A native of The Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield, England, Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford feels just as comfortable in his Paradise Valley home.
“I’ve still got a great love affair going on with Phoenix,” Halford says via telephone from Chicago.
“I still feel the same when the plane comes into London or coming on the tour bus. I’ve got a lot of memories. I’ve been there since the beginning of the ‘80s. I have a lot of friends there and I just feel really comfortable.”
Halford and Co. will return to the Valley on Wednesday, November 12, to play Gila River Arena, formerly Jobing.com Arena, on their “Redeemer of Souls Tour.”
“I watched Glendale grow from small kind of cowboy town into this part of the Valley,” says Halford, 63. “It’s great. It’s wonderful to see how that side of the Valley’s doing, particularly with the new facilities there. It’s always good to get back into the home turf. I should probably have a very long guest list for the show.”
At the time of our interview, Judas Priest just played its first gig in about two and a half years in Rochester, New York—the first in support of the Redeemer of Souls album. He says it’s satisfying to go from basic skeleton ideas of a song to the stage.
“To play it live in front of your fans for the first time, that’s when it really becomes special,” he says. “The songs become alive when they’re played live. The way this material has moved from the studio recording into the live dimension, it’s spectacular. It’s crushing. It really is.”
Halford has had this feeling throughout Judas Priest’s 40 years. He explains he doesn’t really think about his career in terms of decades—until his body gives him little hints about his age.
“I did feel it when I fell off the bus after an 11-hour overnight drive to Chicago from Rochester,” says Halford, putting the emphasis on “11-hour.”
“I was feeling it. But you’ve probably heard other musicians say this: When the lights go down and the fans start screaming, you feel like a million dollars. Some days you’re going, ‘Man, 40 years.’ That’s when my knees hurt. Other days, wow. It’s too good to be true.”
Halford says Judas Priest stays relevant and he stays interested in music by reading about eight to 12 metal websites daily.
“I stay in that world,” he says. “I stay in tune with it. It excites me. It gives me a buzz to know I’m in the company of all these really talented musicians that are doing well. A lot of them I know. That’s what keeps me going. Then again, that’s what I do. I don’t know how to do anything else. I’m still singing for my metal supper.”
He’s quick to give props to Judas Priest’s fans, whom, he says, have stuck by the band through thick and thin. “Without the fans we have nothing,” he says. “So, we worked hard together. We’ve supported each other, watched out for each other. The fans deserve the best each time we put out a record and put on a show. That’swhat we’re doing now.
The shows to which he’s referring will focus on Redeemer of Souls, but they will acknowledge the past.
“If you don’t do ‘Breaking the Law,’ you’re going to get a riot,” he says. “If you don’t play ‘Living After Midnight,’ you’re going to get a riot. Those are songs that are significant.”
After Chicago, Judas Priest was scheduled to play an Indiana casino which, he admits, is “always dangerous for me.”
“I’ve now moved into the casino years,” Halford says with a laugh. “When I’m back in the Valley, you’ll see me at Harrah’s Ak-Chin or Wild Horse Pass.
“I just like to get on the machines and veg out. I never thought I’d become one of these people. It’s just a thrill. That’s the thing about the casino. I’m not in it for the cash because I’m a cheap player. I like to get on thepenny slots. It’s the unexpected. I like the unexpected about the casino, of the buzz and the thrill that I get from that. It’s a bit like rock ‘n’ roll, to a certain extent. There’s nothing better than seeing your band—any band, from Priest to Celine Dion—you can’t beat a live performance because there’s a thrill and the danger of the unexpected. You don’t really know what’s going to happen next. That thrill for me never really diminishes. After two and a half years, when we last played, the band was roaring last night. The fans were nuts. It’s the best thing in the world.”
Judas Priest w/Steel Panther, Gila River Arena, 9400 W. Maryland Avenue, Glendale, 800.745.3000, ticketmaster.com, Wednesday, November 12, $10-$75