Sunday, August 31, 2008

Judas Priest: Nostradamas Prophesies the Return of the Metal Gods

The Nostradamus backdrop featured a representation of the prophet with glowing eyes - which moved from side to side. This almost made up for the canned music that preceded the band's entrance onto stage. While I appreciate that one salient criterion for heavy metal is its employment of stage theatrics, I couldn't help but feel cheated by the fact that I was listening to a recording. For me, the show officially began when Scott Travis struck the skins and Downing, Tipton and Hill cut through bullshit with British Steel. When I first heard Halford's voice on the title track from Nostradamus, I couldn't see him; it wasn't that he was offstage, I had simply mistaken him for a stage prop. A space blanket-cloaked figure holding a chrome staff, symbolically fashioned with the Judas Priest cross at the top (circa 1988 or so). Doffing his hood, (replacing one chrome-dome for another) Halford moved across upper platforms of the stage like an elderly man, before returning to his perch stage left and descending down an apparent elevator shaft. He later emerged from Star Trek style sliding doors beneath Travis' drum kit to conclude the song.

Their show was also hampered by their camera crew. After four shows and constant headbanging, I wanted to sit down a little. There was a huge monitor from which to watch the show. Unfortunately, the cameras focused on Halford at the expense of the musicians. Even during Tipton and Downing's blistering solos, the cameras followed Halford as he stomped around on stage. I doubt this was his doing, as he often moved next to the guitarists during their solos, pointing at them in deference. "Painkiller," sadly, was appropriately named. The opera-trained Rob Halford, while his performance was flawless, sounded like he strained himself on this number, and may have needed some extra-strength Tylenol afterwards.Let me emphasize that Judas Priest, consummate professionals all, gave a flawless performance. As the set changed, the canned music started up once again with "The Hellion" as a lead into "Electric Eye"(both from Screaming for Vengeance, 1982). I remember the latter from high shool, where it created a lot of buzz at the time. Back then LANDSAT and SPOT were in their resolutionary infancy. Satellite imagery was learning how to map in infrared, but didn't have the high resolution of QuickBird or contemporary SPOT; the institutional resolution used to be 90 metres, now sub-meter imagery is available on the open market. It is reasonable to assume that government spy satellites are have reached at least decimeter resolution - enough to watch people and exert power over them. Indeed, these spy satellites were used recently to watch Iraqi troop movements - though these billion-dollar, publicly-owned surveillance systems have somehow failed, as yet, to zero in on Osama bin Laden and lead to his capture. As I recall, the warning inherent in "Electric Eye" was that the people had "elected" this system for security, and in so doing, traded not only their freedom, but sacrificed the coveted safety as well:

Electric eye, in the sky
Feel my stare, always there
There's nothing you can do about it
Develop and expose
I feed upon your every thought
And so my power grows

"Elected, protective, detective, Electric Eye!" was a warning. I felt a sense of irony at the prophetic nature of the song, and the themes of prophecy associated with Nostradamus (stay tuned for the album review).

"Breakin' the what?"

"LAW!" we yelled back"

Breakin' the what?"

"Breakin' the WHAT?"


"Good, let's break the law!" And the sympathetic metal narrative of Daryl, an out-of-work druggie, had the audience on its feet (even those of us who had head-banged our way through the three preceding shows). Canned music aside, going to a Priest concert has roughly the same effect its audience as The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Our host's sexual orientation doesn't keep him from getting the audience to go along with pretty much everything he does. He made us sing a cadence with him, made us sway our arms from side to side with our "horns" up during "Angel," and otherwise just made us have a kick-ass time all around. Such a kick-ass time, in fact, that it won the band not one, but two standing ovations.

The first won us Halford on a Harley through the Star-Trek doors. Travis, Tipton, Hill and Downing began the slow, thunderous intro to "Hell Bent for Leather," with Tipton beating the shit out of his whammy bar for a full thirty seconds before he and Downing attacked the rapid-fire guitars leading into the vocal. They followed up with "The Green Manalishi (with the Two-Pronged Crown)." Halford also professed his love for his adopted country by kissing the American flag, respectfully draping it over the handlebars of his Harley so it wouldn't touch the ground.


4/5 Circle A

1 comment:

Rodrigo Trupp said...

...good job my friend, metal rules...thanks for visiting...keep in touch. Rodrigo.