CONCERT REVIEW: Judas Priest & Sabaton Both Rock Warlando
Orlando could not have asked for a better person to deliver a rock show than Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford.
The return of British metal rockers Judas Priest to Central Florida came amid the reemergence of the ever increasing global pandemic that continues to play heavily on the minds of many who attended Warlando metal festival on a sprinkle-filled steamy Saturday night. Judas Priest made their only Florida appearance this year, having last played there in 2019. Surprising was the fact that the Orlando Amphitheater was only about half full for a venue that has a 10,000-person capacity, leaving plenty of room to socially distance if that was your concern. Masks were nearly non-existent as is the norm at concerts these days. While it would have been great to see a couple of missing band members who didn’t make the trip across the pond, those who attended had the opportunity to experience an unbelievable concert by one of the greatest metal bands of all time — and certainly one of the most glaring omissions from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
As the stage lights dropped to near darkness, Black Sabbath’s 1970 tune “War Pigs” pumped through the sound system. As the battle hymn played, Judas Priest’s symbolic mark was lowered from the ceiling, glowing blood red, symbolizing the band’s darker side. Drummer Scott Travis walked on stage and took his spot perched atop his drum kit. Halford moved into position with his back to the audience as the crowd ramped up with chants of “Priest, Priest, Priest…” with all fervor; it was time to get it on.
Prior to the tour, Halford and Ian Hill announced that the band’s 50 Heavy Metal Years tour would feature songs that aren’t normally part of the band’s more popular setlists. This was the case on Saturday as Priest immediately kicked things into overdrive with the politically charged tune “One Shot at Glory” (1990), a song that is rarely played live. Having just turned 70 a few weeks ago, Halford’s low tenor voice remains masterfully powerful, and he still commands massive stage presence. Judas Priest’s longtime guitarist Glenn Tipton doesn’t tour with the band any longer; Andy Sneap fills that role and holds his own; he has been a touring musician with Judas Priest since early 2018. Bringing the energy and sexiness to guitar playing is Richie Faulkner, who, along with his signature flying V, delivered a non-stop despotic performance, and one can only wonder why Faulkner is left off many greatest lists; he should be mentioned as one of the very best.
Now with Judas Priest in full attack mode, they quickly got into “Lightning Strike,” “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” “Freewheel Burning,” “Turbo Lover,” “Hell Patrol,” “The Sentinel,” “A Touch of Evil,” “Rocka Rolla,” “Victim of Changes,” “Desert Plains,” and a tribute to 9/11 with “Blood Red Skies, Invader” and “Painkiller.” For their encore, “The Hellion” track played as Judas Priest made their return to the stage, making sure that fans were rewarded for attending by digging into the band’s massively successful catalog of hits for “Electric Eye” and “Hell Bent for Leather,” “Breaking the Law” and ending with “Living After Midnight.”
Swedish combat metal rockers Sabaton also made their only Florida appearance in the past few years. As with Priest, this band puts a tremendous effort in their production and appearance, as the band all were dressed in camo, combat boots, gas masks and all camo guitars. The mic stands were m-16’s pointed down with a combat helmet atop. With founding members Joakim Brodén in his trademark mohawk and wearing his bullet-proof vest on lead vocals and Pär Sundström on bass, they along with guitarists Chris Rörland and Tommy Johansson and drummer Hannes Van Dahl gave the crowd an incredible show. Sabaton remains massively strong in the U.K. and throughout Scandinavia while not quite as popular here stateside. Fans of the band showed up to support the band’s rare Florida appearance. After their set about 20% of those in attendance left, perhaps after too many hours standing in the non-stop steady sprinkle that lasted until mid-way through Sabaton’s incredible 12-song set.
They sang at the top of their lungs. They danced away their worries and their pain. They bonded with loved ones and complete strangers. They joined Halford near the night’s end in a primal, cathartic scream.