DEEP PURPLE / JUDAS PRIEST / THE TEMPERANCE MOVEMENT
If you’d ask me when this tour had been announced, I would have told you that having DEEP PURPLE and JUDAS PRIEST on the same billing is a rather strange pairing, simply because the two bands do not share much when it comes to music style. Or do they? Well, considering when PURPLE and PRIEST were formed, then it is pretty straightforward to assume the two parties shared the same influences. Yeah, creating music in late '70s in the UK meant that you had the same education. So, my “strange pairing” thinking turned into shivers down my spine when I realized the one-century worth of music history when both bands’ CVs were combined. Ok, I will cut myself some slack because these two bands do not attract the same crowds, with PURPLE being closer to older ages, and PRIEST, to younger metalheads since they're closer to the Metal sound.
Walking from the parking lot to the venue and enjoying the almost Fall breeze, I found out that the scales were leaning towards the older generation and this was such a shame because tasting the music-performing in this level is something to regret if you let it slip. The only downside of the show was that it was in the middle of the week, and being outside Chicago made it a no-go for a lot of unlucky ones, especially if you consider the low ticket price.
All the photographers had to be escorted to the photo pit for the PRIEST set and this meant that we missed the opening band. In fact, it was after the “War Pigs” intro when we reached the pit, facing the JUDAS PRIEST logo on the huge curtain that was blocking the stage, pushing the excitement level to the red when the first notes of “Firepower” kicked in. Sure, this was the same intro as happened in the PRIEST headlining show earlier this year, but the excitement was at the same level. The only difference with this time is that the band has been playing the new songs for quite a while, so the transition between the old and the new had to be smoother. Hearing and seeing the band delivering the title track live, was enough to confirm this. Of course and I still miss the trademark guitar-duo, but at the same time I have to give more credit than I did the last time to Faulkner and Sneap for having become part of this Metal machine. The Metal God immediately drew all the attention wearing his sunglasses and singing the lyrics with his ageless voice. Rob Halford remains one of the most powerful personas in Metal holding one of the best voices this scene has ever seen, and I won’t take any objections on this. And to top these off (if it is even possible), Mr. Rob can spread massive waves of enthusiasm just by raising the horns and looking at the crowd with his disarming honesty. No pausing, as it was time for the trademark (I will be using this word a lot in this text) guitar rhythm of “Grinder” that let Rob state that “The PRIEST is back” in all its glory, with “Sinner” sealing the deal. Richie Faulkner has gained a lot of confidence in his stage presence and has managed to handle the heavy-weight duty of filling K. K. Downing’s shoes. I mean, Richie has his way of working the crowd without trying to be someone he is not, and I believe everyone who has seen him onstage will agree with me saying that it is a joy watching all his guitar-poses and how he connects with the audience sharing evil smiles, grimaces and fooling around with the guitar picks. One thing that is fun to watch is how Richie becomes serious whenever Rob comes close to him, but that’s absolutely understandable as no one would dare to not pay attention to the Metal God!
I appreciate the fact that the band chose to skip all the chit-chat (although listening to Rob is always a delight), having as many songs as possible hitting us back to back. This highlighted how great the new songs match the older material, with “Bloodstone” following the super-catchy “Lightning Strike”. The audience did want some time to catch up, and it was with “Turbo Lover” when the first loud singing-along turned up the heat, getting Rob’s sign of approval. Of course, this is understandable as that album (along with “Defenders Of The Faith” and “Screaming For Vengeance”) was a huge success in the US market. Rob was occasionally changing outfits without missing a bit from his legendary Metal-iness, while Andy Sneap looked more comfortable in his also lead-heavy duty to fill-in for Glenn Tipton whose friendly face (aside from his guitar playing) is painfully missed. Anyways, life goes on, and after the last two songs from the latest PRIEST (which sounded even better than the first time I heard them live), “Freewheel Burning” knocked our socks off; I love the riffs in this one and the pairing with “You've Got Another Thing Comin'” is awesome. As you imagine, the chanting and singing along during the latter was cut short because this was a co-headlining spot.
There can be no PRIEST show without the characteristic V-twin engine sound and in the way enters the stage riding a custom-made HD stating without speaking that it was time for “Hell Bent For Leather”. After this crowd-pleaser, the band left Scott Travis onstage who rhetorically asked: “Chicago, how are you doing tonight?” before lying: “we have time for one more”... Hehe, there can be no PRIEST set without a couple of classic ones. What was next was effectively introduced by the iconic drum-intro of “Painkiller”. It’s amazing hearing Rob challenging his voice singing this ultra-demanding piece, and it gets a bit emotional seeing the figure of K.K. Downing in the video projections on the back. Oh man, how we miss him...
After the short break, the PRIEST was back stating once more the band’s position in the Metal history with “Metal Gods”. This may seem like exaggerating to some, but think about this; how many Metal bands out there are still performing at this level and are still producing songs that deserve a spot in a setlist, and you will see where my statement comes from. “Breaking the what?” asked Rob following the tradition of how to introduce “Breaking The Law” which, of course, got one of the loudest singing-along moments of the evening, leaving “Living After Midnight” to drop the curtain. It goes without saying that the set felt extremely short, but at the same time I took comfort from Rob’s saying that “the PRIEST will be back” and, of course, we will be there to greet him!
