|British heavy metal icons Judas Priest at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Nov. 22. (Stan Behal/QMI Agency)
Let’s get one thing straight: Judas Priest hasn’t signed its epitaph just yet.
This despite the fact that the British heavy metal pioneers arrived at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night as part of their final/farewell world trek - also known as their Epitaph tour - to the delight of 7,000 cheering, air punching fans.
However, shrieking, rocking, sartorially S&M-inspired lead singer Rob Halford, now 60 and who rejoined the group in 2003, has since clarified in interviews they will continue to tour, just not in one big chunk around the globe at one time.
In other words, Toronto - in all likelihood – will see them again.
In the meantime, the boys from Birmingham didn’t look or sound any worse for wear as they took to a stage draped in large chains with a couple of small disco balls, oversized pitch forks, and the occasional burst of dry ice and green or red laser lights and a video backdrop.
The bald and bearded Halford, resplendent in a black leather duster, sequins, platform boots (with chains), and wielding a cane at times (a look upstaged only by a floor length silver sequined cape with a hood and pitchfork later in the show), was in good, operatic vocal form as he took the audience through a two-hour-and-20-minute look back at the band’s 40 year career.
Crowd pleasers included Metal Gods, Heading Out To The Highway, Judas Rising, Starbreaker, Nightcrawler, Turbo Lover, Beyond The Realms of Death, The Sentinel, Blood Red Skies, Breaking The Law, and - apparently Halford’s own personal favourite - Victim of Changes.
“The priest is back,” said Halford, dramatically to huge cheers, at the beginning of the night.
The only person who has served in the band longer than Halford and lead guitarist Glenn Tipton (the only one in red leather pants on Tuesday night) is original bassist Ian Hill, with two newer recruits in the form of drummer Scott Travis (with the band since 1989) and this year’s new lead guitarist Richie Faulkner (who replaced original guitarist K.K. Downing when he announced he was retiring in April).
Otherwise, it was a sea of black leather amidst mighty loud metal fuelled by fast chugging twin guitars and a lumbering rhythm section with Travis sitting up on riser that had steps onto which Halford often climbed.
The biggest surprise was their commendable cover of folk singer Joan Baez’s Diamonds and Rust, which began acoustically before the metal came back in full force.
There was also the requisite sight of the two guitarists and Halford bent over at the front of the stage in unison as they rocked back and forth or the musicians crossing their guitars in front of the singer.
However, you sliced it, it was classic metal, Priest-style.
They saved the best for last though with an encore made up of the two-pronged punch of Hell Bent For Leather, with Halford riding on stage atop a motorcycle wearing a black leather cap and silver sequined coat with a riding crop between his teeth, and You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’, with some nice guitar work from Faulkner on the latter.
Then Halford appeared back on stage for the second encore draped in a Canadian flag that had been thrown on stage for the final song of the night, Living After Midnight.
The Metal Gods, classy and classic to the very end.