Splice Magazine

Splice Media Group

Judas Priest + Black Star Riders + Saxon @ The Detroit Masonic Temple, Detroit, MI

Detroit, Michigan (March 31, 2018) When Judas Priest announced the Firepower 2018 Tour, fans in Detroit, MI naturally assumed the new, massive Little Caesars Arena would be chosen for a tour stop. What a shock it must have been to the masses when Detroit’s quaint, 4,600-seat, Masonic Temple was chosen instead! Soon after, 03/31/18 was circled on the calendar by metalheads lucky enough to have grabbed a ticket. With Black Star Riders and the well-traveled Saxon opening the show, this was shaping up as one of those historic concerts that are talked about for years!

Tonight the Detroit Masonic Temple, in Detroit, MI was the latest tour stop for Saxon’s Thunderbolt World Tour. Metalheads of all ages were on hand to take in the heavy guitar licks and hear a few tracks off one of the best metal albums of the year, the recently released Thunderbolt.

It’s no surprise Saxon was chosen to be direct support on the current Judas Priest world tour, Firepower 2018. Together they have two of the best current metal albums out there, making this tour one for the ages!

Fans didn’t have to wait long once the lights dimmed, as “Thunderbolt” was the opening thrash. What was readily apparent in Saxon’s new music is how the guitar licks seem to be more powerful and brutal than earlier releases in their career. This harder version, along with the powerful vocals of frontman, Biff Byford (vocals), with the help of Paul Quinn (guitars), Nibbs Carter (bass), Doug Scarratt (guitars), and Nigel Glockler (drums) continues to keep Saxon relevant during these times of commercialized-sounding metal.

The twelve-song, 45-minute set that covered classic cuts from Saxon’s 41-year music catalog got the crowd up and moving in typical metal fashion. Signature classics such as “Dallas 1 PM”, “Princess of the Night”, “Denim and Leather”, “They Played Rock and Roll” and “Wheels of Steel” got the fans throwing devils horns. “The Secret of Flight”, “Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz)” and “Thunderbolt” off the current release, Thunderbolt, had their heads moving to the rhythm of the thundering guitars. A classic Saxon performance was verified by the loud approval from the crowd. Saxon sounded better today than any time in their recent past.

Make no mistake, Saxon has enormous energy on stage and deliver a performance that would put most of today’s metal bands to shame. Even though they are working on their fourth decade as a band, Saxon continues to evolve and recreate themselves. Is it because of the lineup changes and a remixing of their sound that keeps them relevant or is it something else? If their latest release, Thunderbolt, holds any cadence in the future of Saxon, metal-heads can rest assured that the future of classic metal is in good hands.

Saxon © John Swider
Saxon © John Swider
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Be sure to check out Saxon – Thunderbolt – Album Review

When the Black Star Riders (BSR) were announced as the opener for the Judas Priest Firepower 2018 Tour, most fans who didn’t know who they were thought they were just a time slot filler. How wrong these folks were and what a show they missed at The Detroit Masonic Temple in Detroit, MI, if this was their thinking!

BSR is the five-year-old re-formation of the classic band, Thin Lizzy. With Scott Gorham’s (guitar) legendary experience leading the way, the current lineup was devised. With Robbie Crane (bass/vocals), Damon Johnson (guitar/vocals), Ricky Warwick (vocals/guitar) and Chad Szeliga (drums) signed, a high-energy, tight-knit group of musicians had been assembled.

When the Black Star Riders took the stage tonight, the venue was half full with most of the crowd still in the lobby area. As soon as the blazing guitar of “All Hell Breaks Loose” off BSR’s first LP of the same name was audible, the crowd began to filter in to see who this mystery band was that was lighting it up. With Warwick providing the scintillating vocals and the band’s energy and excitement readily apparent on stage the show was on!

In what could be conceived as a stroke of genius, BSR dipped back into the history of Thin Lizzy for a blistering version of the radio classic “Jailbreak”. With veterans Gorham and Johnson providing the thunderous guitars and Warwick the vocals, the crowd was now up and singing back at the band. With the venue nearing capacity, BSR could now dip into their own music library and prove to the fans in the Motor City that they are a rock band that shouldn’t be overlooked.

