“Blimey, this will be worth seeing!” That was the reaction of many people when they heard about this one-off 'Evening With David Ellefson and K.K. Downing' show, which promised a set drawn from the Judas Priest catalogue.
But what exactly is this, anyway? It's obviously not Priest. But with K.K. Downing, 'Ripper' Owens and Les Binks involved, you can hardly call it a tribute band.
Downing, a founder member of Priest, created the pioneering dual guitar sound with Glenn Tipton. Owens, over a period of seven years and two undervalued studio albums, did an excellent job taking over from Rob Halford. Binks – despite being referred to in some sections of the media by the preposterous soubriquet of 'Feathertouch' – was Priest's heaviest drummer aside from Scott Travis.
Add in Megadeth bassist David Ellefson and highly rated guitarist AJ Mills, from young Midland metallers Hostile, and you have an impressive array of talent. One you's surely think you can rely on to celebrate Judas Priest's half-century in a fitting manner.
And you'd be right.
The band walk on to a rapturous reception from a large crowd clearly intent on enjoying some Judas Priest-style heavy metal – as Halford would say. They march straight into Riding On The Wind, swiftly followed by Fleetwood Mac cover The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown). It really is a case of starting with a climax and building up from there. There are those in the audience almost brought to the verge of hysteria, and we are only two songs into the set.
Owens is more comfortable here than he ever was with Priest, and his voice is stunning: raw, raging and rousing. There are two tracks included from his era recording with the band, in the form of Hell Is Home and Burn In Hell. Neither sounds out of place alongside classics like Beyond The Realms Of Death and Metal Gods.
Ellefson has the sort of grin that betrays he is having the time of his life – but it is a little disconcerting to see a bassist playing Priest material and moving all over the stage; Ian Hill, as we know, is the master of the static stance.
Downing and Mills have an obvious rapport. It's different to the renowned Downing/Tipton alliance, but effective in its own right. Binks is a powerhouse, playing as if he has something to prove. He even gets to do a sharp, tight and focused solo leading into Exciter that underlines his enduring qualities.
There's a real surprise in store when the five-piece perform Before The Dawn – a song Priest themselves have never done live. And the set reaches a crescendo with the double punch of Between The Hammer And Anvil and Hell Bent For Leather before Living After Midnight ends the main course.
However, nobody truly believes this will be the final word. But as there is no actual name for this ensemble, people bellow out “Priest, Priest, Priest” to get them back. Joined by Thom Hazaert, vocalist with David Ellefson's own band – who are the main support earlier – they spring another surprise with Take On The World, as everyone gleefully joins in the anthemic chorus.
And inevitably, it's Breaking The Law – what else?! – that finally concludes the festivities.
It is supposed to be the only time these five will do this. But such is the excitement they generate and the feeling of genuine camaraderie between them that it's hard to believe they won't have second thoughts and do it again. There were pyros at strategic points in the set, but the true fireworks are on that stage.
When Downing left Priest in 2011, he effectively retired from performing. Thank goodness he has been tempted back. Because this is a special spectacle in a venue with a tremendous atmosphere. People came from all parts of the world to witness this event, and what they get is... well, an event.
An evening with David Ellefson and KK Downing: Setlist
1. Riding on the Wind
2. The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown) [Fleetwood Mac cover]
3. Hell Is Home
4. Running Wild
5. Beyond the Realms of Death
7. Metal Gods
8. Burn in Hell
9. Before the Dawn
10. Between the Hammer and the Anvil
11. Hell Bent for Leather
12. Living After Midnight
13. Take On the World (with Thom Hazaert)
14. Breaking the Law (with Thom Hazaert)