Live music is back! And who better to break the long, dry concert spell than the absolute masters of the craft, Judas Priest?
Ron and I weren’t entirely sure how the night would go. We were excited, of course, but there was also a bit of trepidation, as this would be the first big gathering we’d been to since the start of COVID. We’ve both gotten quite used to being isolated, and thought the crowd might be a bit much.
We needn’t have worried. After a quick meal at The Split Crow, we made our way to the venue – the Metro Centre, not Scotiabank Centre, thank you very much – went through security, checked out the merch booth – No ladies tees at all? Seriously? – and soon found ourselves sliding into our seats, drinks in hand, like it hadn’t been several years and a whole pandemic since we’d last done so.
And then … Well, there’s nothing quite like the moment when the lights go down, the band starts playing, and you realize you’re in the presence of royalty.
No, not royalty.
Because Rob Halford is the Metal God.
He is also, as Ron shouted in my ear when he first took the stage, an old fuck. Which seems only fair, as we’re rapidly approaching old fuck territory ourselves. Priest was formed the year before I was born, so I’ve been listening to them since before I can remember, and Screaming for Vengeance was one of the first albums Ron ever bought with his own money. (Also, his white beard is much bigger than Halford’s.)
Age was a running theme that night. In a practice that annoys the hell out of me, the Metro Centre seems to think old metalheads don’t mosh, as every time one of the pioneering metal bands comes to town, they fill the floor area with folding chairs – ‘seating’ that nobody sits in, but that also effectively prevents anyone from starting a pit.
Then there was guitarist Richie Faulkner. The concert was originally supposed to happen last November, but had to be postponed when Faulkner suffered an aortic aneurysm. Of course heart surgery is not strictly an age-related thing, and Faulkner is only in his early 40s, but it still brought about thoughts of mortality during the show, especially when I noticed that the v-neck leather vest he was wearing meant the scar from his surgery was visible. I wanted to communicate my profound observation to Ron – there was much vodka in my system by this time – but after screaming it several times, as loud as I could with my mouth directly next to his ear, he never did hear me. He used to be able to, and the fact that he can’t anymore seemed an appropriate denouement to my musings.
Living After Midnight is when the age debate all came to a head, though. Part of me was laughing at the irony of rocking out to the party anthem at 10:45pm, and that I’d be heading straight home after the show because Ron had to work in the morning. But as I took to my feet, headbanging so hard I nearly threw myself into the next row and roaring along with the chorus, I told that part of me to kindly shut up because I was busy having fun. Ultimately, fun won out, and for the first time in many, many years, my car slept downtown and I took a cab home.
Ron’s philosophy is that while he may grow old, he’ll never grow up. It’s a wisdom that I also embrace. Seeing Judas Priest in the second half of my life proved that I’m on the right track. Because where the flesh might be weaker than it used to be, the spirit remains more than willing.
To read more posts in the “Music Is My Oxygen” series, click here.