Judas Priest and Uriah Heep in Rosemont, Illinois 5/25/19

Judas Priest returned to the Rosemont Theatre in continued support of their latest album.

Date: Saturday, May 25, 2019

Place: Rosemont Theatre (5400 N. River Rd.; Rosemont, Illinois 60018)

Ticket price: $60.10 (from StubHub: ticket cost-$45.60, fees-$14.50; regular cost-$69.75. Balcony section 203, row C, seat 12,)

The metal gods are still on tour for the band’s 18th studio album “Firepower” that released in March 2018. They started up touring again on May 3. I snoozed on getting tickets earlier so I bought mine on StubHub the night before the show.

Priest is one of my all-time favorite bands. I saw them last August at the outdoor Hollywood Casino Ampitheatre in Tinley Park, Illinois. I was right up in the front row and it was an amazing show. I felt like Judas Priest should have headlined and played longer over Deep Purple. Deep Purple just felt older. While still pretty great in person, Judas Priest is obviously the better live band over Deep Purple.

They’re playing shows with a fill-in guitarist for Glenn Tipton, who has Parkinson’s disease. He stopped touring in 2018 but is still an official member of the band. Tipton helped write the songs on Firepower. Andy Sneap, who produces for a lot of metal bands and also played with Sabbat, goes on tour with Priest filling in for Tipton. Richie Faulkner has been with the band since 2011, replacing K.K. Downing who left Judas Priest on negative terms. Faulkner is a great guitarist and has cool energy live. Ian Hill, who is 67 and a co-founder of the band, is on bass. Scott Travis is still on drums, who has been with the band since his debut on 1990’s “Painkiller” album. He’s great too.

I really like the newer Judas Priest albums like “Angel of Retribution” (2005), “Nostradamus” (2008), “Redeemer of Souls” (2014) and most recently “Firepower.” I was listening to them a lot lately leading up to the show.

Priest had played at the Rosemont Theatre a few years earlier in May 2015 with Saxon. The theatre’s website had an interactive live view where you can check out seats. The venue apparently can seat 4,400 people. I took the train there and walked about 15 minutes to the building. I wasn’t going to pay $15-25 for parking and then get stuck waiting in the lot to get out after the show.

The show was advertised to start at 8 p.m central time. I got there around 7:30. The merchandise booth was right near the entrance. The merch line was crazy. It stretched all the way down the hall. It was so packed. The prices were high though. Judas Priest were selling their shirts for $40, with the bigger sizes like XXL going for $45. They did have a cool tour shirt and some Firepower ones, but that was a lot of money. The Uriah Heep shirts were going for $45. Like what? I don’t know who is buying a Uriah Heep shirt for 45 bucks. In the lobby they had Rob Halford’s motorcycle, which you could take a picture with for $5 that all went towards the Glenn Tipton Parkinson’s Foundation.

It seemed to mostly be a near sell out show. I got to my seat around 7:45. I had a clear view of the stage. The balcony seats were great. There were second hand tickets down on the floor and near the stage but they were too expensive. There were also direct seats still available all the way in the back on the floor level that were going for around the $45 range. Rosemont Theatre is a great place for concerts. The people at the show were a lot older. I didn’t see a ton of teenagers or people in their 20s. It was more towards an older crowd in their late ’40s and ’50s.

Uriah Heep opened the show. Besides like one song I knew nothing about them. “Easy Livin” (1972) is a sweet song but that’s about it for me. After looking them up before the show the band has only one original member in guitarist Mick Box. There’s been a lot of lineup changes with different members and musical styles but they still released a ton of albums, with a total of 25 studio releases. David Byron, the singer on “Easy Livin'” left the band in 1976 and died in the ’80s related to alcohol issues. The bass player Gary Thain also died prematurely from a heroin overdose in 1975. Bernie Shaw has been the band’s vocalist since 1986, who is now 62 years old. They released their latest album “Living the Dream” in September 2018 and are on tour supporting it.

