Last night me and my wife took a drive out to the Sleep Train Pavilion in Concord for a Heavy Metal double bill of Judas Priest and Whitesnake. The first time for me seeing either band, I like Judas Priest and like David Coverdale's music a lot so it seemed like a good time to check them out. My wife had bought our tickets online and got us really good ones about 21 rows back from the stage. It was a comfortable Summer night in Concord and after parking we were able to drink in the atmosphere immediately.
That's because the walk to the main gate through the lot was straight outta Heavy Metal Parking Lot. That famous 80's documentary that was filmed in the parking lot of a Judas Priest concert in 1986 was reenacted with older, fatter, balder people (since I'm all three, I feel safe in saying that). There were tailgate parties spread across the lot as people caroused, one supercool guy was a little flabby, had long blond hair and a bandanna so we dubbed him "Jani Lane". Mr. Lane was near us both in the parking lot and in seating so we saw him (though he had no Down Boys) and saw him "livin' the life" as they say in that Mark Wahlberg movie Rock Star. Just the walk to our seats alone was a lot of fun. This led to the opening act.
Pop Evil is probably one of the worst named bands around. They played in a way that straddled the line between nu metal and arena rock. The performance was competent, the lead singer had these interesting sorta martial arts motions and the songs were just meh. What was memorable was how the lead singer kept going for the cheap audience pop. He started off by saluting all of us who rock to Judas Priest and Whitesnake or something like that early on. Then he later saluted us for living in California because they had written a song about the Golden State (they're from Michigan). Best of all, he gave us all props for being "amazing people" (to which I said "Hey, that's us!"). It was nice to see young people rock out, though the music itself didn't sway me one way or the other.
The stage was then set for the band I was waiting for the most, David Coverdale's Whitesnake. When I say the stage was set, I mean it literally because it had a giant Whitesnake banner and a drum riser and everything a classic hair band should have. Presentation is important in this genre. With only a little fanfare of a pretaped music and lighting intro, the head snake slithered onto the stage with a big grin and was quickly followed by his band. He grabbed the mike and with a little audio board assistance, gave exhorted the crowd with some splendorous hard rock shouts that might have been "Are you ready to rock?" or something along those lines. Then the band kicked into high gear. The set list I remember was:
Best Years / Bad Boys / Love Ain't No Stranger / Slow N Easy / Lay Down Your Love / Twin Guitar Solos / Crying In The Rain - Drum Solo / Is This Love / Give Me All Your Love / Here I Go Again / Still Of The Night
Obviously the set list squared exactly on Whitesnake's self titled 1987 album, their biggest hit. The first song was "Best Years" from last year's Good To Be Bad disc, a song that sorta sounds like The Allman Brother's "Whipping Post" except it was sped up a bit. Early on I got to see one of the best frontmen for showmanship in the biz as Coverdale scampered to all sides of the stage to point at the audience for a reaction. He led hand claps and I finally saw in person what I think he may be the very best at: microphone stand twirling. It spins, it thrusts, it can even cut through this aluminum can! And that's not all, even without the enhanced audio on his voice Coverdale still sounded strong considering his age.
"Bad Boys" was great since we had just listened to it in the car on the way up to the show. Coverdale then reminded the audience of the 25th anniversary of the Slide It In record leading to one of my all time favorite Whitesnake songs, "Love Ain't No Stranger". My wife sang along to "Stranger" perfectly as the band raged through it. Lead guitarist Doug Aldrich made his presence known looking like a reincarnated Randy Rhodes as he fired off one dazzling solo after another. Then the band followed that up with the second best of Whitesnake's Led Zep rips, the brilliant "Slow N Easy". Coverdale's crack band didn't miss a single stop time beat.
The middle of the show said "bathroom break" to the audience as I enjoyed the excellent "Lay Down Your Love" also from last years cd. Extensive twin guitar solos ensued mainly featuring Aldrich who has all the poser metal solo moves down. Riff a little, go fast and then hammer on. Aldrich had so much presence that 2nd guitarist Reb Beach (ex-Winger, Dokken, Night Ranger) got less audience reaction despite having had more commercial success (everytime you hear "Seventeen" or "Headed For A Heartbreak", you're hearing Reb Beach). Though that could be because Aldrich is a more permanent member of 'Snake that Aldrich gets more face time with the audience.
After the solos ended the band returned to go into "Crying In The Rain" which led into a big drum solo. The solo was very good by this guy that looked like a cross between Aerosmith's Joey Kramer and the guy that's the brother to the ex-husband of Jessica Simpson that won Dancing With The Stars that one time. The lone power ballad of the evening "Is This Love" sounded awesome and they had this keyboard player in black leather and a mullet that looked like he literally walked straight outta 1981. Next up was "Give Me All Your Love" which was funny because we didn't think that song would get played. Although I didn't want to because I knew the set was headed for its close, I absolutely had to use the bathroom. So I took the long walk around the concourse and up the stairs to the rest rooms.
