It’s not every day you get to see one of the pioneers of an entire genre play live in front of your own eyes — let alone a pioneer band that’s been established for 50 years now. But that’s exactly what fans were treated to at the Armory in downtown Minneapolis Thursday night as Sabaton and Judas Priest brought a heavy metal extravaganza to the masses.
To me, this night felt like the perfect night for a show. A night that I had been patiently waiting for. While I have integrated myself back into attending live music for a few months now, I hadn’t seen a proper metal show since before the pandemic. So it’s safe to say I was itching for this one. However, as a self-proclaimed metal head, I walked into the Armory feeling a sense of disbelief that I had never seen Judas Priest perform live before. They’re one of the bands, you know? While admittedly I am rusty when it comes to having an in-depth knowledge of their expansive catalog, this is a band I have respected and have had on my concert “bucket list” for years. They are one of the pillars of metal and a massive influence for some of my all time favorite bands.
I walked into the Armory feeling somewhat blind, not knowing what to expect setlist-wise or stage show-wise. But I was eager to see what Judas Priest would bring. You don’t celebrate 50 years of heavy metal without pulling a few surprises or punches. And I knew we were in for a treat.
Swedish heavy metal band Sabaton kicked off the evening with an explosive set of war songs and instantly got the crowd head-banging and raising devil horns high in the sky. Sabaton came out with lots of energy, and were incredibly fun to watch. During their set, I was mostly impressed by the sheer number of Sabaton shirts that populated the crowd. For awhile, it almost seemed like the Sabaton fans were outnumbering the Priest fans. Granted, not everyone shows up for the opener, but you can tell this band has some massive die-hards. And for a band that centers their songs about heroism and battle, lead singer Joakim Brodén looks the part of a hardened Viking brute. Sabaton is a badass band that sets a tone of power and velocity.
Priest’s first song, “One Shot at Glory”, was absolutely electric, as the guitar, band outfits, and intense light show were all instantly glamorous and mesmerizing. Rob Halford emerged from behind the stage like a mythical creature arriving out of the shadows with his circle shades and extravagant, bedazzling leather jacket. No question, Halford still boasts the attitude and aura of a true rock and roll icon, even at 70-years old.
The rest of Judas Priests’ set felt like it moved incredibly quickly, as the band really didn’t spend time slowing down or taking much time for stage banter. But that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. They knocked out song after song, keeping the audience on their toes with a mix of familiar classics and deeper cuts.
The band was tight and the stage show delivered everything you could want from a classic heavy metal gig. There were stage props, fire, an over the top light show that accompanied every song, and plenty of squealing guitar solos and iconic high-pitched screams from Halford, who could still hit all the song’s high notes. It was a treat to see the band having fun, interacting with the fans, and enjoying their craft. When you’ve been around for 50 years, it’s easy to slip into the habit of feeling comfortable and jaded. But Judas Priest still looked young and invigorated, sharing their passion for the music.
And sure enough, Priest didn’t leave the fans empty handed, as their encore consisted of popular tunes “Electric Eye”, “Hell Bent for Leather”, “Breaking the Law”, “Living After Midnight”. After seeing the kind of show this band can still bring, hopefully this is just the beginning of 50 more years of heavy metal.