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Judas Priest: Live in London
THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
Judas Priest, one of the original members of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, tried a tricky thing. They switched lead singers. Their old singer, Rob Halford, was a large part of the band's curious success; his strange leather outfits and wailing vocals made the band stand out from their contemporaries. When Halford left, however, he was replaced with Ripper Owens, whose previous gig was fronting a Judas Priest tribute band. His rise to fame is what partially inspired the film Rock Star. The funny thing about bringing a tribute singer into the real band is that you sort of end up with something in the middle. Watching Judas Priest perform today is sort of like watching a Judas Priest tribute band. Owens, whose Ohio vibe is half a world away from the band's native England, looks more like a baseball player or a karaoke singer. He's not at all bad; he sings the band's classic songs like "Electric Eye," "Living After Midnight" and "Breaking the Law" with just the right mix of squeal, growl, and roar. Still, something just isn't right.
Live in London was taped at the Brixton Academy in December 2001 and does show the band as tight as they've ever been. The enthusiastic crowd loves what they hear and that's all that matters in the end. The new material meshes just fine with the old and, even if Ripper has more costume changes than Cher, he does seem to be enjoying himself.
The anamorphic widescreen video looks sharp and clean. The stage lighting is colorful and constantly changing and the video handles that well.
The two audio options are Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0. They both sound good, with the 5.1 really sounding clear and crisp.
Judas Priest: Live in London contains a couple of quality extras. A 20 minute behind the scenes film shows off the personalities of the band, particularly the camera-grabbing (figuratively and literally) Ripper Owens. The disc also includes the band's complete sound check performance. Fans will really enjoy both of these additions.
Music reviews are inherently subjective. If you don't like Judas Priest, you probably won't like this disc; I wouldn't call their sound universally appealing. If, however, you're a long-time fan and you haven't heard the band's post-Halford output, it might be worth a look. It's doubtful the band would have reached the level of prominence they had in the 80's had they had Ripper on the mic from the start; he's like a puppy dog trying to impress his idols. But for keeping the band rolling, playing the old favorites, he seems like the right guy.
Email Gil Jawetz at [email protected]