at Champaign, IL, USA, September 27, 2005

Champaign, Illinois (USA) is a fairly small, rural town, affectionately known to Illinoisans as Urbana-Champaign, best known for housing the “Fighting Illini” and the University of Illinois. Amidst this college campus sits Assembly Hall, a “Flying Saucer,” dome-shaped, indoor arena that has the potential to seat a maximum of 17,200 concert (though typically basketball) spectators. On a cool, early Fall evening of September 27, 2005, this Hall played host to one of its loudest shows ever. Back in the States for a little over a week from playing South America and Mexico, Judas Priest and special guest Anthrax –- two of Metal’s heavyweights of the adamantine class -– played to an older, if not somewhat restrained, crowd. With the stage setup adorned for a Heavy Metal act, the seating capacity in the arena was effectively cut in half, resulting in a quaint 180-degree seating pattern. Although playing to only about 1500 patrons on this night, it’s quite an inspiration to see two such well-known names in Music still playing at such a small market stop as Assembly Hall in Champaign, Illinois.


It’s hard to imagine that Anthrax is slowly creeping into the “old-timers” bracket of Heavy Metal as this tour celebrates their 20th year in fine fashion. Part of the celebration includes the release of Anthrology: No Hit Wonders (1985 – 1991), and this, the touring of the “Classic Anthrax Lineup.” The “classic lineup” is, of course, composed of Belladonna on Vocals, Bello on Bass, Benante on Drums, and the dynamic duo of Ian and Spitz on Guitar.

The band might be celebrating its 20th anniversary, but these guys weren’t willing to show any signs of aging this night. They were energetic, full of life, and seemed to be having a genuinely great time. Belladonna looked masterful — dressed all in black, mic stand in hand, and leading the band through a boisterous set that included such favorites as “Indians,” “Medusa,” “I Am The Law,” and “Among The Living.” Ian and Spitz filled the arena with their buzz saw guitars, and Ian was being his usual animated self.

The sound output was at an appropriate level and came through clear and bright, and the vocals were very discernable. The light show was adequate for this size of a venue, and seemed to remain quite bright so that the crowd could have a good look at the boys. The crowd responded well with headbanging and fists raised in the air, especially in an environment that prohibited alcohol sales. People were abuzz with the energy the band created on stage, and the crowd seemed to thoroughly enjoy the set.

Overall, Anthrax played a stellar show, coming in around 60 minutes. At the set’s close, there was no mistake that these guys were back in full force. A true burst of energetic nostalgia from the “opening act” on this evening!


At precisely 9:05 p.m., the lights went black at Assembly Hall as Anthrax’s backdrop banner was lifted out of the way, signaling to the crowd that Priest was once again prepared to pummel their eardrums. The crowd responded, with as much noise as 1500 people can make, to the anticipated and customary opener, “The Hellion/Electric Eye,” which blasted through the speakers while vocalist Rob Halford arose from the middle of the backdrop platform. The stage seemed slightly smaller in footprint than stages used at larger venues that Priest had visited in earlier stops during the 1st leg of their USA tour. The side platforms that represented the unique Priest “Angel of Retribution” trident-looking symbol seemed to be spaced closer together than in the past. The multitude of symbolic Priest backdrops used throughout the set, each depicting a different Priest symbol (e.g., The Screaming Eagle), remained entirely entertaining.

Halford - Judas PriestThe Metal Gods, for the most part, played a clean, entertaining set this evening, but unfortunately seemed to wane ever so slightly in enthusiasm. One got the sense that maybe this tour, which has and will continue to span across the globe, has gone on for quite awhile, and that maybe exhaustion is starting to creep in. Overall, guitarists K.K. Downing and especially Glenn Tipton just didn’t seem to be as energetic as they have been in past performances in the Chicagoland area. Maybe part of their fatigue could be attributable to the smaller than typical patronage that Priest shows have enjoyed during this tour. There was no doubt this smaller crowd just didn’t create the level of noise anywhere as loud as most Priest headlining gigs. For the most part, the fans in attendance were slightly older and more restrained than what is usually encountered at your typical Metal Lover’s show, possibly further exacerbated by the fact that no alcohol was being served (college campus).

