DVD Review: Judas Priest – Epitaph

DVD Review: Judas Priest – Epitaph
Legacy Recordings
All Access Rating: A+

Judas Priest - Epitaph 2013
It’s the end of the line for Judas Priest, or so they say. Their days of grinding it out for long stretches on the road are reportedly over. No more massive, globe-trotting tours, like the 50-week “Epitaph World Tour,” which started in the summer of 2011 and lasted well into 2012. 

Having reached a certain age, as most of the men of Priest have, the hours spent traveling and then performing for hours on end can be extremely hard on the body – even if on “Epitaph,” the blazing new live DVD from Priest, they seem just as full of piss and vinegar as they were in their youth.

No gold watches were handed out at this retirement party, as “Epitaph” – available on DVD and Blu-ray – captures in breathtaking fashion Priest’s final concert from that worldwide death march, a 23-song slog through their mountainous catalog at London’s HMV Hammersmith Apollo on May 26, 2012 that scorches the earth they have trod for years. Well aware of the historical significance of this show, Priest takes off on a cattle drive across a set list that includes a song from every one of their 14 studio albums and they attack them all with equal intensity and fervor.

Amid shooting plumes of smoke and fire, with a stage awash in vivid, colorful lighting and backed by a wide projection screen, Priest goes for broke, aggressively charging into killer classics like “Painkiller,” “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” and “Electric Eye” with utter abandon. Working in tandem with exuberant new guitarist Richie Faulkner, whose volcanic shredding make for simply scintillating entertainment, Glenn Tipton’s staggering riffs and searing leads are positively rabid, as “Night Crawler” – from the Painkiller LP – and “Never Satisfied,” off 1974’s Rocka Rolla, growl with primal menace. That magnificent wail of Rob Halford’s shows no sign of wear, as he nails the famous scream at the end of “Beyond the Realms of Death,” from Stained Class, with deadly accuracy. And with the crowd in a lather, Priest races through “Turbo Lover,” exhorting an energized fan base to fill the venue with their full-throated roar – as they do on “Breaking the Law,” where Halford turns over the vocals to the people and lets them have their day.

Punishingly heavy, “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)” and the bulldozing “Prophesy” – the mammoth centerpiece of 2008’s Nostradamus – still surge with unrelenting power long after the band expends a great deal of energy plowing through Painkiller’s “Battle Hymn” and British Steel’s “Rapid Fire” and “Metal Gods” at the start of the evening. Priest is tireless, and although K.K. Downing is missed, Faulkner’s vibrancy is incredibly infectious. And when Halford, stalking the stage with purpose and looking every bit the Metal God he purports to be, brings the Harley onstage for “Hell Bent for Leather,” as is the custom with Priest, the place predictably goes ballistic, making it all the more sad that this may be it for them as a touring beast.

What a spectacular sendoff “Epitaph” is, though, exciting from beginning to end and amazingly filmed. Shot from a seemingly endless variety of angles and edited sharply, the visuals are stunning, making the pace of the two-hour show somehow faster and more thrilling than it ought to be, thanks to Alex Walker’s smart, dynamic direction. It’s not a stretch to say this might be one of the finest live concert movies ever, as evidenced by a willingness to actually have it shown in movie theaters.

At the fiery conclusion of the show closer “Living after Midnight,” Halford waves goodbye, and it’s a wistful moment. Faulkner, on the other hand, raises his guitar in triumph, as the band persuades Halford to come back for one last bow. Nobody wants it to end, but it must. For one night, however, they raged against the dying of the light and beat it back. http://www.legacyrecordings.com/a/#/home/
– Peter Lindblad

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