Judas Priest -- Den Bosch, Holland -- April 2nd, 2005
Want to thank Oscar from the Metal Flakes board for this great review.
Scorpions + Judas Priest
April 2, 2005
Brabanthallen, Den Bosch, Holland
Ticket price € 43,00 + € 5,00 parking costs
The building is a rectangular affair with concrete floors and walls and a sheet metal roof. Nice place to trade cattle or have indoor motorcross races. Not suited for concerts because of lousy acoustics and total lack of vibe. The place was either sold out or damn close to it: it was packed to the rafters. There were six or seven thousand people present, from elderly gentlemen in their fifties through hordes of raucous guys in their 30s right down to a surprisingly large number of teenagers. Yes, teenagers. Kids from 14 to 18 wearing British Steel T-shirts. As Halford said during a chat with the crowd: "Lad, you weren't even born when I first sang this song!" There were also a few parents with smaller children.
Paradise Lost was cancelled because their guitar player is in the hospital somewhere. That suited me just fine. At exactly 7:30 the house lights when down and blue strobes were circling the crowd. A dramatic piece of classical music boomed through the PA and the Scorps hit the stage. It was the last night of their trek with Priest and their only show on the continent. They were out for blood. Long story short: they delivered one of the finest shows I ever saw (and I've seen some), and that's coming from a guy who really doesn't like this band at all. They won over everyone in the house, the place went berserk. One of those rare shows where the band feeds off the audience as much as the other way around. They were treated like royalty by Priest, with good lighting, ample space on stage and a great sound. Talking of sound, their engineer knows the secret of mixing a rock band in a place like this: ditch as much effects as possible and keep the volume down (relatively speaking). It's kind of a risk to bring the Scorps along as opening act, because this is one helluva live band. I saw them open for Priest at a festival last year, and they were good then too, but today was much more energetic and spontaneous. They weren't working, they were having fun. It was sweaty, it was hot, it was feverish. It was rock'n'roll. The crowd totally embraced them and they played a truly killer show. Plenty of classics, a few new songs and one ballad (WoC). Two encores really brought the house down: Dynamite and RYLaH. They were SO damn good that I started to doubt if Priest could top this...
I went to take a leak and then made my way towards the stage, ending up in front of KK. Chants of "Priest... Priest..." were starting even as the stage was being constructed. At exactly 9 PM the lights went down and a huge, red electric eye scanned the crowd. Glenn walked on stage first, grinning. The Hellion blasted through the PA and the band burst into the opener full throttle. Rob appeared in the middle of the eye and the place just exploded. The sound, sadly, was disappointing. Make that irritating. Compared to the Scorps, the volume had gone up by some 50%. I like a bit of volume, but this was insane. It threw my equilibrium off. By far the loudest show I ever heard in my life, ridiculous. And like I said, buildings like this don't lend themselves to such volumes. They weren't designed for rock shows and you need to be aware of that as a sound man. You get all sorts of nasty vibrations if you turn it up too far. In this case, at times the whole PA was actually distorting. During the slower and/or more quiet songs, the sound eventually became pretty good (but still too loud) while the fast and furious stuff ended up as a indiscriminate blur.
Glenn, KK, Ian and Scott were pretty much the way they were last year (though they did appear to have a lot more fun). As was the stage set. And the set list. Positive changes were the inclusion of Riding On The Wind, Hot Rockin' (awesome!!) and I'm A Rocker. The price for these new songs is the total omission of Defenders. Not a single song from that masterpiece.... The big change compared to last year is Rob. He's a different man.
Last year, he sang good but he tended to avoid certain challenging parts. He played it safe, sort of. It was clear back then that his mid-range voice was as strong as ever but the crystal-clear, explosive highs had suffered. Which would be perfectly understandable for a guy pushing 60. Apart from the singing, I found his stage behaviour a bit restrained last year, a bit too much like going through the motions and being professional.
Last night, Rob was totally passionate. More so than in '86. And '88. And '91. And certainly more so than last year. In fact, I only saw him like this during one of the two shows I saw on the Res tour and on the Memphis tape. His interaction with the crowd was downright aggressive at times, he'd confront them, provoke them, connecting with every nook and crany of the building. He fucking owned the place. I was right up front and could see every facial expression and the look in his eyes. The man meant business. I can only hope that this is a permanent thing and not just a one-nighter. The way he was last night, no front man in the history of rock comes close (with the possible exception of Bon Scott). As for the singing, and I'll be damned if I know how he did it, he was completely back at the level he had in '88 and '91. All of a sudden there was this "Marching in the streEEEEEEEETS" during Metal Gods, and it was so high and so clear, like a laser scalpel or something. Or better yet, given the volume, a goddamn guillotine. He was taking chances all over the place. Riding On The Wind? The choruses with piercing falsetto, astonishing. The Ripper? Total UITE. BTROD? Totally amazing. The man was out on a limb yet totally confident. I felt privileged to witness this, but I can only hope he'll be this good tonight, and tomorrow, and right down to the last show. I think he might be, I always found him to sing at his best after a month or more of solid touring - and they're on the road for more than a month now.
The crowd had a lot to do with it. They were rallied by the Scorps and the place was on fire. They screamed every word to every song (the new ones included, but also rare gems like Hot Rockin'), there were seas of fists and too many wild mosh pits. The energy level during the first half of the show was off the scale. After that, people got somewhat tired. The ridiculous volume had a lot to do with that, people were assaulted, overwhelmed. The Scorps had a lot to do with that, too. The band never relented and during the encores, everyone was screaming their lungs out.
I gotta tell you about Painkiller. Halfway through the song, Rob fell on his knees in front of the teleprompter and draped his torso over it. A steady stream of sweat dripped from his bald skull onto the case. He shook the machine with one arm, drawing on energies from deep within. The way the man was screaming, that thick bull-neck of his, veins poppin', I thought he was gonna drop dead and die right there. I don't see how he could bring out a single word after that, or even walk off stage, but a few minutes later he did a perfect rendition of HBFL.
I also gotta tell you about VoC. That final scream, the one that Ripper would prolong for minutes on end? All the guys in the band where pointing at Rob. And he hit a note that split my fucking skull. And he held it. And held it. And the band grinned and pointed at him. And we screamed. And Rob made eye contact with us crazies down there. And he kept that note. And kept it. And kept it. What can I say...?
The next show may be equally impressive, or it may not. I dunno. But when we walking out, everyone was stunned. We were like "Was that real, what we just went through?" I feel privileged to have seen the Priest like this one more time. To have been with a crowd this intense. To witness the Scorps going for the kill. I can only hope you Americans will have the chance to experience it too, just like it was tonight.
I AM A ....
MUSIC FANATIC/SOCIALIST//BEER DRINKER