Judas Priest - Newport Centre
It’s an inauspicious start to the evening when The Music Fix finds itself wandering aimlessly around a ghastly, concrete municipal car park in the charming hamlet of Newport, South Wales. Ten minutes in we find ourselves in a mini-posse of lost souls desperately rattling doors and praying for a loose latch. We can see the venue, hell we can even hear the support band but it seems an eternity before we finally extricate ourselves from this cathedral to the Vauxhall Nova.
As inauspicious starts go, however, it pales into insignificance against the tale of Judas Priest’s farewell world tour which, at the eleventh hour, found itself bereft of lead guitarist and founding member K.K. Downing. A victim of excess? No. He hasn’t even found God, but he has possibly found the fairway at the tricky fifteenth. Yes, for as the Epitaph tour reaches the UK so does the British Open Golf Tournament and it’s reported that Downing has elected to spend his time on his Shropshire golf course. The R&A took my K.K. away?
It seems a missed opportunity that the Priest don’t perform on a floating pontoon in the venue’s swimming pool but we’re told that there were logistical problems in manoeuvring the Harley down the water slide. There are, nevertheless, a few locals bobbing around in the shallows, completely oblivious to the raucous din and flaming pyro being unleashed above their heads. That din erupts with explosive 'Rapid Fire', amid some brief chuckles as the curtain gets horribly entangled with the stage monitors. It’s louder than hell, as it should be, and the only real tell tale sign of Downing’s absence is that his doppelganger replacement Richie Faulkner looks like he’s got a picture in his attic.
This is being promoted as the final tour as the band have expressed a desire to go out, like Zidane, at the peak of their powers. It’s a sound move for, tonight, Judas Priest deliver the ultimate heavy metal rock 'n roll experience. Jet black leather, fearsome flames, gargantuan guitars and, of course, excoriating vocals from the master of darkness himself. It’s a hell of a kiss off for the fans who carry the band shoulder like Gods through thunderous renditions of 'Metal Gods', 'The Sentinel', 'Breakin’ The Law' and 'Hell Bent For Leather' which inevitably climaxes with Rob Halford, clad in a Welsh flag, hauling up on his trademark Harley. The inevitable finale is a nuclear assault upon the peerless 'Living After Midnight', the people of Newport dive for cover and K.K. heads for his bunker. Out with a bang, not a whimper.
Final word of warning. If you visit K.K’s golf course, don’t play it backwards or you might end up shooting half your head off. Right, now where’s my car?