Judas Priest Preach To The Converted At Wembley Arena

A lot has happened in the UK since Judas Priest last played a headline show in London in 2015 – a worldwide pandemic, England getting good at football, and what feels like 37 different Prime Ministers – so anticipation is high as around 10,000 Heavy Metal Maniacs (as lead singer Rob Halford affectionately calls Priest’s devoted fans) file into Wembley Arena. It’s safe to say that that a lot has happened to Judas Priest in that time also; a well deserved induction into the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame in 2022 alongside Dolly Parton and Duran Duran has been followed by pulverising new album Invincible Shield being the metal meat in a UK Album Chart sandwich, between Arianna Grande’s newest disc and The Weeknd’s Greatest Hits.

Judas Priest @ Wembley Arena

Judas Priest @ Wembley Arena (Catherine Beltramini)
Judas Priest @ Wembley Arena (Catherine Beltramini)

So, JP arrive here at the peak of their album chart powers, their current Number 2 placing being the highest of their 50 year career – yes, their first album was released in 1974, and yes, 1974 was indeed 50 years ago… The delay in playing to UK audiences can at least partly be explained by a contractual tie to support the Parkinson’s stricken Ozzy Osbourne on his ill-fated final tour. More on that terrible, debilitating disease later, but first, the crowd take in tonight’s main support act – Saxon.

Saxon’s lead singer Biff Byford brings his likeable Barnsley patter and booming vocals to the stage, explaining to the crowd that they’ve waited ages to play Wembley, having never played there, and also that as a Yorkshireman, “even I would buy a ticket to this Priest show”. They rip through an hour’s worth of their hits, allowing the crowd to choose a song (they plump for Dallas 1PM) and inviting an mass singalong with 747 (Strangers In The Night). The band sound amazing, with the guitar (on new tracks in particular) shaking the arena and Byford clearly having a ball in front of a packed venue.

With Byford’s recommendation ringing in the crowd’s ears, Black Sabbath’s War Pigs heralds the imminent entrance of the main act. Although this has been the standard entrance music for JP for many years, it has an added poignancy as it reminds us of Ozzy’s plight. The fans gathered in their masses holler out the first verse as one, and the atmosphere is electric.

  • Saxon @ Wembley Arena
  • Saxon @ Wembley Arena
  • Saxon @ Wembley Arena
  • Saxon @ Wembley Arena
  • Saxon @ Wembley Arena
  • Saxon @ Wembley Arena
  • Saxon @ Wembley Arena
  • Saxon @ Wembley Arena
  • Saxon @ Wembley Arena

Judas Priest enter the stage to the intro strains of new album opener Panic Attack, a track as urgent as the title suggests, with screaming guitars and Rob Halford, resplendent in a sparkly disco ball trench coat, wailing along, hitting every note.

The crowd are already locked in as the band treat them to the hits early, You’ve Got Another Thing Coming sounds as vital as when it was released in their 80s Imperial phase. Halford is now sans overcoat and conducting the crowd with his mic, getting up close and personal with guitarists Richie Faulkner and Andy Sneap to inspect their fretwork.

Now Halford demands “breaking the what?!”, and the hordes reply “LAW!” which then leads into a one two punch from 1980’s British Steel album, namely Breaking The Law and Rapid Fire. The singer shows us during the main riff breakdown of BTL that as a 72 year old man, he can still perform a snake-hipped shake, much to the crowd’s delight.

With Sword Of Damocles the set takes it’s first pause for breath, while Love Bites is accompanied by red searchlights and Hammer Horror style images on the big screens. Further gothic imagery is shown during Saints In Hell as an angel journeys to the underworld. The stage set is fairly stripped down as arena size metal shows go – no Maiden or Ghost-style theatrics here – but that only draws attention to the consummate performance of the band.

The Priest now launch into new album highlight Crown Of Horns, lapped up by the crowd, and during the face shredding guitar solo, Halford stands bolt upright, both catching his breath and surveying the scene, his Heavy Metal Maniacs in the palm of his hand: it’s quite a moment.

Next, the synthesisers are plugged in, Halford dons a gold coat, and the masses are transported to 1986 with Turbo Lover. “Tell me there’s no other”, croons the singer, and the crowd dutifully obliges.

