Judas Priest Celebrates its 50th at “Warlando” in Orlando

By on September 15, 2021
Photo- Randy Cook

The Warlando Metal Festival featuring the legendary Judas Priest as the headliner thundered into the Orlando Amphitheater on Saturday, September 11th, 2021. With a stacked lineup that would make any metal head quiver with anticipation, I was giddy once I found out I was headed to cover the festival. Judas Priest was touring in support of a newly released box set celebrating fifty years of the band’s music. Being an all-day event, and especially in Central Florida in (what we Floridian’s still consider) summertime, one must fully prepare the day’s adventure and the potential elements ahead.

Photo-Randy Cook

Going through my ‘pre-flight’ check for my camera and rain gear, my excitement was near critical mass knowing what was in store for me later in the day. I departed my house, picked up a fellow photographer friend then away we went for the two hour drive to Orlando. Upon arrival we watched a couple of YouTube videos of Judas Priest’s recent concerts to get a feel for where to be and when in our three song allotment that always seems to go by in the blink of an eye. We secured our media credentials and joined the crowd of our fellow music lovers and metal heads. Thankfully, while the sky was overcast and rain seemed to threaten, there was never more than a light drizzle that lasted for more than a few minutes and it kept it from getting brutally hot.

Photo-Randy Cook

Uncured

We arrived in time to catch most of the set by Uncured, and as has happened many times in my concert going history I was completely blown away by a band that I had never even heard of. After the show I looked the band up online and found they are led by two brothers and guitarists Rex and Zak Cox, both described as teen guitar prodigies. It was totally evident as emitting from their guitars were devastatingly heavy riffs – just what I like. With Liam Manley on drums and Micah Smith on bass I found their music to be technical, at times brutal and crunchy with melodic interludes. Wow these guys kicked ass and I can not wait to see them again live.

Photo-Randy Cook
Photo-Randy Cook

Tommy Vext

I was only familiar with his work in Bad Wolves and it was quite evident that the crowd sided with Tommy in the ugliness surrounding his departure from Bad Wolves. I found his set to be a lot more energetic than I expected it to be, but then again this was potentially another hidden gem of a band I really had not dig that far into (yet) so I did not know really what to expect. I was never really a fan of the Bad Wolves “Zombie” remake but I knew the rest of their stuff was pretty heavy. I was beyond pleasantly surprised that his supporting band was beyond hard rocking and from what I saw in the crowd there were some sore necks after his set!

Photo-Randy Cook
Photo-Randy Cook
Photo-Randy Cook

Ill Nino

A metal band with a distinctive and distinguished Latin panache to their sound with alternating lyrics in Spanish and English and multiple percussionists. I think at one point during their opening song there were five different drummers on stage – it made for quite the interesting sound as again, going in this was a band that I had never heard their music before. They have a new fan for sure!

Photo-Randy Cook
Photo-Randy Cook
Photo-Randy Cook

Soulfly

Maybe not the biggest name in the metal word but wow does this band have a serious diehard following. Chants from the crowd of “Soulfly, Soulfly, Soulfly…” preceded their on stage appearance and heads were banging right from the very start.  This was my second time seeing Soulfly and I am familiar with most, but not all of their studio releases, so I was well aware of the sheer intensity we were about to witness. By far they had the biggest mosh pit of the day with their crushing metal style. I was reminded of a very valuable lesson during their set. It is impossible to head bang and take good pictures at the same time, although I sure tried!

Photo-Randy Cook
Photo-Randy Cook
Photo-Randy Cook

Sabaton

This was my first time seeing Sabaton and let me tell what a show it was. This Swedish metal quintet roots the vast majority of their songs with stories about war time heroics. As a teenager, my stepdad said I would never learn anything by listening to heavy metal but alas, one can learn a tremendous amount of world history by listening to and studying this band.

Photo-Randy Cook

This is another band that has an incredibly rabid fan following, constantly topping the metal charts in Europe and just like Soulfly before them, chants of “Sabaton, Sabaton, Sabaton…” filled the air prior to the start of their set. One amazing moment was when lead singer Joakim Brodén noticed and pointed out a very young fan in the front row. He addressed her in between songs and discovered she was nine years old and had prior been on stage with the band at some point back when she was five. He took off one of his wristbands and handed it to my photographer friend to pass along in order for her to have it. The crowd roared their approval at how kick ass the moment was.

Photo-Randy Cook
Photo-Randy Cook
Photo-Randy Cook

Judas Priest

What can be said about these metal legends that has not already been written? Surprisingly, in all of my concert going days this was only my second time seeing Judas Priest. After the fact the thing I must mention and give props to is the sound crew. For being an outdoor show the band sounded freaking awesome – crisp and clear, if you were to close your eyes and just listen you could easily pick out each instrument.

Photo-Randy Cook

The show itself was absolutely phenomenal – the band touched upon twelve different albums in their nineteen song set and I am certain no one went away disappointed with the song selection. Each and every song played was someone in the crowd’s favorite Judas Priest song. I find that so amazing about music how every song touches and affects each person individually and in a live setting it is no different, just more apparent. 

Photo-Randy Cook

You could feel the building anticipation as the lights went out and the band’s recognizable pitchfork cross logo lit up and descended from above the stage. Once the lights aimed down from above onto the crowd, the stage lights came ablaze and the band took the stage opening with a fury into “One Shot at Glory”. It is amazing how fast the first three songs feel like they go by when I am in the photo pit trying to capture as much as I can, their second song “Lightning Strike” seemed to go by in an instant and the next thing I know the band is cranking into fan favorite “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’”.

Photo-Randy Cook

After coming out of the photo pit area we found a decent spot in the crowd and settled in to enjoy the show. I have been a fan of this band since my musical formative years as a teenager in the 1980’s and the next two songs are among my all time favorite Judas Priest songs. “Freewheel Burning” and “Turbo Lover” had me signing along with lead singer Rob Halford, who at seventy years young can still belt out the lyrics with the intensity of his years past. Normally I am not a sing along or out loud kind of guy but in the presence of metal royalty I guess you could say I embraced and lost myself in the moment.

Photo-Randy Cook
Photo-Randy Cook

The twin guitar attack of Richie Faulkner and Andy Sneap was music to my ears as the set list progressed. Drummer Scott Travis and bassist Ian Hill kept the band in perfect musical sync and rhythm. There was a fitting and touching tribute to the victims commemorating the 9/11 attacks as the intro to “Blood Red Skies”. Another of my favorite tunes, “Painkiller” ended the main part of their set and once again I was singing right along with the crowd. Knowing an encore was imminent the crowd launched into chants of “Priest, Priest, Priest…” before ascending into a huge roar when the band came back and closed out their amazing set with five more songs, all fan favorites.

Photo-Randy Cook

Sadly the performance and the night had to come to an end. What an amazing day of heavy metal and finally once again being able to share this with my metalhead brethren with close to five thousand strong in the audience. Judas Priest’s tour celebrating 50 Heavy Metal Years was only a few dates old when I had the pleasure of attending. I highly recommend anyone who is on the fence about going to the future dates to stop considering it and buy a darn ticket. It will not be a regrettable purchase, the band sounds amazing and their touring reign can not last forever so get your ass out to see them while you still can!

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