JUDAS PRIEST, Michael Schenker @Civic Hall, Wolverhampton 26/11/15


Priest past it? You’ve got another thing coming!

Massive queues at the venue due to increased security mean MV qmisses around half of Michael Schenker And The Temple Of Rock’s set – although to be fair, clearly we do better than most. What we do see proves why Schenker and his new mates are such a fine live draw. There’s the Scorpions classics – and so good a song is “Rock You Like A Hurricane” that it’s difficult to get wrong – and there’s the UFO stuff too, but it’s more than that. His own material, like “Lord Of The Lost And Lonely” stands up in this scrutiny, and with his fine band including former Scorps Herman Rarebell and Francis Buchholz along with former Rainbow singer Doogie White amongst others, the guitarist looks reborn. And as he takes selfies during his majestic solo in the closing “Rock Bottom” it appears he knows it too. Short but very sweet.

The curtain that goes across the stage while Judas Priest are setting up shows an industrial landscape from a bygone age. It was from those streets – literally in the case of this particular hometown show – that the band came and along with Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and a little later Iron Maiden – revolutionised music. Inventing a thing called Heavy Metal in the process. Not for nothing does the curtain read: Welcome to the home of British Steel.

Of course, go back a while and these type shows weren’t meant to be happening. A few years ago Priest announced that they weren’t touring anymore. This though, looks very much like exactly that. And it’s gone around the world for 12 months.

It’s a trek that’s occurring on the back of an album that came out last year. “Redeemer Of Souls” detailed a band that wasn’t ready for the retirement home, and if not quite hell bent for leather, then still primed for a damn good time.

Tonight’s set begins with a song from it and “Dragonaut” is everything that the 2015 edition of this band are. Rooted in the past – dear God the day they turn up without being clad in leather and studs and chains is the day the metal world stops turning and we turn out the lights – but happily embracing the future. As if to acknowledge the two stools they are between they follow this up with “Metal Gods”. Horns up and away we go.

What follows is an exultant celebration of not just Wolverhampton’s finest, but of Metal in general and if it feels like a triumphant rally at times that’s because it is.

Richie Faulkner – forever destined to be the new boy just because of who’s shoes he’s filling – screeches his way into “Victim Of Changes” stage front and Rob Halford can still scream his lungs out, as well as retaining the air of a bloke that even after 40 odd years hasn’t forgotten his roots.

And the greatest hits feel of the set adds to the thought that this might as well be a party. Put simply Beyond The Realms Of Death” and “Screaming For Vengeance” are as good as it gets and it’s impossible not to be swept up in the sheer OTT glory of “Breaking The Law”.

Then comes “Hell Bent For Leather” and Halford as always rides a motorcycle onto the stage. And if this means all is well in the world then, brother, there’s not one, but two encores.

In these there are four songs. With this quartet mere mortal bands can look away now. Because these are mighty. Unashamed, unabashed. Heavy blinking metal. What about “Electric Eye”? How about the best song of the night, “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming”? Complete with solos a-go-go from Faulkner and Glen Tipton. Yep. Those. Then Painkiller and Livin’ After Midnight, they are all here too. And who can better that?

Recently a couple of major acts have been less than stellar in the live arena. Not here. In fact let there be no doubt about this: As Rob Halford himself put it onstage: The Priest are back. Now, excuse us we are rocking to the dawn.

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