Judas Priest – The one and only Metal Gods with a career spanning almost 5 decades(!) return to SE Asia and I was very honoured and glad to be able to catch them in Singapore (with BabyMetal, 4 Dec) and Jakarta, Indonesia (7 Dec).

In Singapore, Babymetal warmed the crowd up with a short yet satisfying “best of” set. They hardly stopped between their popular songs such as “MEGITSUNE”, “GIMME CHOCOLATE!!”, and ended the set with “ROAD OF RESISTANCE”, signature flags and all. Having charmed the entire world with their unconventional blend of Jpop-Idol concept and Heavy Metal, the girls (with a seemingly new member) delivered with excellent choreography, despite the obvious lip syncing here and there. The KAMI Band was on form and the band could do no wrong in terms of playing – with the triggered drum sound working very well with the virtuosic playing by the other members to deliver the industrial technical feel to the music. After their set I spoke to a few Priest die-hards and they all agreed that despite not being fans, the performance was great and very entertaining.
In an era where bands are either dragging out their eventual retirement or doing “original line-up” reunion tours for the money factor – Judas Priest goes against the norm and continues to perform beyond expectations, with a fantastic new album – “FIREPOWER” to boot!

After the signature “WAR PIGS” intro – the set starts with that title track which drove the crowd wild. The band is not shy of promoting the new album – including another 2 excellent tracks “NO SURRENDER” and the very melodic and epic “RISING FROM RUINS” into the usual mix of classics. Unlike other veteran bands with a huge classic repertoire, the new songs were well received and did not get the “blank stare silent treatment” at all.

The Jakarta show was the first time ever for Indonesian fans, and the Priest die-hards may have been caught off-guard at first with what they were seeing on stage – A 2018 Judas Priest playing without their trademark guitar heroes K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton flanking the stage. However, they were quickly eased into the set as Richie Faulkner and Andy Sneap held their ground with excellent showmanship and super clean technical playing via their Flying Vs. In a short span of time with the band, Richie Faulkner has proven himself to be THE showman, interacting with the crowd at every moment and playing (with his teeth at times) as if Hendrix had possessed him.

Rob Hatford’s movement was slightly sluggish, taking small breaks between songs to change outfits and letting the audience sing the occasional verse. However we are reminded that he is 67, and at his age his live performance and puts many of his peers who have not been able to deliver live vocals for decades to shame. Ian Hill was just being himself, enjoying just behind the limelight and delivering the basslines as he has been doing so for the many years. Scott Travis is the heartbeat of the band, never missing a beat and not forgetting to entertain by twirling, throwing and catching his sticks in between songs. He was definitely more cheerful and talkative in Jakarta, as the next day the band would take a well-deserved holiday break and head home.

“Painkiller” was the last song before the encore and Glenn Tipton was shown on the screen playing along via old live footage – Enough to make anyone who bought a ticket emotional. However, when the man himself walked through the curtains, the crowd knew magic was going to happen. The band played the 3 song encore with 3 guitar players – “Metal Gods”, “Breaking the Law” and “Living after Midnight”, lining up and delivering the signature Priest Swagger – swaying in unison and delighting the fans – who knew they were not only witnessing a blend of modern and classic priest, but also an emotional end of an era.

In Singapore, some fans were hoping that Priest and BabyMetal play together again like the few special times they had done, but with the appearance of Glenn I think nobody would complain that they did not. Here’s wishing Glenn the best of health!