Metal Masters Tour (Judas Priest, Heaven & Hell, Testament) at Mohegan Sun Arena (Uncasville, CT) – 8/15/08

So I made it to the show Friday night, here’s how the night went…..

The Plan:
A few months ago, I received a copy of Testament’s new record, THE FORMATION OF DAMNATION, for review. I listened to the album, wrote the review, and passed the link along to my contact in the band’s promotional camp. I also happened to mention that I was planning on catching the show and that I would send a concert review as well. I received an email back from the promo people that I was invited to see the show as Testament’s guests. Very cool! Now this is back in May so fast forward to the beginning of last week and I email my contact in the Testament organization to confirm that I am all set: two tickets, Testament’s guest list, show my ID, enjoy the show!

The Journey:
I was flying solo to the show but I decided to invite my brother to come along. My brother is five years younger than I am, and he is not a Metalhead, but he knows all the stuff from my brainwashing him as a young child. The plan is for him to take the bus from Port Authority in New York City to the casino and we’ll hook up. Plans changed mid-week and he decided to take the bus all the way to Providence so we could hang a little more on the hour drive to the casino. No problem…..

My brother’s bus was to arrive at 5:15 giving us almost two hours to drive, get the tix, sit in our seats and relax. I get a call from him around 5, the bus is stuck in traffic and it will be a 30 minute delay. No problem. I get another call at 5:30, the bus hasn’t moved, it’s going to be 6. No problem. The third call comes 15 minutes later…..go without me. Now I can’t do that to my own brother (although I did consider it!) so I waited. Around 7pm, my brother’s bus arrives. In the meantime, Testament has just taken the stage! We are an hour away so now I’m just trying to make it in time for Heaven & Hell.

The Tickets:
I made the drive in an hour easily, cars do great things when you put the pedal to the metal! So we park in the garage behind the arena and I can hear Heaven & Hell on stage! So we run through the casino to the call window. I give my name and ID to the girl at the window and she tells me that I AM NOT ON THE TESTAMENT LIST! I give her the name of my contact and she was nice enough to check all of the guest lists, the tickets that hadn’t been picked up, and she even tried to get me a pair of tickets anyway because the show was half over. Unfortunately her boss said no. So we are screwed and Plan B is to pull out the VISA card and drop close to $200 for a pair (tix were $85 & $65). As we were debating the next move to Dio belting out ‘Die Young’, an intoxicated gambler comes over with a pair of tickets to sell. He had gotten comps for gambling so much but his wife didn’t want to go, the offer was $50 for the pair. SOLD!

Heaven & Hell:
We got into the arena just as Ronnie was introducing ‘Heaven & Hell’. We had great seats on the Iommi/Tipton side (stage left for the band, right if you’re facing it) and we were halfway down in the “high-rollers” section. We caught the last two songs of the Heaven & Hell set and they were really good: ‘Heaven & Hell’ & ‘Neon Knights’. Lucky for me I had seen the tour twice last year so I knew what to expect. I’ll say this though, from the two songs I heard, it sounds like Ronnie James Dio has strengthened his voice. The last few years he has sounded like he was straining, especially on the highs. When the band left the stage it was off to the t-shirt stand for a tour shirt. $40 got me my Heaven & Hell shirt with the U.S. dates on the back and the album cover on the front. I flirted with the idea of double dipping and also getting a NOSTRADAMUS tour shirt but another $40 was too much.

Judas Priest:
“Friday night and the Priest is back!” I saw Judas Priest twice on the ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION tour, once here at the Mohegan Sun Arena, so I expected a great show. I had seen the setlist online from the previous tour stops so I knew what was coming:

Dawn Of Creation (intro)
Metal Gods
Eat Me Alive
Between The Hammer And The Anvil
Devil’s Child
Breaking The Law
Hell Patrol
Dissident Aggressor
The Hellion / Electric Eye
Rock Hard, Ride Free

Hell Bent For Leather (w/motorcycle)
The Green Manalishi
You’ve Got Another Thing Coming

This was a solid setlist geared towards dieheards like myself. I have to give Priest credit, they could have easily come out and played their most popular songs but they kept it fresh for themselves and threw in some album tracks. ‘Dawn Of Creation’ was a tape straight off the NOSTRADAMUS album but ‘Prophecy’ came off really well live. I was honestly expecting a couple more tunes from the new record but a shorter time slot stopped that even though they were the headliner. What I don’t like is Rob Halford’s staring at the ground during new songs and songs he hasn’t done for a while. My guess is he’s using notes or a teleprompter (like Ozzy!) but it was extremely annoying to have him looking at his boots and clutching the mic with both hands for half the set! He did the same thing on the last tour, especially during the songs from ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION.

