Judas Priest - Saxon - Uriah Heep - Live Review

Judas Priest – Saxon – Uriah Heep – Live Review


First Direct Arena – Leeds, 13th March 2024.

Uriah Heep guitar player and band stalwart from the beginning, is 76 years old! Now, I may have been sat in one of the blocks (not that far back), but you really couldn’t tell. Mick led the latest line-up of Heep through 35 minutes of new songs and Heep classics like a much younger man. Phil Lanzon brought the Hammond organ sound back to make the classics of ‘Gipsy’ and ‘Easy Livin’ sound just as dynamic as ever. New songs from 2023’s ‘Colour and Chaos’ were good enough to make me go to discover what I had missed. Worth seeing them on their next headline tour.

I bought SAXON’s ‘Wheels of Steel’ single and album on the days of release. I LOVED them at that time, but lost touch for a long time and somehow, I don’t think I’ve ever seen them live before tonight! Doh! Another aspect of this metal ‘apathy’ of mine is that I forgot they had added Diamond Head’s Brian Tatler to to the line up of the band. So when the intro tape finished and the band launched into ‘Hell, Fire and Damnation’, there was Tatler, all in black, long blonde hair, black flying vee, riffing like he was still back in his old band. Both Tatler and Dog Scarratt impressed with the solos and stagecraft. Biff Byford was in his element, working the Yorkshire audience with all the experience of a man who has been fronting the band for 40 years.

Plenty of classic songs, ‘And the Bands Played On’, ‘747 Strangers in the Night’ and the crowd chose ‘Dallas 1PM’ when Biff gave us three options. Saxon were very impressive. I have clearly missed many great gigs of theirs and I’m now keen to hear what Tatler has brought to the latest album.

Wednesday night and the Priest is back! Fresh on the back of the release of stunning new album ‘Invincible Shield’ it was time for the Priest to walk the walk and they did it in some style.

They now have their own anthem, which ran as the intro tape, leading into ‘Panic Attack’ No surprises there. It was always going to be the new opener. Richie and Andy Sneap chugging those opening riffs, before the curtain dropped to reveal the full band in front of the drum riser.

Scott Travis is the drummer Priest always needed, albeit with respect to all those who came before. He drives the band from the back.

Ian Hill is the dependable bass man. Keeps things simple. Possibly a little high in the mix tonight at times, but reliable as clockwork.

Andy Sneap is a phenomenal musician and (arguably) even more important in the production role for Priest. We all know what a great guitar player Andy is and his role on stage with Priest, but there is still something strangely anonymous or ‘invisible’ about him. I’ll come back to that.

Then there is the ‘Metal God’ himself. Rob Halford at 72 is much less active on stage than the younger Halford was. This was one of KK’s comments about how the band’s live performances had become less dynamic. Still, he commands the stage and certainly still seems to have the pipes. His voice tonight was better than the last time I saw the band with MSG a few years ago. But…Halford is no longer the star of the Judas Priest show. No my friends, that honour now goes to Richie ‘The Falcon’ ‘Faulkner.

Richie is a guitar god. He is the archetypal metal (mad) axeman. All long blonde hair, black studded leather and white flying vee. Richie looks amazing and sounds even better. Every photo of you see of him is in some classic axeman pose because…that’s what he does, all night, mostly at the front or centre of the stage. Even the spotlight loves him and seems to highlight him over everyone else, like some Star of Bethlehem, shining down on the Son of the Metal God!

When they play ‘Victim of Changes’, close your eyes and it’s a young KK Downing. Open your eyes and it’s a young KK Downing!

On the albums, Richie’s role is to channel Glenn’s writing and playing style and add his own sound to solos. Live, his role is to do the same AND to replicate KK’s sound at key times. He doesn’t take KK’s solos and Andy take Glenn’s. Richie takes the bulk of both, with Andy taking some back, but the focus is on Richie nearly all the time. Which brings me back to Andy Sneap’s role.

With so much focus on Richie, the band looks unbalanced on stage. It doesn’t affect how awesome they sound for a second, but visually it is a shift from the past and Andy looks like a spare part at time. For me, Andy should retain his production role and as the KK bridge is well and truly burnt, I wish they would consider adding Gus G to balance the guitar focus both from the playing and visual angles. Gus is an awesome player and looks the part too. Could make an incredible partnership with Richie. No doubt other opinions are available.

The set list was pretty much faultless, ‘Metal Gods’, ‘Painkiller’ ‘Invincible Shield’, ‘Saints In Hell’, ‘Hell Bent For Leather.’ and everything else that matters. Leeds got ‘Electric Eye’ but Glasgow got ‘Beyond The Realms Of Death, so they are varying the set list at different venues.

I’ve seen both KK’s Priest and Judas Priest live in the last 6 months. There is barely anything to choose between the two bands. Both played awesome sets and despite KK not being there tonight, Richie still brought my memories of watching Priest for the first time at age 15 in 1979, flooding back.

Watch the Invincible Shield Album Review Here

Our masses are united
Forever and a day

Chris McGlyn | Now Spinning Magazine

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