By Bill Adams
As any fan can tell you, Judas Priest stands as musically peerless – not just for releasing a succession of genuinely remarkable studio albums, but for being one of the most consistent live bands in metal history. Sure – the studio albums are great and that’s one thing but, on stage, Priest has brought its’ best game almost every night (with the possible exception of when Tim “Ripper” Owens was fronting the band) for the last four decades and that’s illustrated handily the band’s entry into the Setlist series. Culling tracks from the band’s live albums Unleashed In The East, Priest… Live! and A Touch Of Evil Live as well as a few from the Japanese import Priest, Live & Rare along with some performances that have gone previously unreleased, Priest’s entry into the Setlist catalogue is a formidable creature but what’s really incredible about it is how well it flows together. Don’t think so? How many bands spring to mind that can back a track recorded in 1979 with one captured in 1986 and then one that was heard in 2008 and have it flow so seamlessly together that fans will have to consult the record’s liner noted to confirm and given song’s carbon date? Judas Priest has that capability and the proof lies on this album.
Oddly (or perhaps to make a point), Setlist starts with one of the most recent takes in the runtime, “Judas Rising” (from Priest’s 2005-2008 World Tour), before sliding back into the band’s golden age for “Heading Out To The Highway” and “Breaking The Law” (both released in 1986) and then going REALLY old school for “Exciter” and “Tyrant.” In each case, the band is (of course) in its’ finest for but (ignoring the two-track dalliance from the Seventies, which sounds like studio recordings with crowd noise added, and “Out In The Cold” which is carbon dated by synths), unbelievably, it’s difficult to always pinpoint the source of the tracks; Halford’s voice sounds untouched by time in each case and he never seems to struggle for a single note. Likewise, the general tonality of K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton’s guitars is virtually indistinguishable by the year too; neither has dramatically changed their rigs, so they have simply remained rock solid and not at all eroded by time.
Now, with all that praise for Judas Priest’s Setlist on the proverbial books, it doesn’t need to be questioned why – with six live albums already in circulation, does a compilation need to exist? In Judas Priest’s case, their entry into the Setlist series marks a fantastic proof of the band’s faculties as a love act. The band proves that they have never dramatically changed or experienced a decline in the thirty-year span of time that this record offers glimpses into. That, in a word, is unbelievable.
Bill Adams is the editor-in-chief of groundcontrolmag.com