‘Metal Gods’ is a classic I never get sick of hearing but getting ‘Eat Me Alive’ off DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH was a treat, DEFENDERS is my favorite Priest record. My brother had forgotten that song and was in hysterics watching me scream the words while all the high rolling gamblers stood motionless and emotional-less. ‘Between The Hammer And The Anvil’ was another welcome addition to the set from the PAINKILLER album and the band was in fine form. ‘Devil’s Child’ was up next and that’s another favorite for me (off SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE). I tried to match wits with Halford on the high notes but he won easily as my voice cracked and I barely sputtered out the last few lines. I could do without ‘Breaking The Law’ but I understand the band has to play some of their big songs to keep the casual fans happy. Halford needs a new intro for that song because the one he has is easily 25 years old! It was good though, very well done.

By this time I’ve already forgotten the setlists I saw online so when another deep track from PAINKILLER, ‘Hell Patrol’, was announced by Halford, I went ballistic! Most shows I see have the bands play 2 to 4 new songs and a classic set but here we are mid-set of Judas Priest and they are laying waste with songs that haven’t played live in many a year! ‘Hell Patrol’ was blistering even if Rob was looking at his boots/notes/teleprompter the whole time. He came alive again for the ultra-heavy ’70s classic ‘Dissident Aggressor’ (from SIN AFTER SIN) but went back to his position in the middle of Glenn & KK for ‘Angel’. Not sure why ‘Angel’ made the set, especially with a new record out, but I guess they still enjoy playing songs from ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION. It was good. I liked that album a lot so I didn’t mind at all but the crowd overall hit a quiet spot. Up to that point the crowd was rabid, especially the many diehards, so I guess they needed a little break.

The crowd rose again when ‘The Hellion’ came from the P.A. and Priest tore into ‘Electric Eye’. The band opened with this duo on the last tour so it’s always a highlight of the show and one of their more popular songs. DEFENDERS track #2 came with ‘Rock Hard, Ride Free’ and I completely lost my voice! That’s an album track, I’d expect to hear ‘Freewheel Burning’ when they do a DEFENDERS song but I was psyched for ‘Rock Hard’. There was some audience participation initiated from Rob so that took away from the overall performance but that is how 99% of the bands keep the crowds into the show: “Let’s get the crowd singing along.” It’s good that they kept the fans involved because Priest then hit everyone over the head with a killer version of ‘Painkiller’ which destroyed what little voice I had left.

The encore started with Halford riding his Harley on stage in full regalia for ‘Hell Bent For Leather’ and the surprise of ‘The Green Manalishi’. Normally, the second song of the encore is reserved for the hit ‘Living After Midnight’ but they thankfully cut it from the set for the Fleetwood Mac cover from 1978’s HELL BENT FOR LEATHER. The band could have easily just stopped right there because they had put in a masterful performance but they had to play their anthem from SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE: ‘You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’. There’s nothing I can say bad about this song, it’s like KISS playing ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’ or Iron Maiden playing ‘Run To The Hills’, people expect it and want it. The band didn’t disappoint and there was some audience participation sing-a-long again.

Bottom Line:
With all the bad luck that started at 5pm, everything turned out for the better. We got in and saw Judas Priest play a superb concert geared for diehards. I don’t think you could ask for more variety wise although if they had played ‘Grinder’, ‘Riding On The Wind’, or ‘Sinner’ in place of ‘Breaking The Law’ I would have been much happier. No complaints though. The band was tight: Ian Hill & Scott Travis are a killer rhythm section, Glenn & KK are one of the best guitar tandems in Metal history, and Rob Halford took a page from the Dio playbook and sounded stronger than he did the last tour. Now if he could just look into the crowd instead of at the floor on the less popular songs! All in all, a good show…..too bad we missed Testament and most of Sabbath.

