When I told someone I was heading out to see Judas Priest and Deep Purple they immediately put their hands over their ears. And rightfully so. Combine these two legendary bands and you’ve got more power chords than the normal eardrum can handle. And even though Purple is more hard rock from old-fashioned blues and Priest makes it’s home comfortably on the side of heavy metal, the combination fits so well together; especially on this Sunday night (9/16) at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi where the crowd was definitely amped up on what these two bands delivered to them.
Deep Purple, out supporting their latest studio album, #20, Infinite, on what they have dubbed their Long Goodbye Tour, is spending the summer with Judas Priest, who also have a new album, #18, Firepower. Both bands are honoring band members – Jon Lord and Glenn Tipton, who announced he is retiring from touring due to early stages of Parkinson’s [“I want everyone to know that it’s vital that the Judas Priest tour go ahead and that I am not leaving the band—it’s simply that my role has changed,” he said in a statement released earlier this year]. Both bands hail from England, got their starts in the late sixties, had huge hits that practically overshadow the bands themselves, saw their lead singers leave – and eventually come back – and both have not lazied-up to just play their hits and wave goodbye; as their current albums of new material is proof that their creative activity is still sparking.
For Purple, the egos, flashy outfits and show-offy moves were left out on the highway, as all they brought onstage with them was good, raw songs. Opening with “Highway Star” from 1972’s infamous Machine Head album, they segued into another track from the album, “Pictures Of Home.” They would also play “Lazy,” “Space Truckin’” and “Smoke On The Water,” the song that inspired about a million guitar players. “The first show I ever saw, I was fourteen and my cousin took me to see Deep Purple,” remembered Def Leppard axeman Phil Collen during a 2012 Glide interview. “We were front row, Ritchie Blackmore, the guitar player, was smashing his Fender Stratocaster, and it was the most crazy, exciting thing I had ever seen. It changed everything.”
Steve Morse, a founding member of the Dixie Dregs, has now been with Purple for almost twenty-five years; coming in following the departure of Blackmore in 1994. His playing has always been consistent and was stellar in Biloxi, absolutely breathtaking on “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming,” where his solo went from finger-tapping to jazz to rock, like a daydreaming schizophrenic. But ask Morse about his genius on the instrument and he will shake off any praise. “I’m reminded of everything I don’t know about playing guitar every time I pick up the guitar,” he told Glide in 2012. “So I absolutely have no illusion about me knowing it all.”
With Roger Glover on bass, Ian Paice on drums and Ian Gillan on vocals, three members from the most popular Purple lineup were in attendance, with big smiles across their faces – looking like there was no other place they would rather be. Former Ozzy Osbourne/Rainbow keyboardist Don Airey finished out the 2018 lineup (he joined in 2002) and played sometimes space-age/sometimes dark and ominous sounds, “from his good ship Venus,” as Gillan introduced him.
“You’re sending some great vibes up here,” Gillan told their crowd of admirers and he led them in a sing-a-long of the chorus during “Smoke.” “Uncommon Man” was dedicated to the late Jon Lord, an incredible keyboardist who passed away in 2012. “Perfect Strangers” and “Knocking On Your Back Door” also received roars of applause. They ended the night with “Hush.”
The Temperance Movement opened the whole shebang with seven songs culled from their three albums; their latest, A Deeper Cut, having come out in February. Unknown to many of those in attendance, they worked hard to win over everyone and it worked for the most part. I spoke to several fans in Priest shirts who really liked what they heard from the younger band, whose singer, Phil Campbell, danced around the stage in a long-sleeved shirt, playing harmonica on “Three Bulleits” and maracas on “Built-In Forgetter.” “We’re not Frank Zappa. We’re not Captain Beefheart. We’re not going to take it in some kind of weird direction. It’s quite obvious where we’re coming from,” explained Campbell in 2016 about his band’s music, which is straight-up rock & roll with a Black Crowes-y twist. They are definitely a good time.
If t-shirts were any indication, then Judas Priest clearly had the most fans in attendance. And they were quite vocal about who their allegiance was to. Even before the curtain dropped, they were shouting “Priest” at the top of their lungs. Beginning with the title track from their new album, “Firepower” stayed true to the Priest sound. Other new songs included “Lightning Strike,” “No Surrender” and the instrumental “Guardians” that led into the vibrant “Rising From Ruins.”
With the absence of longtime guitarist Glenn Tipton, a few fans were worried that the two-guitar bang the band is so well-known for might fizzle and drizzle. But as with Richie Faulkner replacing KK Downing, Andy Sneap stepping in – Tipton’s own choice – made no harmful ripples. In fact, Sneap made it feel like he had been with the band longer than he actually has been, flying into solos and stepping back while Faulkner zoomed like a jetliner at take-off. “I’m a big Priest fan,” said Faulkner during a 2014 Glide interview. “I grew up on bands like Priest and the double guitar stuff and you kind of know inherently what to do.”
A Priest show wouldn’t be a Priest show without “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” “Breaking The Law” and “Hell Bent For Leather” where Rob Halford rides out on a motorcycle to sing it. “Electric Eye,” “Turbo Lover” and “Living After Midnight” elicited moshing and one guy ripping off his t-shirt and swinging it above his head like it was the 1970’s all over again. Pepper Keenan of Corrosion Of Conformity and Steve Blaze of Lillian Axe were both spotted in the crowd enjoying the show.
“It’s a band of brothers and I think that only benefits the whole group to have that kind of mentality,” said Faulkner. Although Ian Hill stayed close to his favored spot onstage, he acted more like a twenty-year old than the man of sixty-seven that he is. The founding member of the band kept the rhythm to a roaring hum as he connected with drummer Scott Travis, probably one of the most underrated power-bodies in music.
If you love metal, classic rock and rock & roll, this was definitely the night for you. And with two of the leaders still standing after all these years – as singer Rob Halford said from the stage, “You never give up, you never give in” – this tour is one of the highlights of a long hot summer.
Deep Purple setlist: Highway Star, Pictures Of Home, Bloodsucker, Strange Kind Of Woman, Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming, Uncommon Man, Lazy, Knocking At Your Back Door, Perfect Strangers, Space Truckin’, Smoke On The Water, Hush.
Judas Priest setlist: Firepower, Delivering The Goods, Sinner, Lightning Strike, Desert Plains, No Surrender, Turbo Lover, Guardians, Rising From Ruins, Freewheel Burning, You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’, Hell Bent For Leather, Painkiller, Electric Eye, Breaking The Law, Living After Midnight.
The Temperance Movement setlist: Caught In The Middle, Only Friend, Three Bulleits, Battle Lines, Take It Back, Ain’t No Telling, Built-In Forgetter.