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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Judas Priest with Black Label Society and Thin Lizzy - Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, MI.

Judas Priest with special guests Black Label Society and Thin Lizzy
Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, Michigan – Sunday November 13th, 2011

Tonight for me personally was a very special night, for a few reasons and for many rock fans, this was quite the triple bill!
I did catch Judas Priest two years back on their 30th Anniversary tour for ‘British Steel’ and at that time, they were just absolutely phenomenal!
So here we are, a couple of years on and Priest are touring one man down, so to speak, since K.K. Downing had deciding to withdraw from Priest activities almost a year ago, young gun Ritchie Faulkner has stepped into the fray to take his place, but we’ll get to the Priest review in a bit.

So, my ‘special’ night starts with Thin Lizzy, a band I grew up listening to in my young teenage years back in the UK and saw live with Phil Lynott about ten times.
They WERE, my favourite live act back then. From those days, I don’t recall ever seeing a bad Lizzy gig even with all of Phil’s troubles with Lizzy he always came through.
Grand Slam after that was really where I think it became more obvious that he was in trouble, in front of the fans and I saw them twice ...
This is the ‘new’ Thin Lizzy, revitalized with two newer members in the lineup.
Many Lizzy fans will know that the last lineup that toured with Phil on the ‘Thunder and Lightning’ tour, went out and played live in Japan and a few other places, with Marco Mendoza on bass in the mid-90’s, but these shows were limited, then Brian Downey left in ’97, replaced by Tommy Aldridge.
As we entered the millennium both Marco Mendoza and keyboard man Darren Wharton quit, which only left (John) Sykes and Gorham, as previous Lizzy members, I caught the band in 2004 opening for Deep Purple. It was a far cry from what I knew best of Lizzy.
In 2010, the latest version of Lizzy was created with a lot more credibility, featuring Downey, Gorham, Wharton, Mendoza and new ‘boys’ Ricky Warwick (The Almighty) and on loan from Def Leppard, Vivian Campbell. Since Leppard went back on the road, Lizzy had recruited ex-Gun ‘n’ Roses player Richard Fortus until recently when G‘n’R went back on the road and Lizzy pulled in Brother Cane and Alice Cooper lead player Damon Johnson. This is the line up today!
OK, Lizzy history update behind me now, let’s get on with the gig review here!

(Damon Johnson, Brian Downey, Darren Wharton, Ricky Warwick - Thin Lizzy. Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, MI. Photo: Alun Williams©)

The band comes out rocking with ‘Are You Ready’ and from the moment they hit the stage, they are clearly on their game!
Ricky Warwick gets good backing vocal support now from Johnson, Mendoza and Gorham.
‘Waiting For An Alibi’ next, really showcases Damon’s great pairing with Gorham on the harmony solos and the band are tight!
When ‘Jailbreak’ kicks in next, it does remind me how much I miss the old Lizzy shows with flash bombs!
One of the things that made Lizzy stand out so much back in the Phil days was that they did like their pyro’s and it always helped make the show a great event. These days it’s all about letting the music and the playing thereof that does the talking.

(Scott Gorham - Thin Lizzy. Photo: Alun Williams©)

Perhaps a little surprised by the inclusion of ‘Massacre’ next, but nonetheless, it is of course presented in absolutely storming fashion, I'm not complaining!

(Ricky Warwick - Photo: ©Scott Uchida)

Ricky then does a brief band introduction before the stunning ‘Emerald’ that is one of the classic reminders of the music Phil wrote, that made Lizzy so great and it’s played superbly.
‘Killer on the Loose’ is up next is perhaps a surprise choice in the set too, but it rocks out!
I have to say, that none of the tracks in Lizzy's set tonight gives Darren Wharton the chance to shine on keys, as these songs are all more guitar loaded, but he looks happy enough at the back there!
Maybe time for some more headline shows, eh guys?!

The absence of ‘The Rocker’ is very clear, even ‘Don’t Believe A Word’ would've been good too and yes, many more as well could’ve been picked, but such short stage time allowed, due to the three band bill, it must be a tough task picking out what not to play.

