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Judas Priest at Masonic, 5 Things To Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Nearly 50 years on, Judas Priest clearly has plenty of, er, firepower.

In fact, the iconic British heavy metal group’s recently released 18th studio album “Firepower” debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 -- the highest-charting release in Priest’s history. It also snagged the band’s best first-week sales since 2005 and came on the heels of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination last fall.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing; Guitarist and co-founder Glenn Tipton revealed earlier this year that he’s suffering from Parkinson’ disease and has retired from touring, although he made cameos at a few East Coast shows. Nevertheless, Priest is soldiering on with “Firepower” co-producer Andy Sneap filling in, and frontman Rob Halford is confident that the Metal Gods’ reign is still intact...

• Halford, 66, says by phone that with “Firepower,” Priest had “a simple mantra that, ‘Hey guys, we’re gonna write the greatest heavy metal Priest album we’ve ever made.’ ‘Ok, let’s do it!’ That’s where we start from. That simple, straightforward belief is what we’re aiming for.”

• Halford acknowledges that his description “sounds like a lot of Priest albums,” but he says that there was a greater attention paid to “that expression of all the great things you love about Judas Priest over the decades. There are 100 different kinds of metal expression, and we’ve tried a lot of them, but we held the reins on this one. We wanted to make sure we stayed focused in this belief of keeping it classic, heavy Priest, and that’s where we ended up.”

• Halford acknowledges that “the emotions are still quite raw” about Tipton’s decision to retire from the road. But there are no hard feelings for the guitarist, either. “Glenn came to this difficult decision he had to make, and as always Glenn’s all about the band, ‘I’ve got to do what’s right for the band’,” Halford explains. “That’s just Glenn being Glenn and this belief that the show must go on, no matter what life throws at you. You’ve got to find a way to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Glenn was very forceful in making sure this tour proceeded, and if he’s ready he’ll come out and play the songs he wants to play at the level that is important to him, ‘cause He always sets a tremendously high standard for himself.”

• Tipton was also the one who fingered Sneap as his replacement in the lineup. “That was the first man that (Tipton) went for,” Halford reports. “Andy was nearby and instantly just went for it. That’s just part of his personality. He didn’t even blink -- ‘I’m ready to whatever you need me to do. I’ve got it.’ How beautiful is that? It was very difficult, but at the same time the solution for making this tour go ahead was in the right place, and here we are now.”

• The issue did generate a bit of bad blood between the band and former guitarist KK Downing, who’s been gone since 2011. Downing said in an interview he was surprised Priest didn’t ask him to rejoin after Tipton made his decision and also made suggestions that it was Sneap rather than Tipton who played on “Firepower.” “That really upset me,” Halford says of the latter. I was with Glenn when he did all his guitar parts. Andy was just producing, so (Downing’s) insinuation is just meaningless. We don’t need that, now. We’ve made one of the greatest heavy metal albums ever for Judas Priest and we’re excited about it and getting back on the road and seeing our fans again. We’re not going to let anything dilute all the great things we’ve achieved as a band over the years.”

If You Go

• Judas Priest, Saxon and Black Star Riders

• 7 p.m. Saturday, March 31.

• Masonic Temple, 500 Temple Ave., Detroit.

• Tickets are sold out.

Call 313-832-7100 or visit themasonic.com.

Web Site: www.themasonic.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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