It was the “best of Judas Priest” show at the Sports Arena Friday night (and again Saturday at Irvine Meadows) as the English quintet pummelled through two hours of its golden oldies. They performed only three numbers off their latest LP, “Ram It Down.” Among them was “I’m a Rocker"--an ironic title indeed, because Priest doesn’t merely rock, these longtime metal favorites attack familiar tunes such as “Breaking the Law,” “Metal Gods” and “Hell Bent for Leather” with driving rhythms, intoxicating, hammering guitars and the macho strutting of singer Rob Halford. The mega-mega-watt lighting system, deafening explosions and flaming pyro effects added to the spectacle.
Priest has been at it since 1971, and though the band played a strong show and still claims a loyal core of fans, the short-of-sellout attendance suggested that it’s having trouble hanging on against a new generation of headbanging challengers.
One of the latter is Slayer, which opened the show with a fiery set whose sharp precision snapped the audience to attention. While hardcore Priest fans waited outside, Slayer thrashed and burned, pleasing old fans and winning new converts.