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Concert Reviews:
Deep Purple, Judas Priest bring hard rock heaven to Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre
 

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

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STERLING HEIGHTS -- Two titans of hard rock history paired on Friday night, Aug. 24, in the Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre, creating some smoke-- and musical fire -- on the (Freedom) Hill that was more complement than competition.



Judas Priest brought the visceral and Deep Purple the virtuosity during their respective sets. The good news was that both bands -- Purple at 50, Priest just one year behind -- are still in top form at this late point in their careers, and that least one (Priest) seems to have every intention, and ability, to continue.



One had to listen no further than Priest's ripping rendition of 1977's "Sinner" -- produced, ironically, by Purple bassist Roger Glover -- to understand the quintet's key role as a template for the thrash and speed metal models followers such as Metallica, Slayer and others would follow. From the Valhalla wails of frontman Rob Halford (he of the myriad jacket changes) to the precision twin guitar attack of Richie Faulkner and Andy Sneap (in for the ailing Glenn Tipton), it was an icon statement, a one-song testament to Priest's status as a heavy metal vanguard.



There was much more, of course, during the group's flashy 14-song, 75-minute portion of the show. Three songs from the potent new "Firepower" album -- including the title track, which kicked off the set -- fit in seamlessly with older favorites such as "Turbo Lover," "Freewheel Burning" and an epic arrangement of "You've Got Another Thing Comin'," while Halford held to tradition and rolled onstage on a motorcycle at the start of "Hell Bent For Leather." Priest nodded to the absent Tipton with some video footage during "Painkiller." The encores ("Metal God," "Breaking the Law" and "Living After Midnight") seemed a bit rushed, but when the video screen pronounced "The Priest will be back" as the group took its bows, there didn't seem to be a soul in the seats who wasn't happy about that.

From look to feel, Purple's set was an altogether other side of the heavy rock coin. Playing on a basic, stripped-down stage during its 80 minutes, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame quintet played with its own kind of bite, letting guitarist Steve Morse and keyboardist Don Airey stretch out during nearly every song, while frontman Ian Gillan casually came on and off as needed, cracking jokes and mugging with the ease of someone playing a pub rather than a large amphitheater.



Purple delivered its own share of iconic favorites, from the opening "Highway Star" to "Knocking at Your Back Door," a choppy "Space Truckin'" and a roof-raising "Smoke on the Water." But it was the deeper cuts that really highlighted the set, including a proggy pairing of "Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming" and "Uncommon Man" -- the latter dedicated to late founding keyboardist Jon Lord -- and "Lazy," during which Morse and Airey outdid themselves with bluesy vamps that made the song much more than another mere shuffle.



Purple played right up to the venue's curfew with a muscular take on Joe South's "Hush," the group's first hit back in 1968. Unlike Priest, Purple did not guarantee a return; Its current road trip, in fact, has been dubbed the Long Goodbye Tour. But if it it does prove to be Purple's final stop in this area, it certainly left a lasting, and positive, impression.

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