New album title track Invincible Shield, Sinner and an epic call and response follow as Halford echoes the playful nature of one of his heroes, Freddie Mercury. Cover versions are sometimes divisive, but a well chosen one can add value to any band’s setlist, even metal masters. So, when Rob signals the start of The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown) a chugging bluesy version of a Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac classic, the crowd goes wild.

American drummer Scott Travis addresses the crowd, making sure to pronounce Birmingham correctly (successfully) when referencing his bandmate’s hometown, and leads into the sledgehammer slab of metal that is Painkiller, everyone in Wembley Arena is on their feet, assured they have seen true rock royalty.

After a short pause, the encore arrives. The chorus of Electric Eye is sung with gusto by the crowd and Hell Bent For Leather is heralded by Halford arriving in customary fashion on his Harley Davidson, an iconic image that never gets old, unlike the bike’s pilot.

Crowd members who had done their homework knew that Glenn Tipton, legendary original guitarist with the band, but now stricken with Parkinson’s himself, played at the previous date in Birmingham. Tipton officially retired from touring in 2018, but still appears and writes on recordings, including the new disc. So, when Halford announces a special guest, his best mate, the crowd are at fever pitch. Tipton takes the stage to join in and play lead guitar on another British Steel salvo, both Metal Gods and Living After Midnight, the hard rock hit which elevated them to be able to play stadiums over in the US.

Tipton plays the solos of these songs immaculately – it’s a real privilege to see this master at work, and the way the rest of the band take a backseat, allowing him to stand in the spotlight, is amazing. It’s a fitting climax to a brilliant night out.

As the Heavy Metal Maniacs filed out of the arena into the north west London air, they could be content that even though this London show was a long time coming, it was definitely worth the wait. And whilst they were not quite living after midnight – more like living after 11pm – it was a school night after all.

  • Judas Priest @ Wembley Arena
  • Judas Priest @ Wembley Arena
  • Judas Priest @ Wembley Arena
  • Judas Priest @ Wembley Arena
  • Judas Priest @ Wembley Arena
  • Judas Priest @ Wembley Arena
  • Judas Priest @ Wembley Arena
  • Judas Priest @ Wembley Arena
  • Judas Priest @ Wembley Arena
  • Judas Priest @ Wembley Arena
  • Judas Priest @ Wembley Arena
  • Judas Priest @ Wembley Arena
  • Judas Priest @ Wembley Arena
  • Judas Priest @ Wembley Arena
  • Judas Priest @ Wembley Arena
  • Judas Priest @ Wembley Arena
  • Judas Priest @ Wembley Arena

Live review of Judas Priest @ Wembley Arena, London on 21st March 2024 by Alex Kavanagh. Photography by Catherine Beltramini.

Hollywood Vampires Pay Homage To The Dead At The O2

Warren Zeiders (David McClister)

Warren Zeiders Shares Heartbreaker

Hershey, Pennsylvania-hailing Country star Warren Zeiders has released his first track of 2024, Heartbreaker. Written...
Darren Kiely (David McLister)

Darren Kiely Drops Sophomore EP From The Dark + New Video For Ocean

Irish prodigy Darren Kiely has released his sophomore EP, From The Dark. Produced by David Baron and featuring...
Twinnie - CMT Next Women of Country @ Islington Academy (Kalpesh Patel)

Twinnie Ends Her Sad Girl Era With New EP Blue Hour

International Nashville-based British country crossover artist Twinnie is bringing the curtain down on her...
The Script (Jordan Rossi)

The Script Return With New Album Satellites And Huge Tour

Irish pop-rock quartet The Script have announced their return with the release of their seventh studio LP album...
Madness (Press)

Madness Announce Hour of Need Award To Celebrate Unsung Heroes

One of the UK’s most beloved British bands Madness have today announced a very special Hour of Need Award, allowing...
Glasto 2024 - The Park

Glastonbury Festival 2024 Announce Full Park Area Line-up Including New Areas

Just six weeks to the day until gates open at Worthy Farm for this year's Glastonbury Festival, the full line-up for...
Skindred @ The O2 (Kalpesh Patel)

Skindred Announce Smile Headline Tour

Welsh ragga metal legends Skindred have announced a UK headline tour for autumn 2024. Regarding the tour frontman...
Giacomo Turra (Press)

Italian Guitar Sensation Giacomo Turra Drops New Single The Way She Wants

Italian guitar sensation Giacomo Turra has just dropped his brand new single The Way She Wants via ADA/Warner...

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share Thing