Last Night: Judas Priest, Black Label Society and Thin Lizzy at the Allen Event Center

Judas Priest, Black Label Society and Thin Lizzy
Allen Event Center
Sunday, October 16, 2011

Better than: getting all decked out in studs and leather and going to Oak Lawn.

Back in the '80s, when Allen, Texas, was nothing more than a speed trap between Dallas and Oklahoma City, folks would have just as soon burned a Judas Priest record there than ever think about having the band visit their fair town.

Fast forward to 2011, though, and all those kids who, back in the day, smoked weed in their garages while listening to Judas Priest's "Breaking the Law" or "Living After Midnight" are now moms and dads in their 40s with mortgages and fond memories of the legendary British metal band.

Hence -- on a Sunday night no less -- Judas Priest, the band your mother most warned you about, was playing in Allen to an almost sold-out venue, and sounding as potent as ever.

Hell, if lead singer Rob Halford still had any hair left, it would have been difficult to discern much difference between Judas Priest circa 1985 and the band that rocked Allen last night. Sporting several different leather jackets and spiked accoutrements, Halford was in prime form all evening long as Priest played 21 songs that spanned the band's entire career.

Indeed, the whole concert played out like a two-hour history of the band. Beginning with "Rapid Fire," "Metal Gods" and "Heading out to the Highway," Halford and crew never took their collective foot off the gas pedal. With a backdrop of flames and chains, Judas Priest thrilled the motley collection of middle-aged men and women who drank a little too much last night and who stayed up too late for their own good.

Although billed as Judas Priest's final tour, Halford has made it clear that the band will continue to record and go out on the road in smaller doses. Judging by the audience response last night, Judas Priest will always be enthusiastically received.

Sadly, such cannot be said for the second act on this weighty triple bill, Zack Wylde's Black Label Society. Yes, Wylde played with Ozzy and the guy has some guitar chops, but, Lord, what self-indulgence was on display from 8 to 9 p.m during his band's set. When one particular guitar solo approached the 10-minute mark, at least half the crowd of 5,000 made their way to the concourses for beer and the call of nature.

"When is this solo going to end?" asked a bystander in line for concessions.

With turgid sound and uninspired backing, Black Label Society's Zack Wylde is a talented dude without any idea of what to do about it.

Opening act Thin Lizzy, on the other hand, despite having only a single member from the original band (drummer Brian Downey) played an inspired "tribute" set of all the golden oldies. From "Rosalie" to "The Boys are Back in Town," this jukebox version of Thin Lizzy was an OK diversion for half an hour.

But the night was all about Judas Priest, a band that, throughout its heyday, suffered from accusations of deviltry and lawsuits from parents claiming the band's music had turned their children suicidal. Not only did the band shake off such dubious claims, they actually took authentic heavy metal into the pop charts like no act before them.

During the predictable (but still sturdy) encore of "Another Thing Coming," it was as if the band took itself and its audiences back in time, to a place where even a middle-school kid from Texas could dream about dressing up in leather and studs and not have to worry about the psychological or societal repercussions.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I've always thought Judas Priest were one of the coolest metal bands. The leather outfits were always kitschy, but the riffs and power were always abundant. The fact that these dudes have done it for four decades borders on the impossible.

By The Way: There had to be a cop for every 10 people in attendance last night. I guess people need to feel safe in Allen. But for a crowd with an average age of 40? Maybe the police up north just have a soft spot for aging, leather-clad rockers.

Random Note: Why is $6 the standard price for beer? Talk about hitting the working class where they live. How about Occupy Anheuser-Busch?

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