Judas Priest bring leather and Steel to the masses once more 

"Thirty years ago, if someone had [told me] I'd still be onstage [today] I would've said 'You're crazy,' but I'm here and enjoying it," says Glenn Tipton. The Judas Priest guitarist spoke to the Scene via phone hours before going onstage in Toronto to play the band's seminal masterstroke British Steel in its entirety.

Despite the album's being officially 29 years old—it was released on Apr. 14, 1980—the band is currently on a tour celebrating its 30th anniversary. While the idea of bands playing their signature albums cover to cover is far from new, in recent times it has become a growing trend. It's another way for fans to experience their favorite artists' back catalog, and in turn another way for artists to capitalize on cultural nostalgia.

British Steel is the perfect album for such a treatment. With dueling lead guitars, galloping grooves and high, squealing vocals that pushed histrionics to new levels, it not only defined Judas Priest as metal gods, but as the future of metal itself. It set the template for the metal sounds that emanated from the hatchback stereos of denim-vested, feathered-hair heshers—immortalized in the 1986 short film Heavy Metal Parking Lot—as well as those that powered Beavis and Butt-head's air-guitars in the '90s. To this day, the rallying calls of "United" and "Grinder" still ring strong, "Breaking the Law" still makes you wanna, well, break the law, "Living After Midnight" is still pop/rock radio gold, and the fusion of metal and reggae that is "The Rage" has yet to be outdone.

Initially maligned by many in the mainstream as a fad, and critically reviled as juvenile and philistine, Priest's brand of heavy metal has endured the panoply of rock trends, from grunge to goth, to prevail as the cultural commodity it is today—one that, in or out of mainstream fashion, will outdraw its contemporary competitors.

"One of the biggest compliments ever paid to Priest is that our music is fairly timeless.... We're very lucky that our compositions have stood [that] test of time," says Tipton, who says he's thrilled about the tens of thousands of fans both new and old who are still filling arenas to see the band play live in 2009. "It's really surprising now, just how many young people are at Priest shows.... We're very fortunate...some of them are turned on by their parents [and] we've got the older Priest fans that have been there from day one...we can still go onstage and play 'Steeler,' or 'Rapid Fire,' or 'The Rage' and the audience are really enjoying it."

Despite their current tour for the (almost) 30-year-old British Steel, Tipton says there's another album the band would really like to give the full live treatment: "The ambition and intention we have is to play Nostradamus [last year's conceptual double album] in its entirety.... It would be a mammoth task.... [It's] something we'd really like to do. Possibly next year or the year after."

Until then, audiences will just have to settle for singer Rob Halford's iconic Harley-ridin' stage entrance, a laser light show and performances of "The Ripper," "Rock Hard, Rock Free," "You've Got Another Thing Comin'," "Freewheel Burning" and the original version of "Diamonds and Rust." All of which Tipton promises can be expected in addition to the entirety of British Steel. He even claims that, while he has yet to play as himself in Guitar Hero, he will sport his leather-clad look from the Screaming for Vengeance tour that is featured in the popular video game's first installment.

"When we go onstage we don the leather and we become an entity, that entity is Judas Priest and it seems very comfortable and very natural for us.... We go onstage and hammer out some heavy metal."

Email agold@nashvillescene.com or call 615-244-7989 ext. 404.


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