By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Two of the biggest and most influential British bands from the ’70s bring their tandem tour to the Shoreline Amphitheatre Saturday when hard-rock heavyweights Deep Purple and metal pioneers Judas Priest share the stage.
A group that has gone through a multitude of distinct line-ups with great success over the course of 50 years since first coming together in 1968, Deep Purple got its start as a progressive-minded psychedelic rock quintet anchored by classically trained organ player Jon Lord, bassist Nick Simper and talented session guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. The addition of singer Rod Evans and 18-year-old drum phenom Ian Paice filled out the version that would score the band’s initial hits with cover tunes by Joe South (the radio staple “Hush”) and Neil Diamond (“Kentucky Woman”) that sat alongside original tunes that showcased Lord’s fiery interplay with Blackmore.
By the time the band had released its third album, Lord, Paice and Blackmore were discussing a move in a heavier direction that would lead them to ditch Evans (who would relocate to the U.S. and found the underappreciated all-star group Captain Beyond) and Simper and put together the band’s seminal Mark II line-up. New singer Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover made their recorded debut on Deep Purple’s ambitious live classical-meets-rock recording Concerto for Group and Orchestra, but it was the string of records that followed that established the band as one of the biggest hard-rock acts this side of Led Zeppelin.
1970’s In Rock included the epic “Child in Time” powered by Gillan’s wailing vocals and the blazing rocker “Speed King,” two songs that would help codify the emerging sounds of hard rock and heavy metal on both sides of the Atlantic. A relentless schedule of tour and recording would follow as the band established itself as one of the powerhouse live performers in rock with their marathon shows packed with extended jamming and solos and Blackmore’s flashy, swashbuckling style of guitar. Fireball and the landmark Machine Head featuring the ubiquitous FM radio hit “Smoke on the Water” as well as the live favorites “Highway Star” and “Space Truckin'” would both be hailed as classics.
The band’s intense work schedule would lead to tensions with Gillan and Glover leaving after the release of the hugely popular concert document Made in Japan and a final studio effort Who Do We Think We Are? in 1973. The band would land on it’s feet, bringing on bassist/singer Glen Hughes and lead vocalist David Coverdale who helped make subsequent smash albums Burn and Stormbringer. However, the funk and soul influence heard on the latter recording would lead Blackmore to strike out on his own, starting the band Rainbow with singer Ronnie James Dio and former Jeff Beck drummer Cozy Powell to solid commercial success.
Purple would soldier on, recruiting guitarist Tommy Bolin for a final album in 1975 (Come Taste the Band) before dissolving the group. The members would work together in various capacities (Lord and Paice both joined Coverdale in his band Whitesnake), but eventually the Mark II line-up of Purple reunited in 1984, scoring another hit album with Perfect Strangers and once again touring the world to wide acclaim. But the volatility that split the band up a decade before would eventually resurface after a second less successful studio album and new live recording that largely stuck to the band’s ’70s hits.
First Gillan would leave, getting replaced by onetime Rainbow singer Joe Lynn Turner for a single album before Paice, Lord and Glover pushed to get Gillan back. But friction between the singer and guitarist led Blackmore to walk out in the midst of a European tour a final time.
Since then, Purple has remained busy recording periodic albums of new material with American guitarist Steve Morse (who played more jazz fusion oriented material with the Dixie Dregs and his own trio) and regularly touring, even after Lord retired from the road in 2002 and was replaced by veteran player Don Airey (Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Thin Lizzy). The keyboard great sadly passed in 2012, before the band was finally given a long overdue induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016. The band will play hits from its classic era as well as songs from its latest Bob Ezrin-produced album Infinite when the hard-rock giants take the stage alongside iconic metal outfit Judas Priest.
Outside of Birmingham’s metal godfathers Black Sabbath, arguably no band has influenced the sound and look of heavy metal more than Judas Priest. While the band has roots dating back to 1969, the classic line-up of the group featuring singer Rob Halford, guitarists K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton, bassist Ian Hill and drummer John Hinch (the first in a long line of drummers to occupy the chair) didn’t come together until just before Priest entered the studio to record its 1974 debut for Gull Records, Rocka Rolla.
