2008 Metal Masters Tour – Part 2 – [Live]

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

This is Part 2 of our coverage of the Metal Masters Tour featuring Judas Priest, Heaven and Hell, Motörhead and Testament. Check out Part 1 here.

After totally kick-ass sets by both Testament and Motörhead, I decided I had just enough time to grab a quick beer and hit the merchandise booth. And as I walked through the concourse I couldn't make it more than a few yards without spotting someone who is part of Bay Area Metal history. Members of Exodus, Death Angel, High On Fire, Machine Head, and Neurosis were all in attendance today, as well as dozens of people who I knew or recognized from the San Francisco metal scene. Shows like this bring out the camaraderie in us all, and although I wish I had more time to just hang out with people, I had to get back to the photo pit asap, because my camera and I had a date with Ronnie James Dio, and I wasn't about to be late.

All I can really say about Heaven and Hell is that from the opening riff of "The Mob Rules" to the closing notes of "Neon Knights,” the band completely and totally owned this show. It is really hard to believe just how good these guys still are, and this show only solidified that the Dio-era of the mighty Sabbath put out some of the band’s best music. Ronnie James Dio is and always will be the ultimate metal front man, and tonight he was covering ever inch of the gargoyle-flanked stage, while constantly throwing up his trademark horns to the crowd. His voice was absolutely perfect, and from the lows of "Children of the Sea,” to the highs of "Falling Off the Edge of the World,” he didn't miss a step. Bassist Geezer Butler and guitar (beyond) god Tony Iommi were their usual stoic selves—although I did see them both crack a smile on more than one occasion. And while watching Iommi through the lens of my camera I almost had a mini freak-out, as he has been a guitar idol of mine for over twenty five years, and to see him up there with his 1978 Jaydee Custom SG "Old Boy" guitar, while churning out riff after riff after riff was THE highlight of my music journalism career. As for drummer Vinnie Appice, he is a true metal stalwart, and proved with his drum solo in the middle of the set that he hasn't lost his chops. If I had to pick a high point of the set it would have to be "Die Young" which, with its ethereal opening and heavy riffage, was delivered absolutely flawlessly. And while watching Dio standing at the front of the stage with thousands and thousands of metalheads wrapped around his finger, while Tony Iommi stood at the back of the stage effortlessly hitting every millimeter of his fretboard, it became obvious that these four guys have re-secured Black Sabbath's place in Heavy Metal history.

If there is any band that could follow Testament, Motörhead, and an epic Heaven and Hell, it could only be the mighty Judas Priest. After all, as amazing as the night's previous bands had been, it was the Priest that the kids had come to see, and as I stood in the photo pit and looked up at the sea of people now in front of me, it didn't look like a single person had left the venue.

As the lights finally dimmed and the curtain opened to reveal a huge backdrop of Nostradamus, complete with glowing red eyes, the place just fucking erupted. The band took their place on stage during the "Dawn of Creation" intro, with Rob Halford standing on a platform above the stage, draped in a Silver hooded cloak and holding his familiar staff. It took all of thirty seconds into their set for me to realize that this band can still deliver the goods. Declaring that "The Priest Are Back,” Rob Halford played ringmaster as the rest of the band churned through a classic set which included killer versions of "Metal Gods,” "Devil's Child," "Dissident Aggressor," "Eat Me Alive" and "Painkiller," just to name a few. Guitarist K.K. Downing was on fire, and playing his signature Flying- V he looked and acted like the same guitar bad ass he was the first time I saw the band back in 1985. And although he was a bit more subdued than his guitar tag team partner, Glen Tipton was also nothing short of a guitar bad ass, and together he and Downing provided the perfect twin-guitar metal attack. As for bassist Ian Hill and drummer Scott Travis, they’re simply one of the best rhythm sections in metal, and tonight they kept the Priest sound just as heavy as ever. The crowd was loving every minute of it, and although Halford might not quite be able to hit the high notes anymore (he is 57 years old after all), he is indeed a "Metal God,” and he and the band gave the die-hard Priest fans exactly what they wanted to hear. After an encore of “Hell Bent For Leather" (complete with Harley), "Green Manalishi" and "You've Got Another Thing Coming,” the night sadly came to a close.

While walking back to my car a random metalhead wearing a Judas Priest shirt struck up a random conversation with me, and the two of us talked about what an epic day of metal this was, and we both declared the "Metal Masters" tour nothing short of a total success.



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