rockford illinois entertainment guide
Date: 10/03/2005
A Rockford Metal Reunion - Judas Priest and Anthrax
by Gary Hill

Metal Gods Judas Priest and their compatriots Anthrax made their way into the Rockford Metro Centre on September 28th, and this represented a reunion on many levels. For one thing this was a return of classic heavy metal to Rockford, and it came back with style. On another level, it was a reunion of both bands with the Rockford area. The Priest hadn't been here since the 1980's and as Anthrax lead singer Joey Belladonna pointed out, that band had last been to Rockford opening for Pantera. This show, though, was also marking personal reunions for both bands. This was the first tour to feature the classic Belladonna Anthrax lineup in a good many years. In much the same way, this is the second leg of Priest's first headlining tour with classic vocalist Rob Halford back on board. The two bands showed that the metal has never been in better health than it is now.

Anthrax opened with "Among the Living" and it was quickly obvious that the audience was ready to eat it up. While their musical style is more tied to the older thrash than nu-metal, their stage presence might make you think otherwise. They have a nu-metal/hardcore ferocity and frenzy, running about the stage, headbanging like mad - and it works. The band stomped through a number of their trademark tunes and by the time it was over it seemed that their wasn't a person in the place who wasn't on their feet pumping their fists into the air. They had done their job very well, working the crowd into an excited metal euphoria in anticipation of the headliners - and all within an hour set.

After Anthrax it was Priest's turn, and while their style is a bit less raw and more traditional in terms of metal stage presence, they were definitely on top of their game this night. As one who has seen Judas Priest perform live on many occasions, I can safely say that this tour is their best - and this show did nothing but affirm that fact. The crowd although was smaller than the last time they were in Rockford - all the sections that were sold were filled, but there were whole sections (including the back half of the floor which didn't even have seats) that were not even in use. Still, I would say that they drew in about half the capacity of the Centre and those who were there were rabid in their intensity. It seemed that everyone in attendance, even those who seemed too young to have seen them last time they graced the forest city with their presence, were singing along to every song. There wasn't a person in the house who was "just there." The band certainly seemed appreciative of all the adoration, too.

Rob Halford always rules the Priest stage. His presence is a bit hard to describe, but you can't ignore it. There are times when it feels like he is some sort of a hard-edged dictatorial figure, then others when he seems almost like the ring master at a metal circus and still others where you might see him as a heavy metal father figure. In any event there is no time when his vocal presence goes unnoticed. For those unfamiliar with his sound, this man is the nearly undisputed voice of heavy metal. He has an unbelievable range from deep impassioned singing to higher than high metallic screams. As many singers get older their voices seem to weaken, but whatever Halford is doing for himself, it is working as his pipes maybe stronger than they were in the hey day of heavy metal.

While Halford is without a doubt the most noticeable part of the Priest live show, the other members all let their presence be known. Guitarists K. K. Downing and Glenn Tipton trade riffs and lay down crunchy layers of sound throughout the show. The rhythm section of Scott Travis (drums) and Ian Hill (bass) never lets up and never falters either. These two guys have been holding down the beat in this band for years, and it shows as they work together as a well oiled machine.

The band tore through a number of their classic tracks, and the one thing that is apparent is the difference between their style of metal and so many of the recent entries into the field. These guys understand the value of variety. They can crank it fast and furious with the best of them, but they also know how and when to take it down to near ballad like textures. This versatility is one of the Priest's biggest strong points.

Both of these bands surely burned up the stage that night, and showed Rockford that classic heavy metal is alive and well. While a nu metal show the same night at Forest Hills Lodge may have been part of the reason for the less than awesome turnout, there were enough younger people in the crowd to show that killer classic metal has a following even with the youth of today. If you missed this show, don't miss them again. If you were there, then I am simply preaching to the choir here. Either way, let's hope it's not another 20-years before the Priest comes back to Rockford.

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Judas Priest / Anthrax
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