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What happened when Judas Priest headlined Bloodstock festival

Judas Priest Bloodstock
(Image credit: Jake Owens)

It’s been a long time coming but the Metal God is back at Bloodstock festival. After a day of every sub-genre under the sun, it’s great to see some some genuine, dyed in the wool heavy metal closing the show. 

The denim and leather brigade isn’t considered the most fashionable strand of music, but nobody here gives one solitary shit. This is a celebration Judas Priest, of the forefathers of the genre, still going after almost 50 years, defending the faith and breaking the law. Metal isn’t about being cool, it’s about rebellion and that cathartic release only found in a ripping guitar solo or a wailing scream, and Priest are bringing a double-helping of both.

As the lights go down and Black Sabbath’s War Pigs blasts out across Catton Hall, ten thousand horns are flung into the air, as the Firepower-themed stage set is unveiled, and Rob Halford himself enters through a curtain, in a branded jacket and trademark shades. 

Judas Priest

(Image credit: Jake Owens)

With such a vast catalogue of material, borrowing from no less than ten different albums for tonight’s 19-song setlist, it’s difficult to keep everyone happy. The diehards might want B-sides and rarities, but some are here for the big hitters to chug lager to – because that’s what festivals are all about.

The new material sounds fantastic and fits seamlessly into a set of old-school classics. For every Firepower and Lightning Strike, there’s The Ripper and Turbo Lover, and while the momentum dips in the middle, the final 30 minutes is a masterclass in heavy metal goodness. And it doesn’t get much more metal than Rob Halford riding a motorbike onto the main stage at Bloodstock for Hell Bent For Leather. Despite him hunching over the bike for following track Painkiller, looking like his tank is close to empty, nothing here is going to lessen the impact or the power of a Judas Priest headline show. 

Glenn Tipton makes an appearance for the encore, receiving a hero’s welcome from the Bloodstock faithful, cheering a man who the songs that helped define the genre. Metal Gods, Breaking The Law, No Surrender and Living After Midnight as a closing knockout blow is hard to argue with, and as the fireworks go off above the main stage, it’s a signal to all of Derbyshire that the Priest are back and – as Rob says onstage – heavy metal is forever.

Setlist

1. Firepower
2. Grinder
3. Sinner
4. The Ripper
5. Lightning Strike
6. Bloodstone
7. Saints In Hell
8. Turbo Lover
9. Tyrant
10. Night Comes Down
11. Freewheel Burning
12. Rising From Ruins
13. You've Got Another Thing Comin'
14. Hell Bent For Leather
15. Painkiller

Encore

16. Metal Gods
17. Breaking The Law
18. No Surrender
19. Living After Midnight