Queued around four sides of the Barrowlands tonight, worn black leather jackets and a few black cowboy hats; truly is a night of classic metal.
After the rush a majority of the crowd are in the ballroom as Michael Schenker starts his set, spot light on the monotone flying V, then the band kick into ‘Doctor Doctor’.
Unfamiliar with this current line up I was quite shocked, pleasantly, when the front man breaks his “rock voice” to acknowledge he was from Motherwell, Doogie White formally of Yngwie Malmsteen’s Raising Force.
As they go into ‘Vigilante Man’ something about the shiny hair of the 55-year-old front man reminds one of Matt Berry.
This immediately warms up the crowd a good few notches as the Schenker blasts out the intro riff of ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’, made famous by the band that really reunited Germany – The Scorpions.
The longest solo of the night comes in the form of ‘Rock Bottom’, displaying how Schenker helped to define 1980s guitar.
By the end of the set the reception appears to be one normally reserved for a headliner, but no… the night is still young.
‘War Pigs’ by fellow Brummies Black Sabbath is blasted to test the PA.
The note of a sole guitar rings out, then a harmony, the unmistakable sound of the twin guitar attack made famous by New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) masters… Judas Priest.
‘Dragonaut’ begins, and Rob Halford’s voice appears from nowhere, then walking on there he is.
On their current album Halford sounds like a distorted King Diamond, well highlighted by the patch on the back of his jacket, “Metal Gods”, they are.
What strikes immediately is how Halford employs different vocal sounds throughout his career and still he is able to summon the appropriate one for what feels like a greatest hits set.
Point of Entry, Screaming for Vengeance, Turbo, British Steel, Stained Class, Hell Bent for Leather, Painkiller and current LP Redeemer of Souls are all represented and I love it.
The total classic British Steel deserves to have album cuts such as ‘The Rage’ played, if only for the reason that it gives Ian Hill a chance not to play root notes, as well as the singles ‘Breakin’ the Law’ and ‘Living after Midnight’.
Vengeance gives us the frighteningly relevant ‘Electric Eye’ and ‘You Got Another Thing Coming’.
The band appear to disappear every couple of numbers, for the lights to descend, the album cover projected to indicate where the set is going, however this may also be to allow Halford time to change his outfit.
Stalking in a robotic strut he is a mix of Boy George and Bronson; some of his intro patter has been used for 35 years but that is fine when you ride a Harley Davidson onto the stage as the intro to ‘Hell Bent for Leather’.
I did end up screaming, “you got another thing comin!!!” when he tells the sold out crowd “COME ON! IT’S YOUR LAST CHANCE TO SING WITH PRIEST!!!”
Not been so happy leaving a gig in years, the now nostalgic feel of having, hardly any people holding up iPhones, is saved for crowd such as this.
Crowds, defenders of the faith who have went to the gigs year after year, decade after decade, does make you think, with the lack of album sales therefore stalling or aborting bands and their development too soon in ten years or twenty years will we have bands with such back catalogues and connections to their loyal audiences.
It was a bit like a time warp, but considering one of the last gigs I was at was Eagles of Death Metal at the ABC, following their Paris concert it is comforting to be taken back into time to a place (pre 1990), where a working class band from Birmingham could make so many great records, influence a subculture, and result in being one of the biggest bands in the world, while still very much being so rooted in the humour and culture of their creation.
They are built to last; they are made of British Steel. \m/
Words: Paul Choi
Photos: Bill Gray