If you could distil metal’s very essence into one person, it’d be Rob Halford. The Judas Priest leader defines the look, possesses the voice and oozes the charisma that every frontman in the genre requires to become a star.
But it seems that the Metal God is infallible like us mere mortals, and can come crashing down to earth in the grandest and most public of ways.
In 2011, Judas Priest were knee-deep in their Epitaph (opens in new tab) world tour, which at the time, was supposed to be their farewell run.
That April, K.K. Downing told fans he was stepping down from the band, citing “an on-going breakdown in working relationships between [himself], elements of the band and management for some time.” After a career spanning over four decades, no-one could possibly blame them for wanting to hang up their leather jackets for good.
By September, the Midlands metallers’ trek took them to South America, where they played five Brazilian shows while making their rounds of the continent. On the last of those dates – September 15, at the Ginásio Nilson Nelson Arena, Brasília – Rob had the most spectacular gaffe on ostensibly his last night performing live in Brazil; he fell off his bike in front of 17,000 screaming fans.
The bike blunder occurred at the start of Hell Bent For Leather, the third-from-last song of their 21-track set. In the clip below, you can see Rob ride his motorcycle ever so slowly onto the stage – and it just keels over. He’s quickly picked up by people waiting at the side of the stage, including guitarist Glenn Tipton. This is all to the soundtrack of blazing guitar chords courtesy of Downing’s replacement Richie Faulkner.
It’s by no means the worst onstage bike accident the Metal God has endured. In 1990, he was knocked unconscious after falling from his Harley-Davidson, and by the time he came to, the gig – his final with Priest before a decade-long absence – was over.
Thankfully, only the Metal God’s ego was bruised this time around, and the cheer that greets him as he gets straight back up and on the bike again is heartwarming for all involved. It’s also a relief that Judas Priest nixed plans to call it a day after that Epitaph run.
Since then, they’ve made two more albums of ironclad heavy metal and, in 2021, celebrated a belated 50th anniversary with a rarities set performed at Bloodstock Open Air.
The moral of the story is that not even a piece of heavy metal machinery can stop Rob Halford, but merely delay or just slightly embarrass him.