JUDAS PRIEST setlist:
04. “Lightning Strike”
06. “Turbo Lover”
08. “Rising From Ruins”
09. “Freewheel Burning”
10. “You've Got Another Thing Comin'”
11. “Hell Bent For Leather”
13. “Metal Gods”
14. “Breaking The Law”
15. “Living After Midnight”
(click to enlarge)
I saw some people leaving after JUDAS PRIEST, and really, it did not make sense. I mean, even though this may not be “your sound”, DEEP PURPLE have a strong connection with Metal, having influenced a boatload of bands and having set the foundations for a couple of genres, with Progressive being one of them. On the other side of this coin, I was happy to see teenagers on the side of their parents wearing DEEP PURPLE t-shirts and look excited to get a hearty music history lesson. Still, it was a bit of a mystery whether PURPLE could match the energy of PRIEST, especially after the stage had been cleared from all the props with Don Airey’s impressive Hammond / keyboards setup being on a highest level than the drums. At the same time, this setup took us down the memory lane when the focus was on the band’s performance, stripped away from all the effects and lights which sometimes work as smoke and mirrors. And this made the set extremely special as it put on the spotlight the depth of musicianship this lineup possesses.
After the “Mars, The Bringer Of War” intro, with the “Deep Purple In Rock” looking alike image on the back, one by one the band members entered the stage bringing along their unique aura that was about to take the venue on the different time and space… Sure, it took some time into “Highway Star” for Ian Gillan’s hue to reach the working mood but the way these fine musicians presented themselves was more than enough to compensate for this “delay”. Being at a spitting distance from these living legends was enough to give me goosebumps and then to witness this close Steve Morse’s six-string craftsmanship, taste Don Airey’s fluid Hammond playing, observe ageless Roger Glover’s bass action being topped off by Ian Paice’s drumming was the icing on this Hard Rock cake. Like I said, it took one song for Ian Gillan to get all of his singing cylinders firing, so “Pictures Of Home” put the spotlight on the psychedelia mixed with the jamming playing that nowadays we like to call Progressive. All this was done with grace, and even though some of the keyboard and guitar parts are still super-challenging for even the die-hard shredders, DEEP PURPLE delivered those like it was as trivial as breathing. No I am not exaggerating and I will claim the solo part of “Pictures Of Home” to back me up - enough said!
Of course “Strange Kind Of Woman” was a lift-you-from-your seat moment and rightfully so as it was executed with the same passion as the studio version possesses. Or maybe, the veteran lineup added some more flavors in those tunes and may have changed some parts to better match Gillan but nothing that even a nitpicker would complain about.
The weather was perfect and I swear DEEP PURPLE may had something to do with it because I had the impression that the nice breeze started blowing in the first and slow part of “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming” which Mr. Gillan introduced like this: “we are gonna do some ballads and some poetry”. Oh my, everything was super-sweet and this is the moment when I realized that DEEP PURPLE had just hit the button on their time-machine and took everyone along into a trip into the Hard Rock multi-dimension universe where a small number of bands have the guts to go. At that point, it did not matter from what era the songs were coming because the performance was enough to suck you in. If the first part of “Uncommon Man” does not move you, then you have not let yourself enjoy the music outside the boundaries you have put on your mind / ears, training them to listen to specific types of music. The magic between Steve Morse and Don Airey is unparalleled and this song was the perfect showcase. The latter gentlemen got more time to shine during the extended keyboard intro of “Lazy” and it felt awesome when the audience recognized the song from the bits and pieces Don used in this solo / intro. By the way, it is impossible not to love the Blues-y guitar line in this one. To have “Knocking At Your Back Door” as a follow-up was amazing for everyone, and for me was also moving. You see, the first time I heard the “Perfect Strangers” record was through a mono cassette tape player, and my poor English back then did not hold me back singing-along, even though all I was singing was gibberish. After all, sometimes it is all about the emotions you feel when you listen to the music you like and the memories that bring with.
“The amazing Don Airey” Ian Gillan said with a string of adjectives to underline the musicality of this fine keyboard player has, so for the next couple of minutes the spotlight was on him. The solo led to another shivers-down-your-spine moment with “Perfect Strangers” being the ultimate climax of the night. Everything was perfect (no pun indented); the headbanging keyboard / guitar part, the crystal clear vocals, the grooviest bass / drums rhythm section of the night and the audience’s participation made this such a special moment. “Get up there and do some space truckin’” said Ian Gillan and I think everyone followed his orders. Unfortunately, we were very close to call it a night and I think everyone was anticipating the most recognizable riffs in Hard Rock. Yeah, I’m talking about “Smoke On The Water” and even though I have heard this a gazillion of times, it still feels special live with the newspaper pictures on the background screens telling the story of the lyrics. This is how DEEP PURPLE said goodnight, and even though some started leaving their seats to beat the traffic, the call back was loud enough to bring the Brits back onstage for one more; after some jamming around with what I believe was John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom”, DEEP PURPLE close the set with the groovy and dance-along track originally written by Joe South, “Hush”.
The initially-negative thoughts of the pairing of the two legendary bands had just evaporated and were replaced with a boatload of memories and emotions. And for me, these things are the ingredients of a great show which becomes an unforgettable memory, so I feel obliged to say a big “thank you” to both of these bands!
DEEP PURPLE setlist:
01. “Highway Star”
02. “Pictures Of Home”
04. “Strange Kind Of Woman”
05. “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming”
06. “Uncommon Man”
07. Keyboard Solo (by Don Airey) / “Lazy”
08. “Knocking At Your Back Door”
09. Keyboard Solo (by Don Airey)
10. “Perfect Strangers”
11. “Space Truckin'”
12. “Smoke On The Water”
(click to enlarge)