The stage is illuminated in an eerie, dark blue haze as an ominous drone pumps out of the speakers. The crowd dizzily anticipates the first sign of a priest, as a giant, roving "electric eye" stalks the crowd from high above center stage. Without warning the drone is overpowered by the twin guitar leads known as "The Hellion", which eventually climaxes into the only follow on possible, "Electric Eye".
Perched high above the drum kit, dressed in a full length, metal-studded, black leather jacket, the head priest appropriately greets his worshippers with "Up here in space, I’m looking down on you!". It’s like I have just been transported back in time to that glorious night in 1982, when the World Vengeance tour swept through my town, and I witnessed one of the greatest metal concerts in history.
Everything is in place. The magnificent twin guitar attack of Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing; Ian Hill’s pummeling bass lines; the same 70s-era hair styles and biker attire, and the massive Spinal Tap stage show is as familiar as the first time I saw them. The metal god himself, Rob Halford, is back in charge after a 12-year absence, delivering the same punishing vocals as before. The only new piece of the puzzle is drummer Scott Travis who took over the kit in 1990, just in time for the excellent Painkiller album.
The last time I saw Judas Priest was on 2002’s Live In London concert DVD, when a young Tim "Ripper" Owens was still the man in front. It was clear that this aging band could still play their collective asses off, and Owens was about the best Halford replacement they could have ever hoped for. But there was something missing. The heart and soul of the band was dormant, and you could feel it in the air. With Halford now back in front, that soul has been reawakened, and the Priest are rejuvenated.
Halford’s reunion with the band kicked off dramatically when Judas Priest upstaged Black Sabbath on nearly every night of the 2004 Ozzfest tour. Angel Of Retribution was released early the following year, and a headlining world tour commenced shortly after. Rising In the East is a document of their May 18th, 2005 show at the Tokyo Budokan, as they paid back the worshiping Japanese fans who graciously let them be Unleashed In The East 26 years prior.
After the killer intro of "Hellion/Electric Eye", they dived straight into a couple more early-80s classics starting with the British Steel hit "Metal Gods" followed by the lesser known Screaming For Vengeance gem "Riding On The Wind". From there it was a good mix of old, new, and really old. "The Ripper" and "Victim Of Changes" take you all the way back to their breakthrough 1976 album Sad Wings Of Destiny album, and also prove to be highlights of the show.
The new Angel Of Retribution album was heavily represented by five songs this night, which was probably about three too many. This was a decent enough comeback album, but it does not stack up against their best work. I can respect when legendary bands like the Priest proudly perform their new material, and find it pathetic when similar bands completely ignore their new stuff, but with songs like "The Sentinel", "United", and "Heading Out To The Highway" missing from the set, three of the new songs would have been plenty.
Although the five new songs were pretty unremarkable, they are certainly some of the heaviest and darkest stuff the band has done in a while. "Judas Rising" is easily the standout track from Angel Of Retribution. The song is powered by the ferocious double-bass assault of Scott Travis, and Halford’s hair-raising screams along with the catchy guitar riffs from Tipton and Downing make this one an instant Priest classic. "Worth Fighting For" features Halford singing in a lower register as the song works off a slower groove, but it fails to ever really take off. "Deal With The Devil" sounds like classic early 80s Priest, while "Revolution" falls closer to Painkiller territory, but neither command your attention for the duration.
Halford is starting to show his age a lot more. His vocals are still impressive, but he did have some trouble hitting and sustaining many of those penetrating high notes that made him famous. His completely bald head, and affinity for the long, silver and black, metal-studded, leather jackets made him a dead ringer for Pinhead (without the pins), from those Hellraiser movies. It was cool to see Halford fronting the Priest again, but he seemed very tired this particular night. When he wasn’t riding flaming chariots, during the new "Judas Rising", or his Harley-Davidson before "Hell Bent For Leather", he spent most of the show slumped over singing to the stage. His interaction with the crowd seemed more forced than genuine. The rest of the band were in top form though, performing every bit as well as the legends I saw over 20 years ago.
The production of this DVD gets high marks overall. Both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround options are provided, along with a powerful PCM stereo track. Both surround tracks use the rear speakers rather prominently, mirroring what you hear from the front, and placing you right into the front row. Although the performance is only presented in full-frame, instead of widescreen, the picture was very clear and sharp, and the massive light show was captured perfectly. The camera director provided exceptional angles of the stage and captured all of the essential close-up shots. Split screens were used occasionally, but not so often as to be distracting. Unfortunately, there were absolutely no extra features, at a time when some band member interviews would have been fascinating, considering the circumstances of the last few years.
Priest fans don’t have much to complain about with this latest offering. Two hours and 23 songs that span the band’s entire career with most of the essential classics covered. Surely every true Priest fan will have their complaints about the set list – too much new stuff; not enough new stuff; nothing from the Owens era; nothing from Defenders Of The Faith; and so on. All I know is that I banged my head for two straight hours. Rock On Priest!
01. The Hellion
02. Electric Eye
03. Metal Gods
04. Riding On The Wind
05. The Ripper
06. Touch of Evil
07. Judas Rising
09. Hot Rockin’
10. Breaking the Law
11. I’m A Rocker
12. Diamonds and Rust
13. Worth Fighting For
14. Deal with the Devil
15. Beyond the Realms of Death
16. Turbo Lover
18. Victim Of Changes
21. Hell Bent For Leather
22. Living After Midnight
23. You’ve Got Another Thing Coming