(And just to keep things clear, I don’t like the name Heaven & Hell. It will always be Black Sabbath to me! I don’t know what spell Ozzy has over Tony Iommi (who owns the name Black Sabbath) but I don’t think it’s fair to the music to call it something different than what it is.)

14 comments on “Metal Masters Tour (Judas Priest, Heaven & Hell, Testament) at Mohegan Sun Arena (Uncasville, CT) – 8/15/08

  1. I was also at the show…and I agree with most of your comments, particularly the one about Halford spending the entire night with his chin buried in his chest.

    While I don’t expect the same energetic performances that we’d get in the 80’s when they were at the top of their game and much younger, I did wind up left with the feeling that Halford is simply going through the motions on stage. Pacing back and forth around the stage with your head staring at the floor is not a positive thing. If Dio can jump and wave and move around the stage, whats Rob’s problem?

    Honestly…the music was great, Halfords still got pipes, but relying on the rest of the band to “pump up the crowd” was disappointing.

    …and yeah….”BREAKIN THE WHAT….” BREAKIN THE WHAT….”…..been there done that ;)

    I was right above you….Section 107, good seats as far as I’m concerned, Row A right on the railing. Sitting next to same Toni Iommi clone I was sitting near almost a year earlier (let me know if you know the guy I’m talking about).

  2. Wow, that sucks about the tickets. But still awesome that you go to see the show.

    They’ll be in Detroit tomorrow night and it’s killing me that I couldn’t afford ti gi. Of course, the Boneyard channel on XM rubbed it in tonight by mentioning the show as well. >=(

  3. I was at the show and had some issues before the show started as well. I was so thankful that Heaven & Hell and Judas Priest were so great. I agree that they will ALWAYS be Black Sabbath, I just can’t get used to calling them H & H. I was slighly disappointed, as you were, that Rob was singing to his shoes half the night. Please know – Rob is my METAL GOD and I love him, but didn’t care for the shoe singing. But his voice was amazing as always! I put up with a TON of crap that night (it started with the drive to CT from RI), but I am glad that I went and I have to say it was worth all the aggravation!

    I enjoyed reading your write up – put a huge smile on my face and brought me right back to being at the show!

    Rock On! \m/

  4. I was at the same show at Mohegan, with my friend who was a voice major in college and a professional singer. I asked her about Halford hunching his shoulders and singing down into the mic, and she told me that it’s a common studio trick to relieve the tension in your upper back and neck and let you sing better. I noticed his voice was a little strained at times, so maybe this helped him get through the songs. They also didn’t pick some of the more vocally intensive songs that were my personal favorites like Victims of Changes or Beyond the Realms of death. They stuck to the thrashier songs, which are also great fun, but I think Rob may have hurt his voice a bit the last few years.

    My friend was very impressed by Dio’s voice, claiming he had great professional technique and wasn’t likely to hurt his voice because of that. When I told her he’s probably done at least 200 shows a year for the last 35+ years, and he was at least 60, she was pretty impressed. I also got there late and missed most of Testament, but Sabbath and Priest both did a great job.

  5. As with everyone else, I too was at the show. I was disapointed to see the turnout for Testament. These guys deserve more then an opening slot but to get on a bill with this much exposure, you can’t complain. The only thing bad I can say about the Testament slot was the sound. Absolutely horrid. I have no idea why they pumped so much high end for them. If it wasn’t for the fact that I knew the songs, I would have been lost. Just utter noise. Shame on the soundboard guy for letting that happen. I was on the floor right in front of the soundboard.

  6. Great review.

    I thought this was one of the best if not the Best Priest show I have ever seen and in the top 5 concerts I have ever seen.

    Great old stuff. I had wished for more from Nos.

    The crowd at this show was far more into the show, then almost any other Priest show I have ever seen.

