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Live In Chicago, 2003

Review by Mike Korn

For this reviewer, this was the tour of the year...a chance to see the Metal God himself, Rob Halford, accompanied by a sextet of topnotch metal bands of various stripe. In short, the tour is like a stripped-down Milwaukee Metalfest of all beef, no filler. And what better place to start than Chicago, the most metal city in the USA?

So I bravely donned my battle garb (Motorhead T-shirt, leather biker hat, leather vest and my trusty spikes that have dented the forehead of many an orc) and ventured forth in downtown Chicago to bask in the warmth of high volume and screaming guitar. I was not disappointed, but several incidents marred the overall effect of the show.

First, arriving at 4:00 sharp, I was told that opening band Painmuseum had already played their set? What? You mean metal bands have to take the stage at an hour when the Teletubbies are still on the tube? Yup, apparently the House of Blues had booked a private dance party for 10:00 that evening, forcing a change in schedule. Now I knew every band would be under the gun with an eye on the clock. I wasn't happy about missing Painmuseum, because the band features Halford guitarist Metal Mike Chlasciak and Metal Mike rocks.

Plenty of questions have been swirling about the Studded One the last year. Was a reunion with Judas Priest imminent? Has Rob's health deteriorated to the point where he couldn't perform live?

Well, I first saw Halford with Priest in 1984 and I can tell you truly that the performance he gave at this show surpassed what he did back then. I have never seen him look better on stage or delivering his vocals better. He hit every piercing note with crystal clarity, handling difficult material with ease. He actually seemed to relax more as the show went on, going from somewhat forbidding to warm and friendly. You know, Ripper Owens probably has all Rob's lungpower and more, but he will never master the emotional content and subtle inflection that Rob puts into all of his singing. This was truly seeing a master craftsman at work, like a Pavarotti or a Johnny Cash. I felt extremely privileged to witness this classic assault of pure METAL!

They opened with Priest's "Painkiller", putting Rob's vocals to the test right away. A test he passed with flying colors. His band was great behind him, with Metal Mike showing himself more and more to be one of the top axeman in metal today. His showmanship matched Halford's own. Of course, Jarzombek was amazing on the drum kit as well. The band's new bassist Mike Davis was a big improvement over the rather faceless Ray Riendau, jumping all over the stage. Guitarist Roy Z was pretty good as far as technique goes but I do miss Pat Lachman's animalistic stalking of the stage.

A surprising "War of Words" from Fight was up next and the band ripped into a diverse and multi-faceted selection of material. "Rapid Fire" ripped! Too bad they couldn't have followed it right up with "Metal Gods" fact, it's pretty weird that "Metal Gods" didn't get played at all. From the new album, we got "Heretic", the melodic and downbeat "Crystal" which showed Rob's vocal abilities to their fullest, and the killer "Betrayal". But the true highlight of the "Crucible" stuff was the magnificent "Golgotha", which had me and everybody in the place in a headbanging frenzy. This is truly a classic.

On the "Resurrection" tour, Halford dipped back into Judas Priest's back catalogue to play some unusual tidbits like "Stained Class". This time, he told us: "We're going to play a song that I have never before performed live"...and then, incredibly, the band kicked into "White Heat, Red Hot" off of "Stained Class". - unreal! And they nailed it, showing that good metal is truly timeless. How timeless? Well, for the next surprise, "we are playing a song that was the very first track I ever recorded with Judas Priest." And then the band played "Never Satisfied" from "Rocka Rolla"! Can you believe it? The tune showed how metal has kind of come full circle, as the song had a kind of "stoner rock" vibe to it. Rob and the band were into it -great stuff!

The show was too short, and I think of all the other tracks they could have played like "Sinner", "Exciter", "Hell Bent for Leather" or "Screaming for Vengeance" from the Priest years or "Crucible" and "Sun" from Halford. But no, we had to have some dance hall chump come in at 10 PM. Who the hell is Timo Maas and how does he rate over a GOD like Rob Halford? It's a mystery to me.

Still, this was an incredible show and I feel proud to have been a part of it. Metalfest will have a hell of a time living up to this. As for must be joking!
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 3 at
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