Thursday, April 26, 2012

Judas Priest - Live in London (2003)

Initially, I wasn't going to include Live in London in my coverage of the Judas Priest discography, because, frankly, I couldn't be bothered to track it down and add it to my collection after being underwhelmed by the very similar '98 Live Meltdown. But, thankfully I've got friends who are far more thorough and obsessive than I am over particular bands, and as it turns out, Live in London is actually a step better than its predecessor in terms of delivering a more memorable performance from the newer singer. Not so much that I would plunk my money down to find a copy, but enough that I could recommend it over Meltdown to anyone seeking out it's probably the definitive 'Ripper' Owens Priest experience without actually being there in person.

This was issued as both a DVD and CD, and as usual I'd advise everyone to just go for the DVD since that has extra footage and multi-sensory rewards. The caveat is that I believe this audio double disc has more actual songs from the set than the DVD incarnation. Either way, it's Ripper's last official release with the band, and the last that would be issued through SPV/Steamhammer before Priest returned to the major Columbia for the reunion with Rob Halford. Unlike the other gulfs between live efforts, Live in London was only five years after '98 Live Meltdown so the set list hasn't changed a lot, and in fact about 19 of the cuts are retreads from that double album. Some of the Jugulator material ("Bullet Train", "Death Row", and "Abductors") and Painkiller ("Metal Meltdown", "Night Crawler") selections have been nixed here in favor of Demolition pieces like "One on One", "Feed On Me" and "Hell is Home", and a few added classics, but in general this is mostly a similar experience in terms of its flow and content.

However, I think Live in London unquestionably sounds superior, in both the tightness of the musicians' performance, and the swell of the crowd's volume. This is because it was all taken from a single set at Brixton Academy in December of 2001, and thus you don't have all those constant edits to mix and match tighter tunes from numerous gigs. This is how it played out, on that night, and we get to experience it forevermore. But most importantly, while he's still not and never will be Rob Halford, Tim Owens sounds far more refined here than on the previous double-live. His tone is better, his pitch richer, and he relies more or an inherent sense of melody than the angrier disposition he had a few years before. He'd apparently come a long way with the band by this point, and likely thought he was in it for the long haul, and quite frankly if he had kept moving in this positive direction he might damn well have deserved it. In particular he gleams on the classics like "Electric Eye" and the unexpected "Desert Plains". I don't give much of a damn for the Demolition material, it's one of the worst of Priest's discography, but even these songs sound a little more alive in this setting, despite their dullness.

Technically it's not a huge difference from '98 Live Meltdown, but I feel as if the band played tighter, the chugging of the guitars and the force of the chords was more impacting, and it feels more genuine. It's without any doubt my favorite audio of this band with Owens (studio-wise I'll stick with the Winters Bane record Heart of a Killer), and if you've got to choose any live offering from the Metal Gods post-80s, then it might not be a poor decision. There are flaws, there are imperfections, and there is still that pervasive sense of a band covering itself due to the different vocalist, but there is more content here than Touch of Evil: Live, and the swarthy sound of the mix sounds great coming from the speakers. Not bad, and a fitting way to send this lad off, and set the band back on track after the whole sidestep that was 1996-2003.

Verdict: Indifference [6.25/10]

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