(Damon Johnson, Scott Gorham, Ricky Warwick - Photo: © Scott Uchida)

‘Rosalie’ is included though, the song originally written by Bob Seger as a tribute to Rosalie Trombley from CKLW a radio station in Windsor, Ontario that used to be ‘THE’ station in the Mid-West back in the ‘old days.’ Rosalie wasn’t a hit for Seger, but was for Lizzy.
Search her out, interesting story!
Midway through ‘Rosalie,’ Ricky Warwick brings things down a bit and gets the crowd singing and then dedicates this to the memories of both Phil Lynott and Gary Moore, RIP both stars.
A stunning version of ‘Black Rose’ is up next and this is where the guitar work between Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson, really shines through. I’ll bet Gary Moore was even looking down alongside Phil, grinning from ear to ear as these guys duel so well on their masterpiece!

(Marco Mendoza - Thin Lizzy)

The rhythm section of Brian Downey and Marco Mendoza is also worth special mention, as it’s songs like ‘Emerald’ and ‘Black Rose,’ where Phil and Brian blended so well and now Marco clearly pays full tribute to Phil with his playing. Great job guys!
Then it was ‘Cowboy Song’ where it’s all too clear, Damon is a great fit with Lizzy and the band wrap thing up by merging into ‘Boys Are Back In Town.’
I really, truly enjoyed this Lizzy set, it had been a long time … Can’t wait until you come around again guys!

We had the chance to then catch up with Lizzy backstage which led to my recent Lizzy news update, with the conversations that were shared and the guys were complete hosts. Thanks Lizzy, great to see the ‘Boys Back in Town’ again!

With meeting Lizzy, it meant that we missed Black Label Society completely, but we did see Zak Wylde running around with his two minders backstage, looking mean as ever! LOL!
I’m sure the fans loved their set!

(Richie Faulkner, Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton - Judas Priest. Photo: Alun Williams©)

So, two years on and ‘the Priest’ are back again, but this time minus original guitarist K.K. Downing, who told everyone last year that he needed to take time off … Retire?
I for one find that hard to believe and I’m sure we’ll see K.K. back in the Priest fold at some point again in the future.
Richie Faulkner is the young starlet that has stepped into Downing’s footsteps …, at least for now and I’ve got to say I was impressed by his playing, but more on that later!

Opening up with ‘Rapid Fire’ and then big old flames coming out from all over the stage for ‘Metal Gods!’
Rob Halford speaks out next to the crowd saying, ‘Are you ready for some Judas Priest metal?!’
‘Heading For the Highway’ kicks off and the Detroit crowd is in good voice tonight, no question and then we get ‘Judas Rising!’
The band is rocking and the stage set is impressed with emphasis on chains, scaffolding and huge pipes on stage too, but the chains are everywhere!
(Judas Priest onstage in Detroit! Photo: Alun Williams©)

Rob then introduces the next song, ‘Here’s one for you from the ‘Sin After sin’ album, ‘Starbreaker!’ It’s during this song that I take a moment and look at Rhonda and say, ‘Those screams .., how does he do it?!’
Incredible range that the guy has, but I’m not telling fans anything they don’t already know, right folks?!
Glenn Tipton and new boy Faulkner do sound good together, but there is something I notice, but maybe it’s just me … Hmmm

 (The packed house for Judas Priest!  Photo: Alun Williams©)

It’s the ‘Sad Wings of Destiny’ album that the band goes to next for ‘Victim of Changes,’ it’s all good folks!
Then Rob says, ‘Let’s go back to the one that started it all then, in 1974 ‘Rocka Rolla’ and this one’s called ‘Never Satisfied.’
Things are eased back a little as they pull out their cover of Joan Baez’ ‘Diamonds and Rust.’ It’s really well done I’ve got to say and I’ve been listening to it again recently on the bands current release, the compilation, ‘The Chosen Few,’ a best of with tracks picked by other rock stars.