My hearing was so shot at this stage that I didn't hear any more music until I came back down to the seating area. I was bummed that I was coming in on the last minute of "Here I Go Again". I couldn't help but take in the irony that the song I missed (that I love) would be the theme to my toilet visit. Here I Go Again on my own indeed. My wife said I was just in time because everyone knew what was coming next.
With a big whooshing guitar 'Snake jumped into "Still Of The Night". My wife looked great headbanging in the strobing stage lights. Flashbacks of "Night" being a MTV Buzz Clip went through my mind as the band went ballistic on this charging riff rocker.
And that closed Whitesnake's set, Coverdale gave props to his bassist who was having a birthday. They did the classic arm in arm bow to the audience followed by clowning around just like you would see in those old music videos that would be the B reel black and white stuff. All in all, it was a great concert and it wasn't even all over yet!
A curtain picturing a steel town went up while the stage was prepared for headliners Judas Priest. The audience was more of a Priest crowd as I saw tons of Judas Priest T Shirts worn and nary a Whitesnake. During the intermission the PA played Ac/Dc's "T.N.T." which led to the whole audience going "Oy! Oy!" in time to the music. Then the lights went down. The steel town noises of clanking metal hammers started. A laser picture of a guy hammering down steel rivets played on the front curtain. The curtain fell and the band started their show which focused heavily on British Steel (due to it's anniversary they said so I assume its 30 years?). I like Judas Priest but have been a casual fan so I don't have a ton of knowledge about their music. So this may not be entirely accurate, the set list I remember was:
Rapid Fire / Metal Gods / Breakin' The Law / Grinder / United / Living After Midnight / You Don't Have To Be Old To Be Wise / The Rage / Steeler / The Ripper / Prophecy / Some other song that was fast and I didn't recognize.
encore: Hell Patrol / a few other songs but we left at that point to beat traffic
As my wife noted last night, even though I had seen Metallica this was the first true Metal concert I've been to because Judas Priest definitely rocked harder. All of the stereotypical trappings of this type of show came to life, the green lazer lights just like in the "You've Got Another Thing Comin" clip, low hanging bright lights, smoke machines (which were on for Whitesnake too but on stronger it seemed for Priest) and a sea of devil horn throwing arms at every turn chanting "Priest! Priest! Priest! Priest!".
The sound mix seemed to bury the vocals for me from the outset and improved as the set wore on, though my wife said it sounded fine so it may have been my hearing (two days later my hearing is still muffled and ringing). All of the other instruments were crystal clear to me so I was pretty sure this was "Rapid Fire". "Metal Gods" is a song I liked a lot and immediately recognized as I watched well known Metal stage moves like the two people or more standing next to each other rocking left to right in unison or the twirling drum sticks in between beats. These old guys still wore those great black and red leather outfits and the big hair. It was incredible.
Lead singer Rob Halford sounded great from what I could tell, after "Gods" he explained that all of British Steel was to be played. The band then cranked up "Breaking The Law" as Halford bit into the snappish delivery of the tune. I noticed Halford had a unique stage presence compared to most Metal singers. Like if you take David Coverdale, the guy worked the whole stage and audience incessantly with poses, hand claps and pointing both arms out to the audience. Halford kinda walks around sometimes with his back to the audience with the slow pace of a man going to the fridge at 2am for something to eat (not that I would know anything about that). When he would get pumped (as he would later during "Steeler") he would swing his arms around more or sorta hop on one leg. That's not to say his stage presence was bad, it was actually really cool like saying "I'm gonna sing this and if you like it well then great." it's just different than what I've seen before. Needless to say, "Breaking The Law" worked the crowd into a frenzy.
"Grinder" went by without a hitch as various audience members ran up and down the aisles to try to get a closer view. There was this one guy that ran up about six times, frantically head banging and air guitaring all over the place and then running back. It was pretty funny. "United" was another highpoint and the militant march of the beat gave the drummer a chance to shine.
The highlight of the Priest set for me was "Living After Midnight" if only because I love the song anyway. Live it really caught fire, particularly in the bridge as guitarists KK Downing and Glenn Tipton tore it up with Halford dodging between the two to whip out his lines. The Bunny said I looked really happy and I enjoyed watching her head bang like crazy.
"You Don't Have To Be Old To Be Wise" slowed down the pace a bit as it should after such a blazin song, which is funny in that "Wise" isn't even a slow song. "The Rage" gave the bass playin' dude a moment to get some attention before they went to "Steeler". On "Steeler" Halford seemed to really be feeling, swinging his whole body too and fro as the eyes rolled into the back of his head while he sang.
That ended the British Steel section so Priest ripped into "The Ripper". "Prophecy" from last years Nostradamus disc came up and actually impressed me because it's not unusual for an old band to sound tired on new material. This sounded strong and matched well with their other work. They then played some fast song and ended it by going back stage.
After a brief time off stage Priest returned for their encore with "Hell Patrol". Me and the Bunny wanted to beat the traffic so we left at that time. She had bought me a Judas Priest shirt so now I have some nice memorabilia of my first true Metal concert. Thank you to the Bunny for her great idea of going to this show. Love ya Bun! \^^/