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Priest Can't Preach With Old Fire

Judas Priest / Anthrax
Riviera Theatre
Chicago, IL
Feb. 7, 2002
Judas Priest
Judas Priest

Review and Photos by Barry Brecheisen

Typically you see a band live for the music. You're a fan and you want to catch a glimpse of your favorite artist up-close and personal. Tonight it was purely for the spectacle. Both bands have been getting the press lately and it's debatable if any of it's been positive. In the last few years we have seen the resurgence of metal and both bands had a big hand in forming and shaping the genre. One of the true pioneers has to be Judas Priest. These metal-gods made it cool to dress in skin-tight leather pants, studs and chains. If the old metal is dead someone forgot to tell this almost sold-out crowd at the Riv a few nights ago. Looking in the audience at all the long hair and bobbing heads helped conjure up images of Beavis and Butthead headbanging and screeching the lyrics to "Breaking the Law."
The minute front-man Ripper Owens darted onto the stage he did the rock star pose with the same aplomb as Marky Mark flashed in the movie "Rock Star." Judas Priest A fan shouted out "Rob Halford sucks." As many of you know Rob Halford is the original lead singer who left the band a few years back and left an immense void on the band and many of it's fans. Ripper may have the proper sinister metal vocals, but he started to look more like a slimmed-down Garth Brooks with his baseball cap and goofy stage presence. Gone is the bloated stage scenery and larger than life light show that once dominated their performances in their prime. Still, never fear the two-guitar arsenal of Glen Tipton and K.K. Downing are still ever so present in the twenty first century. To my surprise it felt very much like the old Priest as they focused mainly on their glory years when Halford was at the helm. "The Ripper" had all the crunchy three chord changes backed by the steady beat of the rhythm section. It's easy to pick on Ripper, but maybe there's something to be said for not taking yourself too seriously. The few new songs like the metal-to-the-pedal "One on One" and the cliche driven "Burn in Hell" seemed to flow nicely with the old bone-crunching classics like "Heading Out to the Highway" and "Painkillers." Only thing missing was the heart and soul of the band, Rob Halford.
On the other hand, Anthrax opened tonight's metal fest proving they are more potent than anything you might get in the mail. You couldn't help but well...head bang to their infectious beats. Looking 'round to see if anyone is watching you! This band came out with something to prove. The audience seemed pleased and responded by turning the main floor into a full blown pretzel-twistin'' mosh pit. Straining his vocal chords, John Bush sung like this might be their last show they ever do as Frank Bello beat-up the bass while mouthing his every word. This is a band that last year found out that maybe their ingenious name wasn't that funny after all. Still, you got to give it to these guys to stick it out and having a longer shelf life than the spores themselves. Delivering classics like "Caught in a Mosh," "Antisocial" and "Bring the Noise" the band proved quite capable of taking the hard rock scepter from Judas Priest. As frontman Bush put it to the crowd after performing the new song "Super Hero," "Does it have balls"? The answer seemed obvious as the front row started the human tidal wave all the way to the back walls. The boys music is no nonsense hard-ass carnage, it's simplicity is masked in it's jackhammer delivery. Anthrax may have proved they are still very contagious, but Judas Priest reminded us they aren't ready to peel off their leather and hang the cod piece up for good either.
How great would it be to have a double-bill of Halford and Judas Priest!? Maybe Halford would come out on his motorcycle and show Ripper a thing or two. Now that's a show I'd pay good money to see!!


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