“I turned into Gandalf of Heavy Metal”

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More than a year after the start of the Judas Priest tour, the band is finally on the road to celebrate their 50th anniversary. An overseas headlining performance in August at the Bloodstock Festival offered a glimpse of some of the surprises that might be in store for fans. During their two-hour show, the band returned to their debut album, 1974’s Rocka rolla, for a reimagined version of the title song.

The group also shared their very first performances of “One Shot at Glory”, from the 1990s. Pain killer, and “Invader”, from the 1978 monument Stained class album, in addition to a number of other songs that have not been played for over a decade.

Playing “Rocka Rolla”, which hasn’t been in a Judas Priest set since 1976, left singer Rob Halford in a contemplative and excited mood on the flight home, and he thought of other songs from the catalog. who might be able to find their way back. in the show.

Halford tells UCR all songs are “on the table” for review and shares some details about the anniversary tour.

You have one of the most epic midlife beards. Will it stay?
[Laughs] Well yes. I think it probably will. Maybe it’s fitting that this thing came to life, much like virtual cats. It is not a virtual beard. It’s a real beard. But as she grows, exponentially, over the weeks and months, when I put my photos on, fans are like, “Oh, my God, that beard is epic! And then some fans say, “I hate that beard. Take off. “So there’s this back and forth. But I have a feeling that if I walk around on stage with that beard, in and of itself, that will be a statement. Here is a guy who is in a band of heavy metal for 50 years, and I became the Gandalf of heavy metal. Without the hair. [Laughs]

It is strangely appropriate.
Yes, I think it works. I have one last costume fitting on Friday, with Ray Brown, who has made these amazing clothes for Priest over the years. The last time I tried on Ray, I just got my little goatee. I’m sure he’s going to say, “This beard is the absolute perfect combination with the 50 Heavy Metal Years look” he created. Visually, I don’t think I ever looked like this. I’m just gonna go.

What songs would you like to play on the 50th anniversary tour?
Everything is on the table, from those first songs Rocka rolla … it can be anything, frankly. Everything we recorded as Judas Priest is achievable on stage. We might have a slightly different texture and fit, but we always said from day one that whatever we write and record we have to be able to play it. So it’s exciting.

I know it’s hard to put together a song list for a show like this.
It’s hard, man. We have already talked about the set list. I would love to be on stage all day, but my voice wouldn’t. So that’s the dilemma. We are building something together. I mean, it’s moving – every day there’s a little adjustment. I look at all the songs and I’m like, “Oh, wow, where do we start? Obviously, the songs lead the group. But that is only the experience – you are going to go see and listen to one of the creators of heavy metal music. As many of our friends have retired in recent years, we are not the last men standing, but we are certainly the first men of metal standing in this regard.

It will be a celebration, not just for Priest, but for heavy metal, for our fans. It’s all sort of coiled up in this big metal fireball as we play each of these shows across the world.

It’s been over five decades. It’s a lot to celebrate. When you started you didn’t think it would last five decades, you will be happy if it lasts five years.
Exactly. At night you think about this Show, here we are on this exact date, you know, this week, this month, in the year 2021. You don’t think about 1971, though it’s subconsciously in the back of your mind. You come in with the experience that you can create, to try to define everything in the time that you have.

How was the experience when Judas Priest finally arrived in the United States for the first dates?
Sensational. I talk about it a bit in my book, Confess. A kid from the West Midlands, landing at JFK in New York. I could not believe it. I was in a daze. I think we all were. Because America was, and still is, the beacon of rock ‘n’ roll, to some extent. It’s just one of the many great things about this country, musically. You go into your hotel room and turn on the radio, and there’s this radio show and this radio show and that kind of rock music and that kind of rock music. We didn’t have that in the UK. We didn’t have a commercial radio. We only had the BBC. So for a musician, just laying in bed and turning the knobs on the radio, all this music pouring into his ears, it was just amazing.

The first show, when you perform in front of your first American audience, is absolutely magical. Then, of course, we swept the whole nation. Sometimes we toured America for months and months without stopping. Five, six or seven shows a week. That’s the groundwork that we’ve put in place, and the payoff now is that we’re not just big in Texas. Everyone wants to see Priest. We therefore have excellent memories of these first tours.

What can fans expect when it comes to directing and producing the new tour?
You are going to see the group, whatever it is, it means the world to you. This is the moment consumed. You know, it’s like going to metal church. You are going to see the band you love who have been with you in some instances throughout your life. A group that has been with you through birth, death, and marriage, quite frankly. This is where we are with Priest after 50 years. So, more than ever, you want to make the greatest kind of celebration of success and endurance in your show visually that you can do. So we pull all the stops.

We have a very strong and elaborate show that we have been creating over many months. I think that will fit totally into this whole Judas Priest story. Whatever you think of Judas Priest, to some extent, will be related to the things you are going to see appear on stage in front of your eyes.

There is a new album taking shape. I guess there won’t be any new music ready in time for these shows.
Yeah, that’s the temptation, isn’t it, just to release a new song halfway through the set. I wonder if a band has done this before? Don’t give me any ideas! We have some great stuff waiting behind the scenes. We are going to sit down and listen again to what we have so far and the additional material that has accumulated over the past year. I think we can make sense of it all and have a very strong definition of the character, of what this record should be. We had a great experience with [2018 album] Firepower. The critical praise that this record was given was such a boost. It was just amazing. You take this and you run with it. It’s just the best feeling you can ever have.

This only adds to what already exists in substance. What keeps you united as a group and continuing as a group has never worn off for Priest. But for all these beautiful things to be thrown at us from Firepower, that made us even more determined to make a really, really good follow-up album. This record has become as solid as some of the other highlights in Priest’s life, be it British steel Where Scream for revenge Where Pain killer.

What is the deadline for completing the file?
I do not know. We do this tour with Sabaton, then we take a vacation break and then we get ready to go out with Ozzy [Osbourne], then we’re going to fend for ourselves to complete the 50th posting for Europe and, potentially, the rest of the world. The clock is always ticking with Priest, and you can’t do too many things at once or things go wrong and they don’t get the care and attention to detail they deserve. But I have a feeling it will be sooner rather than later. We’re not going to make you wait three, four, or five years like some of us have.

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