Rob Halford has the metal standard silver studs on his black leather wardrobe swapped for gold this evening, in a subtle nod to this being the (belated) celebration for Judas Priest's 50th anniversary as a band. It's just about the only subtlety in their two-hour headline set, mind. From the moment the iconic pitchfork/cross symbol (15 feet tall, shining claret) is raised over Bloodstock's main stage against the backdrop of a burning 'metal factory', and they launch into an opening salvo of One Shot At Glory, Lightning Strike and You've Got Another Thing Comin', it's clear we're fully living in Rob's high-theatre, higher-volume universe.
Turbo Lover sends the hardcore into overdrive. A Touch Of Evil daubs on deeper shades of black. Rocka Rolla's first live outing since 1976 underlines that this is a very special night. If there's any concern that a 50th celebration could be an inherently creaky affair, it's quickly extinguished. Rob might look more like a skin-headed metal Santa than the lank-haired outlaw who emerged just up the road all those years ago, but his vocals feel remarkably uncompromised. The band around him – particularly guitarists Richie Faulkner and Andy Sneap – pointedly match up. Much of the music, too, feels like it's grown somehow more relevant over the years, with Painkiller still ripping flesh, and Electric Eye's indictment of surveillance culture ever more relevant.
For a final flourish the great Glenn Tipton steps onstage to help land the killing blows, as Breaking The Law incites as much chaos as ever all these years down the line. Then Living After Midnight (accompanied by a massive, inflatable, red-eyed 'Birmingham Bullring' bull) proves itself the ultimate anthem for Bloodstock's mandatory after-hours mischief. A stunning show of firepower from the Metal Gods. (SL)
Pic: Steve Dempsey