Saturday Night: Judas Priest At The Woodlands

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Judas Priest Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion October 15, 2011

Saturday night, at 10:15 or so, a euphoric chill went up Aftermath's spine. Coupled with the cool weather, standing in the presence of Judas Priest at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion was overwhelming, so much so that it didn't quite feel real. It felt surreal, like we had time-traveled back to the group's heyday (or were having one hell of a trip).

In fact, someone unfamiliar with the band might have thought that Judas Priest were currently in the Top 40 charts with the way everyone sang and chanted along in unison for the entire evening.

The "Metal Gods" have still got it, and they're as lively and capable as ever.

For nearly two hours, then for 30 minutes more during the encore, Judas Priest took us all back in time to the glory days of metal, when rock music was flashy and manly, had the ability to make women swoon and extravagant performances weren't a question. Can you imagine a stripped-down Judas Priest performance? Neither can we.

More fire, please.

When it was all over, it wasn't even 11 p.m., but Priest had owned the Pavilion's stage and had held the crowd's full attention for nearly two and a half hours, giving fans one hell of a farewell with a set list comprised of material spanning their 40-year musical history, finally finishing their set with "You've Got Another Thing Coming."

(To clarify, however, the band is not breaking up; they're just settling down.)

Maybe attending all of these shows has finally done damage to our ears, but our one gripe with Saturday's show is that it sounded a bit subdued. Not on the band's part, mind you, but it wasn't as loud as is could have (or should have) been.

Volume-level issues be damned, Judas Priest tore it up all night with screaming, shredding and filling fans' hearts and eyes with more fire and pyrotechnics than any band other than KISS could pull off. And the audience never showed any signs of being tired, either.

While onstage, vocalist Rob Halford also proved that bald can be sexy. His head was glistening with sweat by the end of the first song, and the ladies were beside themselves. When he wasn't singing, he surprised us with a thick English accent and very kind words about the state of Texas.

And surely, since it was Judas Priest's "farewell" tour and all, fans must have been delighted that Halford, who rejoined the band in 2003, was in the lineup and sounded as on point as ever.

As the encore began, after the crowd chanted, "Priest! Priest! Priest!" over and over, the band reappeared onstage and everyone screamed as they began playing "The Hellion/Electric Eye" (which even us youngsters should be familiar with, since we've all at least heard of the Guitar Hero video-game franchise).

Then, as the second song of their encore began, as if the performance hadn't already been memorable, Halford drove a motorcycle out onstage while his band mates wailed on their guitars. He hopped off, wrapped himself in a Texas flag and led the crowd in a call-and-response yodel.

The night was just chilly enough that we kind of wish we had brought a light jacket. Luckily, the flames onstage provided plenty of warmth every few songs.

To the very end, it would seem, Judas Priest were considerate of their fans.

Personal Bias: We didn't really listened to Judas Priest growing up - they did, after all, form nearly 20 years before we were born - but we were familiar enough to realize that seeing the "Metal Gods" live would be quite the experience.

Overheard In the Crowd: "Heavy metal isn't dead, dude. It just goes to bed earlier these days."

Random Notebook Dump: Missing Black Label Society and Thin Lizzy wasn't our intention, and we're sorry that recaps of their performances are not included above, but it took us more than two hours to get from downtown to the Pavillion because of traffic. We arrived at our seats barely five minutes before Priest came onstage. Did anyone else make the mistake of taking I-45? Considering how efficient our freeway systems usually are in the greater Houston area, construction sure has the ability to shut it all down.

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