They played close to an hour, ending at 8:54. Uriah Heep did do a lot of prog rock with keyboard elements, having been formed in 1969. I actually ended up liking them a lot for what they were. They were actually real solid live. The first song they did was “Grazed by Heaven” from their new album. It was a good uptempo opening song. They followed that with “Too Scared to Run” from their 1982 album “Abominog.” This was a good song. After this Shaw told the crowd that for the next 60 minutes we all belonged to Uriah Heep so thanked us for coming. He said there was almost a 100 years of British rock and metal combined for tonight’s show. That is pretty crazy. They then played “Take Away My Soul,” which is another new song from their latest album. This was a pretty good rock song and sounded good live. There was really good solo playing towards the end of the song that Mick Box just ripped on. It sounded awesome. The band sounded tight together. Shaw is a a great singer too. Shaw told the crowd he thought it was nostalgia time and we were going back to 1972 to their “Demons and Wizards” album. They played “Rainbow Demon,” which actually sounded pretty fantastic live. I really liked this song. It had this ominous sound to it because of the guitar tone and keyboards played by Phil Lanzon, especially with the way Shaw sang.

They did another new song called “Knocking at My Door” that had another really good solo by Box near the end. When the song was over the crowd cheered pretty loudly, which sounded awesome in the room. Afterwards Mox asked the crowd if it was cool back to 1970. They played “Gypsy,’ which sounded good too. It just had that late ’60s-early ’70s rock vibe with the keyboard and guitar tone. They played “Look At Yourself” from the 1971 album of the same title. “Look At Yourself” is a great rock song that holds up extremely well. Mox was ripping it up pretty good on guitar too. This song led into the band member intros by Shaw. Mox got a standing ovation from the crowd, which was cool. This turned into a sort of extended instrumental section with the whole band for several minutes, where Mox just kept going and going on guitar. The whole jam was awesome. They then played “Stealin'” from “Sweet Freedom” (1973), which sounded like a totally dated radio song. I wasn’t into it. The crowd sang along though. Before playing the last song, Shaw said that Judas Priest were going to blast us into a different zip code. They ended the set with “Easy Livin'” from the same “Demons and Wizards” album. Overall it was a pretty good set.

Uriah Heep have sold over 40 million lifetime albums, which blows my mind. Maybe they’re this huge deal but nobody ever talks about them, like ever. They are never played on the classic rock stations in Chicago, who seem to exclusively play The Who and just boring ’70s and ’80s rock. It’s weird because Uriah Heep are more known as a British band but it’s fronted by an American for over 30 years. I’m not sure who would be actively into Uriah Heep at this point. I imagine the fan base skews heavily older like into their early 50s and 60s.. The people down on the floor seats were really into Uriah Heep and got animated when they played, but it looked like a lot of older people. I can’t see like a 16 year old being super hyped to go see Uriah Heep or go to the record store hunting for the band’s albums in the way they would be for Judas Priest. Uriah Heep’s new album “Living the Dream” sounds like some fresh, quality hard rock. It’s not like the songs are “Painkiller” by Judas Priest or anything, but it’s still pretty good if you’re open to it. The new songs came across well live. Uriah Heep are definitely still a great live band across the board. They did surprise me because going into the show I wasn’t expecting much. I’m probably going to check out their ’70s material with Byron as it seems from random listenings the stuff is pretty solid but maybe the band peaked at that time.

“War Pigs” by Black Sabbath started playing over the room at 9:24 p.m. Everyone was singing along to it, which was kinda hilarious to me given a span of the crowd consisting of balding dudes, middle aged women, and overweight guys. I would expect zero of these people to know who Black Sabbath were if I saw them on the street. Judas Priest came on stage at 9:27. They opened with “Necromancer” from “Firepower.” It sounded fantastic. Halford was in a special purple outfit during the song. They played “Heading Out to the Highway” from 1981’s “Point of Entry” next. A lot of people were singing along. It was another great song live. Halford sounded fantastic on it. The extended parts of the song where he sang the word “highway” just carried great. They followed that with “The Sentinel” from 1984’s “Defenders of the Faith.” It sounded so good live. The next song they did was “Spectre,” which is also from the new album. It had a cool video on the screen of like blood cells and nerves flowing. They then played “(Take These) Chains” from “Screaming for Vengeance” (1983). During the intro Halford sounded so smooth as he sang.

