Judas Priest at Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo, MI

Hell Bent for Metal, Judas Priest deployed the Invincible Shield in Kalamazoo with support from Swedish power lords Sabaton.

Fans spanning the spectrum of ages from old-school metalheads to fresh-faced thrashers jammed into Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo for a double shot of metal music featuring the legendary Judas Priest. The godfathers of heavy metal are touring the world in support of their phenomenal Invincible Shield album. Released on March 7, 2024, Invincible Shield is the mighty Priest’s 19th album and one of their finest.

The job of opening for Judas Priest is daunting. If there is a band that is up to the task it is the metal warriors of Sabaton. In the darkened arena the opening track of “The March to War” called the audience to their feet. A shock of lights revealed a tank as the drum riser, mic stands adorned with military helmets, and the band clothed in their traditional combat fatigues. With force, Sabaton strikes first with “Ghost Division.” 

Several audience members wore Sabaton museum shirts which was part of the band’s campaign to celebrate the history found in their music and showcased in museums around the world via their animated movie called The War To End All Wars. One of these museums was the Michigan Military Heritage Museum which was the only museum in Michigan to feature this film.

With a little play on “May the Fourth Be With You,” Sabaton charged into “Stormtroopers” as Pär Sundström and Hannes Van Dahl brought the thunder. Like a General leading the charge in a Swedish long coat, Joakim Brodén used his sonorous vocals to beckon the crowd for “Carolus Rex.” Firing volley after volley of razor riffs and deadly solos, Chris Rörland and Thobbe Englund made the crowd feel “The Attack of the Dead Men” as Joakim stalked the stage in WWI-era gas mask. In a final blaze of glory, Sabaton wrapped up an impressive performance with “To Hell and Back.” A mere 25 years young, Sabaton stands tall as the master of power metal.

Ominous tones of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” filled the air as the metal faithful rose and began to cheer. As the stage lights go down, twin shields and a large banner bearing an oath are visible on the stage as a metal anthem plays. As the center oath banner pulses with light,  the arpeggio intro to “Panic Attack” from the new album reverberates through the arena. Flashing lights call the crowd to the stage as the metal oath is illuminated and you can hear, but not see, Judas Priest playing the opening riffs. Just as the song kicks into gear, the center banner is hurled aside to reveal Rob Halford, Richie Faulkner, Andy Sneap, and Ian Hill upon the steps to Scott Travis’ drum throne. The electric messiahs begin their sermon.

The Metal God Rob Halford definitely sounds invincible hitting his trademark high notes with intensity and perfection. With a quick nod to the new album complete, Judas Priest revved things up with a suite of classic hits including “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” “Rapid Fire,” and “Breaking the Law.” 

Video screens behind the band are drenched in blood-red lights and shots of Nosferatu as Priest tears into “Love Bites.” Into this mix, they throw “Saints In Hell” from the often overlooked Stained Class album released in 1978. The roiling reddish orange scenes of angels and demons amplify the intensity of this monster metal tune.

Ian Hill’s bass rumbles as Scott Travis’ drums throttle down into another new song called “Crown of Thorns.” This mid-tempo tune flows into the crowd favorite “Turbo Lover” complete with the audience sharing singing duties on the chorus.

In one of the few breaks in the action, Rob mentions that the band is celebrating 50 years of metal music as their first album Rocka Rolla was released in 1974. From their working-class origins in Birmingham (England), they were at the forefront of heavy metal’s creation along with Black Sabbath. Thanking the crowd for their years of support and faith in metal music, Halford introduced the title track to their 2024 album Invincible Shield.

Retaining the remarkable twin guitar attack that is a hallmark of Judas Priest, Richie Faulkner, and Andy Sneap bring the fire on “Victim of Changes.” This song also acts to honor guitarist Glenn Tipton whose image is shown on the video monitors. Tipton assisted in the songwriting for the new Invincible Shield album. However, due to his battle with Parkinson’s, was not able to make the North American tour.

Rob engages the crowd with a bit of sing-a-long, yelling “Ohhhhh…Ohhhh” and “Yeaaahhh Yeaah,” giving the feeling of being in a large football (soccer) stadium for a match. With one last cheer, Halford growls out “Green Manalishi” which receives a roar from the crowd as the band covers this Fleetwood Mac song.

Scott Travis addresses the crowd asking if they are ready for one more song. This is greeted with cheers as Travis fires up the band and they rip into “Painkiller.” Here again, Glenn is remembered with footage of him playing the solo from this classic tune. Afterward, the band exits the stage as the arena goes black.

The audience knowing full well that the evening is not done yet, bellows for more until “The Hellion” signals the return of the Priest to the heavy metal altar. The band pours it on with “Electric Eye” featuring a dazzling solo from Andy Sneap. Rob, adorned in black leather, rolls out on a motorcycle for “Hell Bent for Leather.” Ducking backstage again, Halford comes out in a full-length denim battle jacket to close out the night with the Priest anthem, “Living After Midnight.” Halford thanks everyone for keeping the metal faith while promising to return. He caps off the night with a defiant “We are Judas F***ing Priest.” Indeed, they are one of the greatest metal bands of all time, Judas F***ing Priest.

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About Chuck Marshall 45 Articles
Chuck loves music. If it is powerful and played with conviction, that is even better. In a past life, Chuck enjoyed thrashing on the stage in a Michigan metal band (Battalion). Now he prefers to use his imagery and words to capture the essence of a concert or an album. See and feel the music with Chuck; you’ll be glad you did.