Though the album touched more on psychedelia, progressive rock and hard rock than metal, hard-hitting tunes like “Cheater” and “Never Satisfied” showed the group could deliver a heaviness equal to Sabbath and Deep Purple. Their sophomore album Sad Wings of Destiny had some of the same production issues that plagued the band’s debut, but it marked a turn towards a style that would help define heavy metal.
The effort included some of Priest’s earliest gems, including Halford’s epic, operatic showcase “Victim of Changes” and the charging, twin lead guitar-fueled tracks “Tyrant,” “The Ripper” and “Genocide” that proved to be the influential template the group would refine on future releases. Their major label debut Sin After Sin in 1977 continued to push faster tempos and darker subject matter with the galloping rockers “Let Us Prey/Call For the Priest,” “Sinner” and “Dissident Aggressor” that pointed the way toward the sound of UK disciples Iron Maiden and even the rise of thrash metal in the ’80s (Slayer would later cover “Dissident Aggressor” in tribute).
By the time the band released its seminal live album Unleashed in the East, members had embraced the leather and studs wardrobe that would codify metal fashion into the next decade while embracing a more pop-minded (yet still undeniably heavy) sound on songs like “Hell Bent For Leather.” Priest had a commercial breakthrough in 1980 with British Steel, enjoying its first real taste of chart success and radio airplay with “Livin’ After Midnight” and “Breaking the Law.”
With that album and the platinum follow-up discs Screaming For Vengeance and Defenders of the Faith, the quintet established itself as one of the most popular metal bands on the planet. The band’s success would continue through the decade, though some longtime fans would be thrown by the group’s new glam image and use of guitar synthesizers on Turbo in 1986. Ram it Down two years later continued the trend toward towards a more commercial sound, but the group rebounded with 1990’s Painkiller, a recording that introduced more thrash elements and was hailed as Priest’s heaviest effort in a decade.
The ’90s would bring new challenges to the band, with members forced to appear in court for a civil suit that claimed backwards masked messages in the song “Better by You, Better than Me” (a cover of a Spooky Tooth song) led to the fatal suicide pact of two young metal fans in Spark, Nevada. The suit would be dismissed by the judge, but a far more seismic change for Judas Priest would be the departure of Halford in 1992.
The singer would record and tour with the thrash-oriented group Fight and the industrial project 2wo before his return to traditional metal with the eponymous band Halford in 2000, while Priest would find new singer Tim “Ripper” Owens, touring extensively and tracking a pair of studio albums. Still, any interview with Halford or members of Judas Priest inevitably turned to the question of a possible reunion. Fans finally got what they wanted in 2003 when the singer rejoined the group.
High-profile live performances like a co-headlining slot at Ozzfest the following year and a string of successful album releases beginning with Angel of Retribution in 2005 have reaffirmed Priest as one of the quintessential purveyors of metal. Even after the retirement of K.K. Downing in 2011 during the Epitaph World Tour (a jaunt that the band had suggested would be their final farewell), Priest has soldiered on with the addition of new guitarist Richie Faulkner. The fresh blood seemed to reinvigorate the group, who released their 17th album Redeemer of Souls to solid reviews in 2014.
Two years later, Priest teased that the band had begun work on it’s next recording. Working with classic-era producer Tom Allom — who engineered the first three Black Sabbath records and a 10-year stretch of Judas Priest efforts from Unleashed in the East to Ram It Down — and modern metal production maven Andy Sneap (who has helmed albums by Megadeth, Accept, Testament and Saxon among many others), Judas Priest put together nearly an hour of new material for it’s latest opus, Firepower.
Hailed by some as the best Priest album in nearly two decades Firepower was finally issued earlier this year to rave reviews. While the success of the album was undercut by the announcement that guitarist Glenn Tipton would be retiring from full-time touring due to his struggle with Parkinson’s Disease, Tipton has still managed to make onstage appearances with the band during encores on dates of its recent celebrated tour. Opening for the two legendary bands for the 98.5 KFOX Summer Sendoff concert at the Shoreline Amphitheatre will be modern British blues rockers the Temperance Movement.
Deep Purple and Judas Priest
Saturday, Sept. 29, 7 p.m. $29.50-$149.50