Friday, August 16, 2002 @ 3:01 PM
Judas Priest/Lillian Axe/Holli
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Let us open yet another chapter in the never-ending saga of the KNAC.COM Pure Rock Patrol in Houston, Texas. Today we find our heroes Stu_II, SgtB and yours truly heading to the Verizon Wireless Theater in downtown Houston for a show featuring one of the great legends of heavy metal, Judas Priest, with a supporting cast of Lillian Axe and Hollister Fracus. A very special thanks goes out to Mark Bridges, another member of the Houston PRP who works security at quite a few venues around town and who so graciously provided us with tickets to the show. The night started ominously as we were stopped at the venue entrance with our usual supply of KNAC.COM swag as well as some CD samplers that were provided to us by Century Media. Not only were we told we could not enter with said materials but also that we could not give them out anywhere on the property. What the Hell? We had done this many times before without incident, but I guess since 9/11 everything is a little bit tighter. I guess they were afraid that our CD samplers would become lethal projectiles, slitting the throats of everyone in attendance, and God only knows what kind of security breach the stickers constituted. (Sarcasm mode on maximum there).
So, not wanting a confrontation and certainly not wanting to make the person in charge there look like the idiot he really is, we decided to return to our vehicles and leave the paraphernalia behind. The only problem was that it was minutes before the first band was to take the stage, it was 100 damn degrees in downtown Houston, I was wearing a black t-shirt and I had parked on the 3rd floor of an underground parking garage. Needless to say, when I returned to the scene of the ‘crime,’ my ass was sweating big time and my deodorant was Screaming for Vengeance. Finally, we were allowed into the show and noticed that we only had moments to spare, so we made our bathroom breaks, grabbed a few drinks and headed into the main venue. Within a minute or two I knew that something was amiss because the opening band was supposed to come on at 7:30 and it was now 7:40. I decided to ask what the deal was.
Now I know that there are some people reading this from outside Houston and even outside of Texas that have heard of this band. These guys are arguably one of the best metal bands that Houston has to offer. They have been around the better part of a decade and have a couple of CDs to their credit. Then imagine how stoked these guys were when they got the nod to share the stage with the Metal Gods. Fate, however, had not yet played its cruel hand. As I mentioned, the band was supposed to hit the stage at 7:30 and play for 20 minutes but, alas, it was 7:40 and the stage was empty. Upon inquiring as to when Hollister was going to come on I was told that there had been some ‘confusion’ and that the band wasn’t even there yet. When asked when exactly they were going to play I was told that Hollister Fracus was not going to be included in the evening’s festivities. So, having about 30 minutes or so to kill before Lillian Axe came on, I decided to step outside to the smoking area to grab a few puffs. Right next to the Verizon Wireless is the Hard Rock Café of Houston and, lo and behold, there were the guys from Hollister hanging out. Upon further inquisition, I was informed that the band was notified by email at 1:30 the DAY OF THE SHOW that they were being dropped from the bill because Judas Priest had brought their own production and sound equipment and didn’t want a local band using it. You have got to be kidding me! To say that the band was disappointed would be the understatement of the century. The guys tried to keep everything in a positive light, but you could tell that they were very discouraged. They did manage a measure of sweet revenge, though, as during Judas Priest’s set I could see CD copies of the band’s newest single “Systematic” flying across the crowd from the rear of the floor. It even appeared that some of these CDs were aimed at the Priest themselves, but did not carry enough weight to make it to their mark. Strike 1 for Judas Priest.
Lillian Axe hit the stage at 8:15 and kicked off their 45 minutes set with one of their most recognizable songs, “Crucified.” I have seen the Axe about 10 times in the past 2 years here in Houston and was excited for the guys that they had been able to secure this opening slot. As the band gains momentum for their upcoming live CD release later this month, bigger and better things are happening for them and I can’t think of anyone more deserving than them. They were en fuego on this night, taking much of the 700-800 people in attendance by surprise, as Lillian Axe was never even mentioned in any of the ads promoting the show. In short order they had most of the crowd pumping their fists to such Axe classics as “Love and War,” “Deepfreeze,” “Become a Monster,” ‘True Believer” and “Letters in the Rain” before finishing their set with “Misery Loves Company.” A side note to their performance was that probably 100 or more of the fans in attendance were the die hard Lillian Axe fans who attend every show the guys put on in Houston, some traveling even from Dallas and Louisiana to see their heroes. And for those negative readers who questioned whether or not Lillian was a good match to open for Priest, I say that they were more than up to the challenge and in my opinion were a perfect opener. The night would have been flawless for the band, but again the snobs from the UK decided to pull another incident. Following Lillian’s performance, they were informed that they were to pack their shit up and clear out of the backstage area. Strike 2 for Judas Priest.
Now I have to make a confession here. I had not seen Judas Priest perform since 1984’s Defenders of the Faith tour and I must admit that I was a bit apprehensive about seeing them with new vocalist Ripper Owens at the helm. Although I had heard a great deal of things about him, mostly good, I still was left wondering what kind of impression he would make on me and exactly how well he would do on the older Priest material, or even how much of the old material they would do for that matter. That question was quickly answered at 9:30 when the band ripped (no pun intended) into their 1 ½ hour set with “Bloodsuckers” from the band’s most recent release Demolition. They quickly followed that up by digressing slightly for “Metal Gods.”
Ripper Owens is absolutely more than an ample replacement for the departed Rob Halford and I am a die-hard Halford fan, so my loyalties were severely tested on this evening. Of course, Ripper has age on his side and he definitely had no problems hitting the classic Halford high notes, actually even bettering the originals if you can consider that possible. And the band did not shy away from the classics that made them famous. Songs included in the band’s set were “Victim of Changes,” “Breaking the Law” (which immediately puts me in mind of the Beavis and Butthead episode where the boys have to clean a poodle they had been watching… “Washing the Dog, Washing the Dog” kept reverberating through my head), “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming,” “Diamonds and Rust” and “Bloodstained.”
The band finished the evening off with 3 encores, “Hellion/Electric Eye,” “Living After Midnight” and “Painkiller.” The band was full of great energy, especially Ripper, and it was amazing to see how Glen, K.K. and Ian had not changed virtually at all in the past 25 years.
One notable during their set was this girl who was positioned on the shoulders of her male companion at different times during their set and proceeded to flash her breasts to the band through her cowhide halter-top. I guess you could say that she was Hell Bent for Leather. All in all, a most impressive performance from the British masters and I give their show an absolute 10 for showmanship, talent and energy, BUT I did give them 2 strikes during the evening for their arrogant stunts and had they pulled -- one more I would have given the band a thumbs down regardless of how well they performed. So, for attitude I give them a big fat goose egg, 0. Note to Judas Priest: This is 2002, not 1984 and you guys are no longer the arena-rocking, powerhouse popular band you once were, certainly not to the point where your egos should still be the size of some of the venues you USED to play in here. You know, most of the bands I have had the pleasure of seeing over the past few years that used to be famous in a big way have lost the arrogant attitude they once had because they realize that they really should appreciate the loyal fans that they have left. It seems that Judas Priest has missed this point somewhere along the way.