The set list included Priest classics such as “Riding On The Wind” from Screaming For Vengeance and “Turbo Lover” from the Turbo album, and the concert staple “Metal Gods” from the British Steel release. Even though “Metal Gods” seems to have been in the set for a long, long time, it’s thunderous drumming by skins man Scott Travis would probably be sorely missed if removed from the Priest live set. “Touch Of Evil” also exhibited similar plodding; heavy drum and bass sound that makes songs like it stand out in a live environment. Four songs were represented from this year’s Angel Of Retribution release, “Judas Rising,” the first single “Revolution” (with an extended mid-section that played to the crowd), the second single, “Worth Fighting For,” and “Hellrider.” “Worth Fighting For” especially exhibited that massively big Travis drum sound. After seeing this man live, there should be no question on anyone’s mind that he’s the best post-Les Binks drummer ever with Priest. “Victim of Changes” included a short guitar solo from Tipton to compliment the vibrato-laden Downing solo that came later in the song.

At one point, the lights dimmed to a spotlight on singer Rob Halford and in an almost soliloquy fashion, he disclosed a somewhat touching story of his meeting Joan Baez. Apparently, Joan’s son is a Judas Priest fan and her son disclosed to her that Priest had covered her “Diamonds & Rust” song. Upon meeting the band at Live Aid, she was quite gracious and the band ended up taking this to heart. This led into a spectacular acoustic version of “Diamonds & Rust,” whose electric ending kicked in like a freight train. This was definitely a highlight of the evening as this version indeed showcased Halford’s amazing vocal talent. It was astonishing listening to him carrying a multitude of notes effortlessly throughout this rendition — simply breathtaking. Throughout the show, Rob entertained everyone with his usual antics, along with more coat changes than dress changes at a Cher concert.

There were a couple “curveballs” thrown in by Priest during this night. First of all, no tracks were played off of the Hell Bent For Leather (Killing Machine) album (arguably their best album from top to bottom), nor off of the very solid-selling Defenders Of The Faith release. Hand-in-hand with this came the biggest surprise of the night during the encore. In typical fashion, Halford made his highly energetic Harley entrance on stage as the crowd went wild. All cheered in anticipation, waiting for the opening guitar chords of “Hell Bent For Leather,” but to everyone’s stunned surprise, the band broke into “Desert Plains!” There was an uncanny, eerie feeling that suddenly spread across the venue, as it almost seemed like half of the crowd was stifled. While to a select few, it was a treat to hear “Desert Plains,” for the majority of the audience, it appeared this was probably not the most opportune time to hear it. To make matters slightly more uneasy, this wasn’t the best rendition of this song the band has ever done. Halford sang the majority of the song from atop of his Harley and really turned in a surprisingly restrained vocal performance this time around. Halford seemed to not even try to hit the highs on the chorus leading into the dual guitar solos — surprising, because he appeared to be in excellent voice during this show. Thankfully, things got back on track with closing crowd pleasers “Living After Midnight” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming.”

When all was said and done, though, Judas Priest did what they usually do; they provided an entertaining, loud, and exciting set. When the crowd walked away from this show, many had felt like they just witnessed a special treat, knowing this small college town was graced, ever so bluntly, by a Monster Metal Machine named Judas Priest!

Judas Priest Setlist (110 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 (Acoustic Version)* Worth Fighting For * Beyond The Realms Of Death * Turbo Lover * Hellrider * Victim Of Changes * Painkiller * Desert Plains * Living After Midnight * You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’


  • Scott Jeslis

    Scott is one of the partners at Metal Express Radio. He handles a lot of Metal Express Radio's public relations, screening of new music and radio scheduling. On occasion, he also does reviews and interviews. He has been a proud member of the Metal Express Radio crew since 2004.

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