“Judas Rising” was played next, which is a great song. They had the “Angel of Retribution” album cover rise up on the screen during the intro before the band came back on stage. During  the early part of “Judas Rising,” Halford kicked something into the crowd. At first I thought it was a water bottle or something like that. It turns out it was some guy’s cell phone who was recording way to close to Halford’s liking with the light on. This apparently became a big story. Halford just kept singing the song without pausing.

Halford sounded incredible. His singing, shrieks and yells were on point. He still hit all the high notes too. For being 67 years old and singing in his style for several decades his voice still sounds fantastic.

They played “Out in the Cold” from “Turbo” (1986) next. They had a more green and blue lighting on the stage. I think there was like a disco ball above the stage too. The song sounded cool live. I don’t know how much they play this one at shows but I haven’t heard it that much before. I actually haven’t listened to the Turbo album that much.

Judas Priest were so good in person. The new songs from Firepower sounded fantastic live. “Traitors Gate” was sick. Halford really nailed the parts too. Traitors Gate also had a cool video on screen as the band played. They did “Starbreaker” from “Sin After Sin” (1977). The crowd sang along to Starbreaker. The guitar solo sounded so good live. I like Richie Faulkner a lot. He’s got that rockstar look and vibe going. He’s a fantastic player too. They played “Steeler” from “British Steel” (1980) next. This sounded great live and is one of the best songs from that album. The crowd was into it. “Halls of Valhalla” (2014) followed Steeler. Halford absolutely nailed the intro scream of “Valhalla.” It sounded incredible. He even held it for several seconds longer. The crowd got loud for that. They played a cool video of that Spartan-era and warfare stuff during the song. Halford hit all the high vocal parts. They then did “Tyrant” from “Sad Wings of Destiny” (1976). Halford ended the song with a big high yell that he nailed again.

The balcony seating was good. I liked the venue a lot. The sound was excellent and the crowd noise carried well. What was hilarious is that this lady next to me fell asleep in her seat for most of the set. The whole show was super loud. I don’t know how anyone could possibly sleep through a Priest concert with guitar solos blazing out and Halford screaming at the top of his lungs.

After “Tyrant,” Halford talked to the crowd a bit. He said it was so good to be back in Chicago and that Priest couldn’t do this without us. He said the heavy metal community is so strong and powerful because we never give in and we never give up. This led into “No Surrender” off the new album. It’s a really solid song that’s good to sing along to. The crowd was singing the chorus parts. “Victim of Changes” is one of my favorite Priest songs, especially the version on “Unleashed in the East” (1979). They absolutely killed it live. Halford was incredible. He sounded so killer. Faulkner was fantastic on this song too. He killed it on the guitar solos. He got really animated with his playing and moved the guitar around a lot. When the song repeats the line “victim of changes” towards the end of the song Halford sang so loud. He let out another huge extended yell to finish out the song. The crowd went pretty crazy for that too. They followed that up with “All Guns Blazing” from the “Painkiller” album. Halford kicked off the song screaming the intro lyrics. This sounded really good live. They did the actual “Painkiller” song last time they came through here so it was cool to see a different track from the album played live. Halford still sounded great at this point even though he was killing his voice for the entire night. All Guns Blazing is one of the best songs from Painkiller.

The show closed with a rapid succession of “Hell Bent for Leather” (1978), “Breaking the Law” (1980) and “Living After Midnight” (1980). Of course Halford rode out on his bike for “Hell Bent for Leather.” Breaking the Law had a cool video playing of like civil unrest and things like that. They ended around 10:57 p.m. Halford told the crowd to keep the heavy metal faith alive. On stage Halford bowed to Ian Hill then hugged him, which was kind of cool. The entire band posed afterwards. Queen’s “We Are the Champions” played over the room when the band left the stage. People were expecting more songs but they didn’t come back out. When the show was over a graphic on the screen said “The Priest will be back.” I’m guessing they will do another show in Rosemont later down the road. The band is coming up on their 50th anniversary next year.

By the end of the night Uriah Heep were a total afterthought. Even though Uriah Heep were good, Judas Priest blew them away. Priest had a great setlist with the new songs and some stuff they might not perform live all the time. They played an hour and a half for 18 songs, which is a lot.

Judas Priest rule!

 

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