They were screaming for vengeance. They were breaking the law. They were living after midnight.
OK, the last two are lies. But Judas Priest kicked ass and took names all the same on Tuesday at San Antonio’s Tech Port Center + Arena, their first of a two-night stand in the “Heavy Metal Capital of Texas,” as Rob Halford described it. They even had the courtesy to wrap the show just after 11 p.m., because even metal maniacs need their beauty rest.
Judas Priest is winding down the current North American leg of their 50 Heavy Metal Years Tour, but they showed no signs of fatigue as they barreled through a career-spanning set of both hits and deep cuts that was markedly different than the set list they used during the first half of 2022. Flanked onstage by towering smokestacks that paid homage to the G. & R. Thomas Ltd. foundry in Halford’s native Walsall, England, the Birmingham blokes gave a whole new meaning to the word “metallurgists,” performing with surgical precision and pulverizing intensity.
Following a muscular, career-spanning opening set by Queensryche (whose lead singer since 2012, Todd La Torre, gave Halford a run for his money with his glass-shattering screams on classics like “Queen of the Reich” and “Operation: Mindcrime”), Judas Priest’s onslaught began with “The Hellion / Electric Eye.” Guitarists Richie Faulkner and Andy Sneap (who also co-produced 2018’s Firepower) lunged across the stage as they blasted Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing‘s epochal riffs with style and ease. Sneap took the first dizzying solo of the evening, proving he’s just as essential onstage as he is behind the mixing console. And as Halford bellowed the “I’m made of metal” pre-chorus, Faulkner pointed to the scar on his chest resulting from the multiple open-heart surgeries he underwent after rupturing an aorta onstage in 2021.
Like the rest of Priest’s set, the gesture was both poignant and tough as nails.
Halford, meanwhile, seemed to still be riding the high from Priest’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction earlier this month. The 71-year-old frontman stalked the stage, pausing periodically to flash the devil horns at the feverish throng of roughly 3,000 fans, who happily reciprocated. Halford has naturally adjusted his phrasing and delivery on certain songs to make them more bearable to sing night after night for half a century, but his husky, mid-range growl still packs a punch, and his piercing falsetto shriek remains peerless. The latter was especially evident on Stained Class gem “Beyond the Realms of Death” and newer cuts like 2014’s “Halls of Valhalla” and 2018’s “Firepower,” proof that getting soft with age has never crossed Priest’s mind.
Credit also belongs to drummer Scott Travis, who joined Priest for the career-rejuvenating Painkiller and has lent a more metallic edge to each successive release with his indefatigable double-kick work and supersonic fills. Travis and co-founding bassist Ian Hill locked into a lurching groove on the hard-rocking “Devil’s Child” and propelled the double-bass-heavy “Judas Rising” off 2005’s triumphant reunion album Angel of Retribution.
Between riding his Harley-Davidson onstage for “Hell Bent for Leather” and sidling up next to the enormous, inflatable bull that dominated the stage during “Living After Midnight,” Halford thanked the audience for 50 years of support. “It’s all about you. It’s always been about you,” he said. “Without you guys, we’ve got nothing.”
Judas Priest, 11/22/22, Tech Port Center + Arena, San Antonio
1. “The Hellion / Electric Eye”
2. “Riding on the Wind”
3. “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'”
6. “Never the Heroes”
7. “Beyond the Realms of Death”
8. “Judas Rising”
9. “Devil’s Child”
12. “Between the Hammer and the Anvil”
13. “Halls of Valhalla”
14. “The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)”
15. “Screaming for Vengeance”
16. “Hell Bent for Leather”
17. “Breaking the Law”
18. “Living After Midnight”
Judas Priest Live in San Antonio, Nov. 22, 2022
Metal Gods bring 50 Heavy Metal Years Tour to Alamo City.