2310 Festival: Judas Priest, Whitesnake, Firewind, Roxy Bitch
Kaftanzogleio Stadium, Thessaloniki, Greece
After countless years of waiting, it was time for the city of Thessaloniki to witness the coming of the greatest heavy metal moment in its history. The last chance to see a legend of our music was now and finally the mighty Judas Priest made a stop here, supported by another great band we had seen again, the always welcomed Whitesnake. I don’t think that many of us ever thought we would be able to see two great voices in the history of rock in general, with Rob Halford and David Coverdale giving their best as they’ve done the last four decades. These two colossal bands were supported by two other Greek bands, the glam sounding Roxy Bitch and the ongoing rising force Firewind, in maybe the most important moment in both bands’ history. Until the next one of course. On the other hand, the people of the town once again managed to show why we shouldn’t have such events on our city, with the attendance being rather low and their expressive force as good as one of a possible Schoolwave festival.
Roxy Bitch appeared on the stage a little after six in the evening and for about twenty minutes they managed to warm up the crowd as much as possible. To be honest I am not the biggest fan of such a musical direction and I had never seen them live, as they are a known band to the city of Thessaloniki. I can state truly that they gave 101% of all they had and their performance was loud, clear and promising. They caught the chance that was given to them and they didn’t let it go without taking advantage of it. Among their compositions we had a rather sleazy and welcome cover of the always legendary ”Touch Me” by Samantha Fox. In overall, they got all positive comments from the initially suspicious towards them crowd and the gig started in the best possible way. Well done guys.
Firewind came up on stage after them and it was clear from the beginning that the sound was not their ally that day. Giving the best they could, without fully overtaking the technical problems, I was lucky to see them with a great line up, featuring Marios Iliopoulos (Nightrage mainman) on bass and Michael Ehre on drums. This rhythm section gives an extra boost to the rest three skillful pioneers, Gus G., Bob Katsionis and Apollo Papathanasio, whose voice was in tremendous shape and he was the wild card of the band. The fans showed great response to them, and despite the fact that the sun was burning above their heads, tracks like ”Head Up High”, ”Mercenary Man”, ”I Am The Anger”, ”Tyranny” and of course ”Falling To Pieces” will always remain loveable by their fans. One more plus was ”The Fire And The Fury”, showing us pne of the many reasons why Gus G. is the guitarist of Ozzy Osbourne. I’ve seen them playing much better but under these circumstances, they did more than they could. Hails to all of them for representing Greece abroad as great as they can.
Whitesnake has been one of my mostly beloved bands of all time. I can still remember watching the video of ”Still Of The Night” in the tender age of six years old and whispering to myself ”One day, I want to do this. I’ll become a singer”. Of course this luckily never happened and I prefered watching my heroes instead of becoming something close to them. Entering ”Best Years”, from the previous album ”Good To Be Bad”, it was clear that the sound was rather dirty and groovy. Coverdale accompanied by a tied band, continues to offer experience in tracks such as ”Give Me All Your Love Tonight”, ”Love Ain’t No Stranger” and ”Is This Love”. Great tracks all of them, making you travel back to your first memories as a fan of music. The Whitesnake performance was much better compared to what I had heard from Athens the previous day. Only thing none of us liked was the solos of the band members which lasted about a quarter and we could surely have two or three more songs in their place.
The ending of their show was what we wanted though, with ”Slide It In”, ”Fool For Your Loving”, ”Here I Go Again” and of course, ”Still Of The Night”. After 75 minutes the rest of the members left the stage and Coverdale waved goodbye to us by singing a capella the first verse of the track for which we’ll always love him, Deep Purple’s ”Soldier Of Fortune”. He brought chills on everyone’s spine and they wished us good luck at what we do, leaving us waiting for the main course of the night. Minus the solo section, we had one full hour of Whitesnake power, with most people being satisfied and some others complaining about Coverdale’s voice. Yes, it was low tuned but he didn’t lose a single note at a point and he was as high pitched as he could in the age of 60 years old.
Judas Priest, the metal gods, the band which we have to thank for the term ”metal”. Black Sabbath was always the ”heavy” and Judas Priest will always be the ”metal”. The biggest metal band ever to step on our city, started a little before ten o’clock with ”Rapid Fire”, with headbanging and surprise taking place and the sound being crystal clear, and by declaring us that they are the true ”Metal Gods”, they show us how it like ”Heading Out To The Highway”. It was rumoured that the setlist would cover all the albums, but such selection we couldn’t wait even in our wildest dreams. ”Judas Rising” is one of the best tracks after Rob Halford’s return and has rightfully gained a place in the setlist, while ”Starbreaker” is a track they must have had many years to unbury from the treasure chest. And somewhere there is where logic is lost when ”Victim Of Changes” enters and you just can’t help but feeling lucky to see this live. A tremendous performance by Halford, with the rest being as steady as they’ve always been.
And for those wondering, yes, the new member made me not even think for a minute my favourite Priest member of all times, K.K. Downing, who was not there that night. We must praise Ritchie Faulkner who showed a great presence on the scene and it seemed as if he had been alongside the band for decades. And of course, this live had everything, even a track from the ”Rocka Rolla” debut, being ”Never Satisfied” that set the stage for the always chilling cover of ”Diamonds And Rust” by Joan Baez. Without high pitched vocals by Halford this time, but still a great song that they managed to cover better than the original version. Time for a track from ”Nostradamus”, their latest release, with ”Prophecy” being the main course before ”Night Crawler” who lit the spark that became fire. Half the set was over without understanding and ”Turbo Lover” showed us that even in their experimental and commercial days, Judas Priest always knew how to write great songs.
In my humble opinion, ”Beyond The Realms Of Death” is the ultimate song of the band, so my joy was extra high when I listened to it, with the duo of ”The Sentinel” (frenzy) and ”Blood Red Skies” (what?) sending me to heaven. Such great songs, such a great opportunity seeing a career ending this way. Time for the other standard cover of Fleetwood Mac, ”The Green Manalishi (With The Two Pronged Crown)” and the last two tracks of the main set, with Halford leaving the fans sing ”Breaking The Law” (total failure, I couldn’t even hear a thing) and ”Painkiller” was the perfect closing of the set, where Scott Travis totally nailed it. Glen Tipton steady all the time and the mighty Ian Hill…well, what can I say about him? The definition of a HEAVY METAL bass player, banging relentlessly in his corner.
The riff of ”The Hellion” brings yells and screams and ”Electric Eye” will always remain the ultimate Judas Priest live song with the most trademark metal riff of all times. Then after trying to get our bearings, Halford comes on stage riding his Harley and ”Hell Bent For Leather” creates some movement in the arena, before ”You’Ve Got Another Thing Coming” tells us straight in the face ”it’s party time now” and when it’s over, Halford says ”I’m gonna stay here all night rocking”, so it’s ”Living After Midnight” that closes the Judas Priest Epitaph Tour in Greece. The last (?) time we will ever see them will be the most memorable one, for they respected the name they carry for about four decades and gave every single amount of sweat they had. Such is the way great bands should say goodbye to their fans. And we will never miss them because they will forever stay on our hearts. We must thank them for what they offered us all these years and let’s hope some others will retire in such an honest way.
Aggelos “Redneck” Katsouras