Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Review Judas Priest at Spodek, Katowice, 10th August 2011

I was extremely fortunate a few weeks ago to be given a ticket to go to the Metal Hammer festival in Katowice.

Due to work I arrived only in time to see the Bay Area thrashers Exodus, a band I was fairly impressed with.  They were very much overshadowed by the bigger thrash bands of the time, but are still going strong.  If you like your thrash you should check them out.

Then came the death metal band Morbid Angel.  I'm not into death metal much myself, but was impressed by the stage presence and manner of their bassist and singer David Vincent.

Then came the Metal Gods themselves, Judas Priest.

To tell the truth, I got into the Priest just after I had discovered a whole number of other metal bands, some of whom I saw lives at various festivals, and possibly because of that I didn't keep my eye of them for years.  This is a shame.  I was extremely impressed by them.  From the moment the curtain fell and I saw them on stage unleashing 'Rapid Fire' I was mesmerised.  This was seriously heavy shit, heavier than they come across in their albums.  When the second song 'Metal Gods' came in and the arena vibrated to Katowice's finest banging their heads as one to this heavy metal dancefloor classic, I knew that I had made a mistake in never seeing them live before.

A key reason for their utter brilliance is the singer Rob Halford.

I knew he was a legend before the gig, but afterwards, I have to say, he's the best frontman I've ever seen.  He's the best frontman since Freddie.  There is no higher accolade than that.  I really respect in a man a charisma that commands your attention.  Not many frontmen have it.  Halford's charisma was such that he needed only to walk to the side of the stage and look at the crowd and they'd go mental.  Now, he turned 60 a few days ago, therefore one would not expect him to be like Bruce Dickinson in rushing all over the stage.  Furthermore, his experience of singing with Judas Priest from 1973 (with a nine year break) helps him to utilise the crowd.

His singing was exceptional.  Many times I could only listen in wonder at just how well he was singing.  That, his cool as fuck manner together with the costumes he was wearing made his performance to be one of the best performances I have ever seen from a musician.

Let's not forget the other members of the band, though.  The guitarists Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner had a positive stage presence of their own coupled with heavy riffing and quality solos.  The bassist Ian Hill and drummer Scott Travis provided the rhythm to enable the whole musical paradise to happen.

The highlights?  The aforementioned Metal Gods, Victim of Changes, Diamonds and Rust, Night Crawler, The Sentinel, Breaking the Law (sung entirely by the crowd), Hell Bent for Leather and of course Living After Midnight.  All of them metal classics.

Seriously people, if you haven't heard too much of them so far check them out.  A excellent place to start would be 'British Steel'.  It's a classic heavy metal album, one all music lovers should have.

From the blues to heavy metal, with the gay leather culture coming on the ride

Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian described 'British Steel' as being the album that defined heavy metal, as it did away with the 'last shards of blues', a genre which had previously can be seen in Judas Priest's work, as well as in the band seen as the creator of heavy metal, Black Sabbath.  You don't believe me?  Check out this song by Judas Priest.  Then check out this song by Black Sabbath.  Now, while heavy metal was not only influenced by blues, it was influenced by the likes of the riffage of The Kinks, a band themselves influenced by blues.  With 'British Steel' they moved away from blues (such as shows in this song) as well as rock and moved into heavy metal, neatly around the time of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.

One commentator on youtube put it very nicely when he said that it was Black Sabbath who invented heavy metal, Judas Priest then developed it and set the standard, such as through the use of two guitarists; Iron Maiden then took it even further (I would say by adding aggressive and progressive elements) while Metallica was to take it even further, focussing on the heavy riffs used by Judas Priest.  What I am trying to put across is the fact that Judas Priest are fucking important.

The heavy metal look was massively influenced by Judas Priest.  The 70's saw bands looking hippyish still.  Judas Priest were the band to utilise leather and studs.

This became the benchmark for how a heavy metal band should look.  There's a very interesting thing here, you see, while one can see the musical roots of Judas Priest in the blues or Black Sabbath (this song for me is purely Sabbath) can be clearly seen, it is less well known where the style came from.  A bit of digging shows that Rob Halford, while not being part of the leather culture himself was nonetheless influenced by it.

The leather culture is largely seen as being the mainstay of gays.  While the wearing of leather is not confined to gays, Rob Halford was indeed influenced by what he saw people wearing in gay bars.

While, the as Rob pointed out in that same article this can lead one to a tiresome discussion about whether one could have told that he was gay as soon as he started wearing leather, the fact remains that his clothing, and therefore that of heavy metal culture was influenced by clothes worn in gay bars.

Or to put it another way, the roots of metal are not just blues, they're also gay.

I find this to be really cool.  That metal is associated with groupies and, to some extent, sexism (against women) lyrics is known.  That its roots are partly gay is not.

Heavy metal culture in Poland

Before the concert I saw a man older than myself was stood dressed head to to in leather, including with a Freddie Mercury/Rob Halford-style peaked cap.  Given my view given here that many Polish men are scared of coming across as being gay, I wonder if many fans there are aware of heavy metal's influence from one part of gay culture.  In any case, in this review I wrote negative things about heavy metals fans in Poland.  The concert in Katowice however gave me a largely different impression.  This may be because Katowice is a more industrial city (this fascinating video testifies to the connection between metal industries and the birth of heavy metal).  In any case, in the standing area bedlam reigned as long as Judas Priest were on stage.  They were singing along to all the songs.  (Actually, I said the same about the young people around me during the Iron Maiden concert earlier this year).

As I said, I was given tickets for the concert.  In fact, I was in the VIP section!  Those around me were as boring as fuck and a disgrace to metal.  Not a banged head among them.  Hardly even a half-hearted *RonnieJamesDioSalute* was raised.  Some were more concerned with taking photos.  Some left early.  I stick to my belief that people get old quickly in Poland.

However, like with the Iron Maiden concert, the young people in the front were a credit to heavy metal.  It gives me some hope for the future of music in Poland.


  1. Super post if you are interested in heavy metal --my son is.
    Am so interested that you live in Wroclaw/Breslau.
    Have you been to the stunning architectural museum?
    Greetings from an old English woman living in New York.

  2. Thanks Elizabeth.

    I went to the museum one 'Night of the museums' night. There were tons of people there so I didn't see a lot, but meant to return. Thanks for the reminder.