Arriving to last night's Judas Priest show just after 7 p.m.--prime tailgating time--we were dismayed to find the lot adjacent to Municipal Auditorium virtually empty. It was neither heavy nor metal and while we weren't expecting a scene as uproarious as a Priest show a quarter-century ago, we did expect to see something. A little let down, we made our way over to the sympathetic old arena hellbent for leather and ready to rock.
Even when we make it to a show at a reasonable hour, some sort of force majeure will manage to impede us. In the case of this show, it was a will call mix-up that resulted in a 45-minute wait to get our tickets straightened out. While this snafu caused us to miss all of opener Pop Evil's set and about half of direct support act Whitesnake's, it did provide us the perfect people-watching opportunity. Of course the lionish manes of feathered locks and bygone fashion trends of '80s hair metal and mulleted pimple-faced heshers were in full effect--albeit now donned by 45-year-olds as opposed to 20-year-olds. We were delighted to see familiar faces from Grimey's staffers to William Tyler to Chris Crofton grinning with excitement as they mingled among the metalheads. Finally our tickets were delivered to us by none other than Mark Slaughter--no joke, he was working with the promoter--and we entered the arena alongside Kip Winger.
By the time we made it into the show room--which was far from sold out--Whitesnake's two guitar players were in the midst of a shredding duel that was being filmed by every camera phone in the house. This of course led into a song that ended with a drum solo, making Whitesnake's set feel like a Sunday afternoon stroll through Guitar Center. Lead singer David Coverdale gallivanted about the stage intoning like a Medieval Times host and matching false harmonics with his squealing howls. Realizing that there was no better time and place to party than this we decided it to start double-fisting tallboys and taking whiskey shots. By the time the band busted into their monster ballad "Here I Go Again," we were singing along to the choruses with all the un-ironic gusto we could muster.
After a brief intermission it was time for the main event--Judas Priest playing their classic British Steel in its entirety. At first, we were a little miffed that the show didn't start with Rob Halford's signature Harley-ridin' stage entrance but we got over that as soon as we heard how utterly flawless the band sounded. With nary a word uttered between songs, the band plowed through the record with a precision that matched the metal god status that precedes them. Halford--who opted for bedazzled denim as opposed to leather--ruled our ears with soaring vocals over deafening guitarmonies and thundering drums. As we took in the spectacle of flashing lights, thousands of fists in the air--most doing devil horns--and the iconic image of leather-clad guitarists K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton rocking side by side in unison, we quickly realized that the experience of seeing Judas Priest "hammer out some metal" at Municipal Auditorium was one that is essential to rock 'n' roll appreciation.
The British Steel performance was followed by an array of other classics such as "The Ripper" and "Victim of Changes," each sounding as heavy as the one before. The true highlight of the show came during the encore set when Halford--now clad head to toe in shiny studded leather--finally rode the Harley on stage and led the band through a merciless version of "Freewheel Burning" that was accompanied by a visual onslaught of laser lights. As we ended the night standing on folding chairs drunkenly shouting along to the closing choruses of "You've Got Another Thing Comin' " we felt confident that we'd "lived it up" in style.