To celebrate the end of the stunning ‘Epitaph’ World Tour, heavy metal titans JUDAS PRIEST returned to their home country to play to a sold out crowd of 5,000 heavy metal maniacs at the legendary Hammersmith Apollo. Temperatures in London had reached extraordinary levels at the weekend, ensuring that the inside of the Apollo was white hot, and this only added to the strong sense of excitement in the air – you just knew this night was going to be something special.
The venue was full very early on, and that was no surprise as invited as very special guests tonight were Barnsley metal veterans SAXON, who received a rapturous reception, akin to the headliners themselves. In an unfortunately short 50 minutes, SAXON ripped though a great set of some of their most well known classic songs.
By the end of final song ‘Princess of the Night’ , you could see that the band were pumped up and ready for more, but sadly time had run out. Biff Byford encouraged the fans to watch the band’s set at next month’s Download Festival, stating that it may well be SAXON’s last every appearance at Donnington. He did promise though that the band will be back next year with a new album.
After a quick change around, the JUDAS PRIEST curtain dropped, and the band burst on to the stage with a ferocious rendition of ‘Rapid Fire’. Lady’s and gentlemen, make no mistake, the Priest were back!
Like IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST tend to pick the setlist for the tour, and stick with it from the 1st show to the last. That meant that the show was song for song, the same as Priest’s summer performances in the UK last year. Still, the setlist and show production was superb last year, so I certainly didn’t mind seeing it all over again.
The gig was absolutely packed full of highlights. The tremendous laser show that accompanied ‘Victim of Changes’ turned the clock back to the 80′s, while Halford’s appearance as ‘Nostradamus’ for ‘Prophecy’ is a classic SPINAL TAP moment. Just like you can’t get bored of seeing Eddie at an IRON MAIDEN show, you also can’t get bored of seeing Rob Halford ride on to the stage on a motorbike. It is an essential moment of every JUDAS PRIEST show.
Although he ducked the high opening notes on ‘Blood Red Skies’, Rob Halford was otherwise in sparkling form. ‘Painkiller’ has to be one of the hardest songs in the whole metal genre for a singer, but Halford ripped through it with the soaring power of someone less than half his age. Meanwhile the rest of the band were also in great form, in particular the new guitarist Richie Faulkner, who has taken to the band like a duck to water. It’s also obvious that he is already well liked by the fans.
The 3rd encore of ‘Living After Midnight’ finally brought a close to the epic 2 hour 20 minute setlist. For me, JUDAS PRIEST’s ‘Epitaph’ show is one of the top heavy metal shows I have ever seen.
The ‘Epitaph’ tour was billed as the ‘final major tour’ by JUDAS PRIEST, however, they did mention that the band would still continue to some shows in the future. Fans around the world will be delighted to know that at the end of the show tonight, Rob Halford proudly pronounced ‘the Priest will be back!‘ – let’s certainly hope so!
View Setlist here: http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/judas-priest/2012/hammersmith-apollo-london-england-33dff891.html
Review by James Allman
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