New York City – February 6, 1997
It was an emotional night at the Roseland as the hall rocked for over two solid hours to the thunderous sounds of the metal legends who in their several year absense had obviously been greatly missed. It was a packed house on the night of February the sixth, and surprisingly enough, there appeared to be little tension surrounding the onlookers who might have been justified in questioning whether the band could still possess the desire and overall character to pull it off. However, when all was said and done, there could have been little denial, if any, that the Priest is in fact back and ready to burn again. New Vocalist “Ripper” Owens had the full support of the crowd and deservedly so. He proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that either he’s a very accomplished lip syncher or indeed a worthy successor to the longtime predecessor Rob Halford, who many felt at the time of his departure could never be properly replaced. But it’s been roughly seven long years since that time and during that span, when you look at the fact that Rob’s career has basically been sporadic at best since leaving, combined with the fact that his former bandmates have returned with an impressive new album and passion for the art, such a change has proven evidently more receptive torward the band. Owens’ Vocal prowess became apparent almost immediately as the band, figurative of their past shows, opened things up with “Hellion-Electric Eye“. Throughout the night, Owens’ stage-presence drew an enthusiatic response from the fans and apparently put to rest anyone’s lingering doubts as to whether he could do the job. Seemingly enjoying every minute of it and through his somewhat animated “Halford-esque” gestures, he proficiently belted out all of the Priest classics covering the wide spectrum of the more slower-paced low key numbers as “Grinder” and “Victim Of Changes“, with many of the more speed-influenced, high-pitched stylings of “The Sentinel” and “Metal Meltdown“. It was also interesting to note that the new songs off the recently released “Jugulator” album went over rather impressively when its not unusual for a more recognized band’s newer material to take a back seat to the classics, having not the benefit of being firmly established yet. However, while the recent string of shows could certainly be looked at as a showcase for their newly discovered talent, the rest of the band should certainly not be over looked. The overall playing was superb and the total intensity and enthusiasm of K.K. and Glen on guitars was really fun to watch. Travis on drums was definately no slouch, nor was Ian Hill, who proved that you don’t always have to prance side to side on stage to gain any sort of recognition. In fact, I was enjoying just watching him for a while just to see if he wasn’t nailed to his position. He wasn’t, as was conclusive before the band’s double encores. Beginning with Owens kicking out the Harley for the introduction to “Painkiller“, and ending in climactic fashion with the classic Priest anthem “Hell Bent For Leather“, the band proved emphatically that they are back and ready again to take on the world.