his volume up a bit too high for the 4 new tracks off of Angel Of Retribution (possibly just growing pains), but throughout the concert, Travis played and toyed with his drum kit as if he was “in the zone.” Using a Chicago metaphor, basketball legend Michael Jordan used to take the game to a new level … he was made for the sport, was totally comfortable in a basketball environment, and was in complete command of the court from the second he laced up his sneakers. Travis showed similar traits during this show. He melded with his drum kit, never missed a beat even though much of his work was frightfully complex, and assumed a hand-in-glove relationship with the proverbial backbone of each tune in a way that made you just absorb his remarkable musicianship, take a step backwards, and let out a big "WOW" at the conclusion of each song. He was that good …
The crowd was completely into this show from the get-go, and after the set wrapped up with “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” the Metal Maniacs simply would not stop screaming for more … hoping the Metal Gods still had a song or 2 more up their sleeves. The planned set was complete, however, and even though you got the feeling the band was talking amongst themselves of possibly throwing another bone to this appreciative audience, 11 :00 p.m. curfew rules govern in the Chicago area, and the band eventually had no choice but to bid their final adieus and leave the stage … in the end, better to leave the audience craving for more than to burn them out, eh?
Overall, Judas Priest took their Reunion Tour of last year to another level on this go around … and the crowd certainly left this show on a high knowing that the future of Metal will again be greatly influenced both in the studio and on stage by these Metal Icons. Long Live The Priest!
Judas Priest Set List (120 minutes)
Hellion/Electric Eye * Metal Gods * Riding On The Wind * A Touch Of Evil * Judas Rising * Revolution * Breaking The Law * I’m A Rocker * Diamonds & Rust * Deal With The Devil * Beyond The Realms Of Death * Turbo Lover * Hellrider * Victim Of Changes * Exciter * Painkiller * Hell Bent For Leather * Living After Midnight * You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’
Web sites: www.JudasPriest.com & www.Queensryche.com