After “Heavy Fire”, from 2017, left the crowd’s senses battered and bruised, the band came right back with “Soldierstown” off 2015’s The Killer Instinct. Another version of the classic dual guitar shredding songs that seems to drive BSR and define their sound.

After a quick breather, the band moved right into a guitar-heavy version of “When the Night Comes In”, which the crowd seemed to thoroughly embrace. Highlighting Warwick’s’ vocals and Szeliga’s pounding drums, the song was a perfect setup for “Kingdom of the Lost” from All Hell Breaks Loose.  Not your typical hard rock song by any means, it definitely has the ghosts of Thin Lizzy deeply rooted in the guitar licks and harmonic melody.

Ending the night on a high note was the ever-entertaining “Bound for Glory”. With multiple guitar hooks and a rhythmic beat on the snare from Szeliga, the song was a ‘head-nodding’ delight which also showcased each band member’s musical talent throughout.

The sheer energy and stage presence that Warwick brings to the stage along with BSR’s outstanding chemistry are traits all great bands need to succeed. Along with the outstanding musicianship and the hard-driving songs in their catalog, this is a band that needs to be heard and seen. Touring in support of Judas Priest, hopefully, will get Black Star Riders the exposure it so deserves. Catch them live, it’s a show you won’t forget!

Black Star Riders © John Swider
Black Star Riders © John Swider
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With an overwhelming sense of anticipation heavy in the air, leather-clad metal heads converged on the Masonic the last Saturday in March, which also happened to be Easter-eve. What an amazing sight it was as fans, most wearing black, assembled on the steps of this iconic structure waiting for entry. Once inside, and with the formalities of Black Star Riders and Saxon, who both performed notable sets in their own rights, out of the way, the stage was set for the return of the patriarchs of metal, Judas Priest.

As the sound of “War Pigs”, the traditional walk-on music that was chosen for this tour became louder and louder, fans knew it was time. Up on their feet, chants of “Judas Priest, Judas Priest” permeated the venue. When the curtain dropped, and with Richie Faulkner playing the opening licks off the title track of the critically acclaimed “Firepower” the onslaught was on. Joining him next on stage was newcomer Andy Sneap, who was tapped to take over for Glenn Tipton. Even though much was made over Tipton missing the tour, Sneap is a welcome addition and has the ability to take the band to a whole new level. Next, bassist Ian Hill and vastly underrated drummer, Scott Travis took their customary spots on the elaborate stage. Finally, Rob Halford wearing a metal studded silver leather jacket and his ubiquitous sunglasses emerged from the depths to the thundering ovation of the sold-out crowd.

For the next two hours, fans were treated to a 19-song set of the best Priest has to offer. From the new LP, Firepower came the album’s title track, “Firepower” along with “Evil Never Dies”, and “Lightning Strike”. The classic LP, British Steel gave us “Breaking the Law”, ”Grinder” and “Metal Gods” which are all metal anthems in their own right. It was a near-perfect performance by the anointed ’Masters of Metal’. Whether it was the resonating vocals of Halford on the 40th anniversary deep cut classic “Saints in Hell”, or Falkner taking the guitar licks of “Turbo Lover” to a whole new level, Judas Priest sounded good, really good. They performed flawlessly, hit-after-hit, with a polished stage presence that would make other bands envious.

One of the more poignant moments of the show came during the last song before the four-song encore. On the huge video board directly behind the band, a fitting tribute to guitarist Glenn Tipton was shown during the performance of “PainKiller”. The appreciative crowd seemed to pay homage also by the tipping their hats and the display of the time-honored ‘devil’s horns’ in a metal salute to the stricken band member.

As the night was winding down with “Electric Eye” and “Metal Gods”, Halford and the boys had saved the best for last. After a well-deserved short break offstage, Priest returned for a thunderous version of their signature metal classics, ”You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” and “Living After Midnight”. With Faulkner and Sneap shredding on their guitars to the fans delight and Halford, who is sounding better than he has in years – the show lived up to the expectations and more!
The ‘Metal Gods’ have given Judas Priest new life with the addition of Sneap and the highly acclaimed LP, Firepower. It’s unfortunate that Glenn Tipton isn’t with them on this tour, but based on the performance tonight, Judas Priest is still alive and doing well even without him!

Judas Priest © John Swider
Judas Priest © John Swider
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