Throughout the set, the screen behind the band has been showing each album cover that each track comes from … That’ll be helpful for new fans to remember from the show then?! Good marketing work lads! LOL!
Next on the screen we see ‘Nostradamus’ and from that epic, we get ‘Prophecy’ with plenty of pyros and more flames! It’s a killer stage event!

(Judas Priest live at Joe Louis Arena, Detroit, MI. Photo: Alun Williams©)

To the ‘Painkiller’ album next for ‘Night Crawler’ and clear as day, Richie Faulkner is trying to encourage the crowd some – Not that they needed it, believe me! – but it’s clear at this point, that he’s working the crowd possibly almost as much as Rob is and a lot more than Glenn Tipton!
Ian Hill of course is simply solid alongside Scott Travis and the two are bound as solid as can be!

‘Turbo Lover’ goes down well next before the acoustic guitar on a stand comes out, as ‘Beyond the Realms of Death’ is presented.
Light and dark played superbly here and again, that voice of Rob’s probably doesn’t stand out as much as it does here!
I would say at this point, that where I was going with something I noticed earlier is that where with K.K. Downing onboard, it was obvious that Tipton and Downing were brothers in arms, standing side by side jamming frequently … This is not so apparent with Faulkner, maybe Glenn doesn’t want to throw the guy off too much after sharing the stage with another guy for what, almost forty years?!

‘The Sentinel’ is up next followed closely by ‘Blood Red Skies’ and again, Faulkner has got these lead breaks down well indeed!
 Funny isn’t it that both Lizzy and Priest are featuring newer guitar players and they are both clearly shining certainly tonight and I’m sure others that see them on this tour will feel the same way.
After this the crowd is really fired up, cheering and shouting and Rob is pacing the stage – As only he does! – and he waits for the crowd to quiet down a little and then he starts telling us about everywhere they’ve played and he then goes on to say – Don’t they all?! – that, ‘We love Detroit, thanks to all the heavy metal fans for all your support and …. We are going to keep going; we’re not calling it quits!’
 So, were we not all under the same impression that the ‘Epitaph’ tour was the last?!
Good news for fans out there then …!

 (Epitaph backdrop. Photo: Alun Williams©)

Back to the music and it’s the bands interpretation of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Green Manalishi (With the Two Pronged Crown),’ you go lads!
There’s the ‘British Steel’ album cover and Rob starts telling us all about recording the album and how lucky the band were to record it in the house that was once John Lennon’s place. ‘Breaking The Law’ is possibly the crowd favourite of the night so far, based on the roar it gets.
Then the rest of the band gets a breather, except Scott Travis as its drum solo time, which then leads straight into ‘Painkiller’ which closes the set.
Of course you know they are coming back and it’s ‘The Hellion / Electric Eye’ and they are rocking and we’re looking at hitting the two hour mark anytime now and the band goes offstage … Surely not … Nah, can’t be … Aha, is that a Harley I hear?!
Back they come with ‘Hell Bent For Leather,’ with Rob astride the familiar chrome plated Harley Davidson, before Rob walks off the side of the stage and comes back draped in two flags stitched together, the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack and it’s ‘Another Thing Coming!’
Judas Priest has totally rocked the house tonight, no question!
Is there time for one more? You betcha!
‘Living After Midnight’ does the trick!

Thank you Judas Priest for an absolutely stunning show, Thin Lizzy too and I’m sure that Black Label Society did their bit too!
A great night indeed, a tour not to be missed folks … Go!!!

Rating: 5 out of 5 for great entertainment and a seriously rocking night!

Official weblinks:

On a final note, my special thanks go out to Marco Mendoza and Scott Gorham, the interviews we did earlier this year were great and this capped it thanks guys!
Special mention to the other guys for their time too, Darren, Brian, Ricky and Damon.
Ace and Adam, thanks guys! Scott Uchida for a couple of the Lizzy pics too.
Of course, none of this would've been possible without the fantastic team at Chipster, thanks Jen and Chip! As always, you guys come through, thanks!
(With the Lizzy boys and Rhonda too! - Backstage at the Joe Louis Arena.)

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