Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut was the place to be Thursday night, March 22 for Judas Priest and Saxon fans young and old. LA’s Black Star Riders opened the show in the packed arena. I wasn’t familiar with Black Star Riders, which featured guitarist Scott Gorham, who was an original member of Thin Lizzy, and Robbie Crain (Ratt, Lynch Mob). They were a great start to the night getting everybody rocking with their song “All Hell Breaks Loose.” I was shooting from the photo pit and almost wanted to just rock out, as I really was digging the combination of Thin Lizzy songs such as “Jailbreak,” as well as the originals. I will definitely be grabbing a CD from this band.
I was extremely excited to hear the sounds of the pioneers of the British Heavy Metal band Saxon for my very first time, since I had interviewed original vocalist Biff Byford a couple months ago. I had thoroughly enjoyed their latest release and 22nd album, Thunderbolt. Original member Paul Quinn was on guitar, Nibbs Carter on bass since 1988, Doug Scarratt, also on guitar since 1996, completed by drummer Nigel Glockler. I had read other reviews before attending this night stating that they thought Saxon stole the show. From the first note of “Bound for Glory” I knew there was merit to this claim. Having been a band since I was 6 years old, 67-year-old Byford was headbanging like the twenty year olds as he belted out his lyrics. Saxon’s set had a nice combination of the new songs mixed with the old classics like “Crusader” and “Denim and Leather.” During “Denim and Leather” Byford asked a fan in the front row for his denim jacket, wore it throughout the song, then signed it and tossed it back. I regrettably had to miss a small portion of their set, as I had to check my camera bag into Bag Check after the third song. The highlight of their set for me was my favorite, and Motorhead tribute “They Played Rock and Roll” which was written about their first ever tour, which happened to be with Motorhead. My only complaint about Saxon was that their set was not long enough for their extensive library of songs to satisfy my ears. I really hope to catch them on a headlining tour the next time around. It was purely incredible to see them close up from the photo pit and really get a taste of their energy.
The long awaited time arrived for Judas Priest to take the stage for their “Firepower 2018 Tour.” I didn’t have a photo pass to cover Priest, so I joined my friends in the crowd for the full experience. Rob Halford looked great but retreated off the stage frequently for some costume changes. As my friend and photographer friend, Nino said, he may have been going back there “to puff some oxygen if he had a tank.” He sang great, but seemed a little short of breath by the end. Ian Hill was rocking the bass as good as he had in the 80s. They played a nice long set with the usual fan favorites and some not often played songs, as well as a taste of the new tidbits from, Firepower. I heard some mixed reactions from die-hard fans that had been to several of the concerts over the years. Some loved it and one friend told me he walked out after the third song. For my friend that walked out, I think he missed the highlight of the night when Glenn Tipton come out and played the last 3 songs despite his recent announcement of departure from the tour due to Parkinson’s Disease. I think Andy Sneap did a fine job filling in, but some fans can’t handle change. The crowd went wild and were on their feet at Tipton’s appearance and he gave it his all! Everyone was high off the music (and I’m sure some off other things) and it was great to hear the arena sing “Living After Midnight” in unison to close out the evening. It was definitely a night to remember, especially sharing this unique experience with several of my local friends. Make sure to check out this tour near you!
By Nina McCarthy