Review by Val Tapia, BADS Contributing Writer
Photos by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Live Nation
Venue: AZ Federal Theatre, Phoenix, AZ
Date: Wednesday March 16th, 2022
Tour: 50 Heavy Metal Years
When one thinks of the term “dream tour”, a double-bill of Judas Priest and Queensryche together certainly comes to mind for many a metalhead.
Judging by the overall response both bands received on Wednesday night (3/16) at Arizona Federal Theatre (I still call it Dodge Theatre, but I digress), the majority of fans left very satisfied and seemed happy that live music is making a slow but steady comeback.
At 7:30 p.m. sharp, Queensryche hit the stage with a 12-song set and immediately takes the audience back to 1983 with set opener Queen Of The Reich. Despite some sound issues throughout the song, they were quickly rectified by the second song, Warning.
For this (roughly) six-week outing with Priest, the current incarnation of Queensryche (which consists of drummer Casey Grillo, original bassist Eddie Jackson, vocalist Todd La Torre, guitarist Mike Stone, and original lead guitarist Michael Wilton) decide to keep things “old school” on this tour, to one attendee’s apparent dismay. I spoke to Queensryche fan Lance Price, 44, from nearby Tempe. Here’s his take:
“I love the early Queensryche music as much as the next fan, but it’s disappointing to see them completely ignore their recent material (with La Torre). Why not add Where Dreams Go To Die, Guardian, or Spore? Those songs are just as good as anything the original lineup created as far as I’m concerned”, Price said— somewhat miffed.
Price’s friend Rick Klein, 48, of Gilbert disagrees. “If I’m a member of Queensryche and we’re opening for icons like Judas Priest, I’d want to play songs that the majority of people in that audience know and still love. To that point, albums like The Warning (1984) and Rage For Order (1986) still resonate with more metal fans overall than Condition Human and The Verdict. I think it’s just the band looking at things pragmatically in this kind of touring scenario”.
Back onstage, by the third song En Force, the band already had the crowd in the palm of their hands by the time another tune from The Warning surfaced, NM 156.
Next up is the title track from 1990’s Empire, which has remained a staple in Queensryche’s live set to this day. In short order, it never fails to bring the house down live, no matter what incarnation of the band one prefers.
Walk In The Shadows and The Whisper (both from Rage For Order) keep the show’s momentum going. However, instead of (the song) Operation: Mindcrime, a welcome change to the current set list would be Spreading The Disease, arguably one of Queensryche’s greatest (and most unheralded) songs in its catalog. It would be interesting to see La Torre’s take on it vocally (and Grillo’s drumming for that matter).
Ending the hour-long set with Take Hold Of The Flame, Screaming In Digital, and Eyes Of A Stranger, Queensryche did exactly what they set out to do: they left Judas Priest’s audience wanting more. It worked like a charm.
And…. speaking of (in Todd La Torre’s own words) “the mighty Judas Priest!”, they wasted no time in showing the Phoenix crowd why they’re closing the show. With a stage set up that resembled (I presume) a mock, Birmingham (England) steel-mill factory, the band gets going at 9:00 p.m. with a deep cut from 1990’s Painkiller, One Shot At Glory. Truth be told, it falls completely flat as a show opener. Sorry.
In this writer’s opinion, the rarely-played Ram It Down would’ve been a better opening song, with its ode to fans getting psyched up for a live show.
Lightning Strike (from their 2018 studio album Firepower) was the “newest” song played, and wasting no time, the band surprisingly goes into the 1982 “trademark” track You’ve Got Another Thing Coming for the third song of the night. Usually played toward the end of the show, I’m actually glad they got it out of the way early. Frankly, it isn’t one of their best by a long shot.
What can I say about Freewheel Burning? It’s Judas Priest doing what they do best. Next up, Turbo Lover, which surprisingly still goes down a storm live, in spite of many fans who consider 1986’s Turbo Judas Priest’s worst album to this day.
To Priest’s credit, during the 19-song set, they did perform a decent set of well-known songs and “deeper” album cuts. However, if I had a vote of cover songs, Diamonds and Rust would be dropped in favor of The Green Manalishi. At the other end of the spectrum, I prefer they had played The Ripper in lieu of Rocka Rolla. That’s a no-brainer, to be candid.
If one really wants to talk about when Judas Priest became JUDAS PRIEST, it’s pretty hard to argue Victim Of Changes is indeed that song. To quote U.K. veteran journalist Geoff Barton, Victim… was “perhaps the beginning of progressive metal”.
Or put another way, without a Judas Priest in the 70s, there would be no Queensryche a decade later. Period.
Back onstage though, Priest rolls out (funny enough) its most “Ryche-like” song in its discography, Blood Red Skies. Although not as strong live as the studio version, it went over fairly well.
Truth be told, it wouldn’t have been out of place on Rage For Order. That’s a compliment by the way, in case any of you were wondering.
The main set concluded with Painkiller, and also a few words from drummer Scott Travis prior to, thanking the crowd for sticking with the band and patiently waiting for this tour.
What to do for an encore, you might ask? Not to worry, the Priest had it all taken care of—-with one exception.
For the record, I’ll never understand why Electric Eye is played live, but The Hellion isn’t. Are you kidding me? I’m sure even the newest members of the band (guitarists Richie Faulkner and Andy Sneap) agree. Bad decision all-around gentlemen!
However, they deliver fine on Hell Bent For Leather, and to top it off, original guitarist Glenn Tipton makes a three-song appearance at this point. Most fans are aware that he’s been living with Parkinson’s Disease since 2007, and decided to step down from full-time touring in 2018. Since then, Tipton only makes sporadic live appearances, yet is still a member of the band, acording to singer Rob Halford.
Metal Gods, Breaking The Law, and Living After Midnight close out the night, with Tipton receiving a standing ovation. It was a fitting, classy and professional way to conclude a great night of music.
The verdict (yes, pun intended)? Four out of five stars.
Photos by Fred Kuhlman, All Rights Reserved
Photos by Fred Kuhlman, All Rights Reserved