Judas Priest delivers age-defying performance on Epitaph Tour

Nobody wants to see a couple of 60-something-year-old guys running around on stage in skin-tight leather playing songs that had their heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, right?

Well, don't tell that to the guys in Judas Priest. The Metal Gods took the stage of Toronto's Air Canada Centre on Tuesday Nov. 22 to demonstrate why they deserve respect not only as founding members of heavy metal – every metal band with a twin-guitar approach owes its career to Priest – but as virtuoso performers still capable of delivering the goods.  

The night started with a solid performance from Thin Lizzy before guitarist Zakk Wylde and his band Black Label Society took the stage. The audience was treated to a sonic assault of heavy riffs, pounding percussion and grooving bass lines as BLS played through a set of songs from all points in their career, interspersing a 10-minute display of Wylde's six-string mastery in an incredible solo, while the rest of the band left the stage to him and his beloved instrument.

After BLS left, the audience swelled with anticipation as the Judas Priest "Epitaph" banner covered the stage.

Upon hearing the first riff of "Rapid Fire" the audience exploded. Even without original guitarist K.K. Downing (who announced his retirement prior to the Epitaph Tour) the guitar work was characteristically precise and organic throughout Priest's set.

By the second number, "Metal Gods," audience members knew they were in for a great night when vocalist Rob Halford began to improvise his signature screams into the usually scream-less song.  

Halford was without a doubt the highlight of the night. In videos of the band's performances from this tour online, there are many times when Halford's 60 years of age show in his struggles to hit the highest ends of his range, but that wasn't the case in the Toronto show. Halford forgot his age and absolutely blew the audience away with some of the most powerful screams he's delivered live in the last decade.

His crowning moment came at the end of 1976's "Victim of Changes," the climax of which can be arguably considered the greatest scream in the history of rock music, let alone heavy metal. The anticipation grew as the song built to its conclusion, and then Halford screamed with a vengeance, bringing down the house with an unbelievably powerful delivery of a sustained falsetto note that would frighten Satan himself.

Later in the set, Priest played its classic, "Breaking the Law," and in stark contrast, Halford didn't even attempt to sing a single note. Instead, the crowd sang every last word to the 1980s single, leaving the band to applaud them at its conclusion.

Other highlights included "Blood Red Skies," which Priest had never played live before the Epitaph Tour, and "Painkiller," which is one of the clearest paradigms of what a heavy metal song should be.

Priest concluded with not one, not two, but three encores. As if "Electric Eye" and "Hell Bent for Leather" weren't enough, Priest came back and brought down the house with its mega-hit "You've Got Another Thing Comin'," which they extended with an invigorating call-and-response with the audience. After leaving the stage for the second time, drummer Scott Travis asked the crowd if they wanted one more song and so the night ended with an electric performance of "Living After Midnight."

Audience members left the arena with a sense of awe. If they weren't already, Judas Priest converted them into Defenders of the Faith.