    I am usually the only person in my view who is full on insane and wildly animated (head banging, air guitar, drums, the whole deal), but at this show I was (pleasantly) surprised that I had some competition :-)

    I suspect it was that there were alot of hardcore fans here, as it was the only show in New England and who else would make the trip from NH, VT or ME, but a real fan.

    LOVED the show. I was weak and weary afterwards. Great FUN!

  7. Came down to CT from NH/VT to see Sabbath (always wanted to see the Dio line-up), and left wondering what I had done with all the Priest albums I had mothballed in years past. Extremely pleased with the Sabbath set, but nearly delirious after the Priest set.

    I would put the Ozzy and Dio-era Sabbath albums on my short list of desert island discs, but have never been overly impressed by Priest until Friday night. I’m converted.

    Enjoyed the silly trappings of both sets including the smoke-billowing demons in the Sabbath set, and Halford changing his jacket after every song (not sure if this is/was de riguer for Priest), but was more than impressed at the music, and the fact that both bands looked to be enjoying themselves immensely.

    I agree with Tom above in his assessment of the Testament set. Too loud on the higher frequencies. Wish I could have enjoyed them more, as I’ve been into them since The New Order. I just couldn’t get into them after wishing I could escape the high-end feedback every 15 seconds.

    I would add that from where I sat (Iommi/Tipton-side), the audience was: 1) one of the most enthusiastic I had seen to date at any show, 2) made up of more fathers and sons than I had ever seen (I sat right next to a young guy, who, at nearly 12, MUST have been enjoying his first show, 3) contained a huge percentage of people who looked as if they just strolled in from the Casino (though most were still there at the end of the show to my surprise), and finally 4) THE most polite group of metalheads I’ve ever had the pleasure of being in the company of… I worried more about getting coffee spilled on me than the typical Bud Light…

  8. Based on what I have read here, combined with a review from a friend of mine who saw this show in Canada, and a recording I have of the Camden, NJ show, whomever is doing sound for Testament clearly has bad hearing, or doesn’t know how to mix a band properly. the high-end problem existed at all three of these shows. Based on listening to the Camden show, Dio has definitely strengthened his voice, but halford’s voice is a little worse for wear. At the Camden show he couldn’t hit any of the notes in Dissident Aggressor. DA is one of my very favorite Priest tunes, but it was a shame to hear halford’s dodgy vocal delivery. I guess Motorhead didn’t play at the CT show? they did play at the Camden show and they absolutely killed. I know Motorhead is not everyone’s cup of tea, but they definitely bring it live every night!

  9. Halford sings hunched over like that to put more pressure on his diaphragm so he can squeak the high notes out. I think the Halford has done a number on his voice over the years and that is why we are seeing the less vocally straining songs (I say less, as in compared with other Priest songs, not to any other band of course) and their new album is mostly mid range. If you noticed, he does Painkiller hunched over just about the ENTIRE time. That said, Halford voice is still fantastic for his age and possibly stronger than ever in his new adult range, just don’t expect him to be able to nail the end of Exciter in full chest voice anymore.

  10. That is too bad about your luck with this show Steve. I must admit that I am envious. This tour didn’t come anywhere near me. If it had, I would have bought primo tickets for it. No such luck. Cincinnati must be on some black ball list when it comes to some tours. Bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden always skip us.

  11. im from london and just happen to have metalheads as friends im a pantera fan and like a little kid rock i only went coz my girlfriend didnt want to go so me and a friend dave went he is trapped in the 1980s so he was in his element i knew a few songs but to be honest this was absolutly brilliant i am now a big fan of judas and want to see more of them the place was electric only one complaint the security were total hardasses about pictures and seating they even took my mates sd card we got it back but deleted damn however i got mine via a mobile phone i think its like 4000 miles to mohegan from london but judas made it worthwhile ps eat me alive got me going lol

  12. Pingback: CD Scavenger Hunt - 2 Months To Catch Up! « Heavy Metal Addiction

  13. Just wondering. I was at the show…. where would I be-able to score a testament shirt from the formation damnation tour??? Ive been on e-bay… no-luck

  14. Pingback: Judas Priest – A Touch Of Evil Live (2009) « Heavy Metal Addiction

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