It’s Friday night at Bloodstock and we’re gearing up for the mighty Judas Priest, the stage is set with giant ‘Devils tuning fork’ backdrops and standing props and smoke is billowing in from the sides. Entering to Sabbath’s ‘War Pigs’ and a barrage of stage lights, Rob Halford is still rocking the signature fringed leather and sunglasses look, despite the now dark skies. Kicking off with brand spanking new track ‘Firepower’ – a polished but ultimately traditional Priest sound, it’s clear we’re in for a treat.
Halford shouts out “C’mon Bloodstock the priest is back! Are you ready for some heavy metal?” to a roar of approval in reply and a sea of horns are raised across the arena. Busting through hits like ‘The Ripper’ and ‘Turbo Lover’, we’re getting nothing but pure old-school heavy metal – which is especially poignant since Halford is almost dressed in heavy metal himself, sporting what look to be silver chaps, a la Tinman from Oz.
A pride flag waves in the middle of the crowd, presumably as a tribute to Halford himself who publicly revealed his homosexuality during an MTV interview, and became an early advocate for LGBT presence in the metal community. Indeed, metal for everyone; inclusion and diversity, is always a line that Bloodstock has kept at the forefront of their festival ethos.
The stage screen backdrops change to scrolling newspapers and an image of Big Ben for ‘The Ripper’ and there’s a distinct possibility of permanent retinal damage with the insane amount of strobe light use during ‘Saints In Hell’. Yelling “Thank you so much! Heavy metal is forever right?” the metal certainly does just keep on coming. Now dressed in an extraordinarily sparkly trench coat reminiscent of a giant disco ball, and wielding a blue lightsabre for no clear reason at all, we get right into the good stuff. ‘You’ve got another thing coming’ has everyone headbanging along with the band as a Black Country flag flutters on the screens – particularly relevant here in the Midlands. As is traditional, Halford rides his motorcycle on stage wearing yet another fringed jacket and leather baker-boy cap for ‘Hellbent for Leather’, which frankly is something to aspire to. If you ever get the chance to include a motorcycle as part of your essential stage kit – well you’ve definitely made it.
The encore sees guitarist Glenn Tipton join the band on stage, who has recently revealed that Parkinson’s disease would require him to step down from performing. Despite this, Tipton absolutely smashes Priest super-hit ‘Breaking The Law’ to crowd-wide chants for him, it’s a really powerful moment. Halford calls out “Thank you so much. Thank you for having us back home, this is where we’re from, the home of metal” and indeed this sort of homecoming for the band, with almost 50 years under their belts, must feel all the more special. Closing out with new record ‘No Surrender’ and finally ‘Living After Midnight’, this really has been one of the best Judas Priest gigs we’ve had the pleasure of attending, and we’re sincerely hoping it’s not the last. As Halford crows; “We'll be back, we are Judas fucking Priest!”.
© Photograph courtesy of Bloodstock Festival