Thursday, March 22, 2018
Judas Priest and Earth, Wind & Fire delivered great concerts back-to-back last week at Covelli Centre.
Priest was up first. The torchbearers of heavy metal for five decades engraved their name on the list of legendary acts that have played the downtown arena.
The concert last Thursday was an electrifying career retrospective. But Priest is still very much alive, and two songs from the band’s new “Firepower” album made the set list, including the title cut with its speed-metal drum work.
Frontman Rob Halford has one of the greatest voices in metal and proved he is still in fine form. He also still has that Harley-Davidson, which he famously rides on stage at every show.
The band’s buzzsaw sound was led by guitarist Richie Faulkner, who delivered crunchy riffs all night. Andy Sneap – filling in for Glenn Tipton – completed the tight two-guitar attack.
Tipton, one of the founders of Priest, is sitting out the tour because Parkinson’s disease is keeping him from playing at peak level.
In an interview with The Vindicator, Faulkner said Tipton would make occasional – and unannounced – visits on the tour.
He didn’t show up at Covelli (except on the video screen), saving his first cameo for the band’s concert in New Jersey two days ago, where he played a few songs to a roar of approval.
The set list, of course, included Priest mainstays “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming,” “Breaking the Law,” “Turbo Lover,” “Some Heads are Gonna Roll” and “Living After Midnight.”
But other songs also hit just as hard. “Evil Never Dies,” for example, delivered rapid-fire blows, like a Death Star turbolaser cannon with a bump stock.
Opening for Priest were their Brit-metal contemporaries Saxon, plus Thin Lizzy descendants Black Star Riders.
BSR’s new album is great, but the textured songs were wasted at Covelli due to uneven sound levels that created a murky audio mess.
The aura of greatness continued Friday for the fantastic Earth, Wind & Fire, who were making their fourth appearance at the arena.
The original three – Philip Bailey, Ralph Johnson and Verdine White – were backed by a full band and a three-piece horn section.
Adding an exclamation point were a pair of athletic backup singer/percussionists who were fun to watch with their jumping, spinning and stick twirling.
The result was a dazzling display of constant-motion choreography and musicianship and a ton of funky-yet-timeless hits.
“That’s the Way of the World” was sung as a tribute to EWF founder Maurice White, who died in 2016. Images of him in the band’s heyday graced the screens during the song.
The great Philip Bailey – whom Johnson referred to as “the voice” – was a smooth crooner on “After the Love Is Gone” and later brought the house down with his soaring high notes. Like a fine wine, he keeps getting better.
The act brought back the disco era on “Boogie Wonderland,” with red flashing lights emanating from the translucent stage risers. The bouncing bass and percussion breakdown had the crowd dancing in the aisles.
Guy D’Astolfo covers entertainment for The Vindicator.