Shit Yeah: Red, White, and Priest!

It was my grandmother of all people who bought me a ticket to see Judas Priest this last Independence Day. My brother and all my friends had been bragging constantly for the last three months about their luck to finally to see Halford and Co. I was seething with envy, mainly because without them, my Fourth would’ve been quite boring. And who in their right mind would want to miss what could be the last chance to see the almighty Priest in all their glory? Not I. My grandmother (Gammy as I call her) got wind of this and in her infinite maternal generosity offered to buy me a ticket. May the Gods of Metal bless her kind heart.

My ride to the show almost didn’t make it due to a classic teenage conundrum (even though he’s 27) that could only befall a Priest fan. Apparently he and his brother were trapped at some family gathering at Sun River all weekend and couldn’t leave until the day of the concert. To gear up for the concert and to make the ride into town a little more interesting, they had been toking copious amounts of reefer. As fate would have it, while gunning up the highway to make it into town on time, they were pulled over by a state trooper for speeding. Due to an out-of-date insurance card, my friend’s car was almost towed and searched, which would have gotten him arrested. He finally appealed to the cop telling him that there was an important concert that they were desperate to attend. Luckily the cop found it in his heart to let them be, and they managed to get us to the Clark County Amphitheater just before opener Queensr�che started up.

As luck would have it, we managed to park right near some friends of ours. They were in full “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” mode, drinking homemade sangria and blasting Merciful Fate out of their pick-up trucks. Everyone passing gave drunken yelps of camaraderie. I would’ve happily spent all of Queensr�che’s set there in the parking lot but the security made us move along inside.

Inside the amphitheatre, I was one of the few people who did not have tattoos, was not wearing black and was sober. The crowd at the place consisted mainly of grown up heshers, their teenage hesher sons, and a lot of women who looked like aging strippers. I expected a number of Portland hipsters to show up – if just for the irony of it all – but for the most part all those there were quite earnestly hell-bent for Priest.

I remember hearing their hits on the radio a few years back, but I never was quite the fan. “Empire” was their big mainstream hit album, but apparently “Operation Mindcrime” is their masterpiece. Though they did play the song “Empire,” they didn’t play their other hit, a ballad piece known as “Silent Lucidity.” I can’t really say I dig their brand of prog-metal, but I will say that they do have a lot of moxie. I would dub Eddie Jackson the Tom Jones of Heavy Metal.

Opening for the infamous “Electric Eye,” Halford burst out wearing a get-up that made him look like an evil warlock. He managed to hit most of the high notes of all the old numbers, though he did look a bit strained belting them out. He would bend over while bracing himself on the mic stand as he sung, expanding on the evil wizard vibe while trying to squeeze out whatever evil was left inside him. The crowd in the meantime did not let up, and gobbled whatever the band dished out.

Because I’m not too familiar with the whole of their songs, I sat in my seat sipping cola and observing the crowd, who were all drunk. (A friend of mine got an unceremonious cut-off ‘X’ on her hand from security for getting really drunk and making out with a female acquaintance of hers.

It wasn’t until they played what seemed like 20-minute version of “Victim of Changes”, that I really got into it. Luckily they stuck to a lot of their old stuff: “Diamonds and Rust,” “Breaking the Law,” “You Gotta Another Thing Comin’,” (my favorite) “Exciter” as well as “Hell Bent For Leather” – during which Halford drove out on stage on a Harley (RAD!).

Although I am not 15 and it is not 1982, the Priest made me wish it was so. And it surely beat a stupid fireworks display.