A Slayer In Toronto? Someone Call A Priest!

Molson Amphitheatre; Toronto, Canada; 8/18/2004

by Riley McDonald

Just over one year (380 days, to be exact) after the city of Toronto was thoroughly rocked by the unholy trinity of New Wave of British Heavy Metal (Motörhead, Dio, and Iron Maiden), a second wave of metal legends had arrived to the Molson Amphitheatre. This time, it was thrash pioneers Slayer, and the legendary Judas Priest, reunited with their original vocalist, the charismatic, awe-inspiring Rob Halford.

Naturally, I could barely contain my glee when I heard the news. I couldn't contain my glee when I got my ticket.

After a short wait outside the gates, the hordes of metalheads were finally let inside, and the fun began. My friend and I got to our seats, and realized that…to be blunt, they sucked. As we were situated on the far left of the amphitheatre, we could only see half of the stage. Realizing that wouldn't do, we quickly made our way to better seats that hadn't been occupied.

For nearly an hour, the thousands of fans waited impatiently. Beer was drunk, small talk was engaged, and wild cheers were heard whenever a roadie stepped into the limelight to do a sound check, and play a quick riff on Kerry King's guitar.

Finally, after the wait became nearly unbearable, "Darkness of Christ" began to flood through the speakers, drowned out by the deafening cheers of the legions of fans. I saw Dave Lombardo climb the steps and hop behind the kit, followed seconds later by Jeff Hanneman, Kerry King, and Tom Araya, who headed out onstage.

The ferocious intro to "Disciple" began. Fans hollered and threw the horns. The two of us got ready to rock hard with the rest of the metallers in the audience as Araya stepped up to the microphone, and….what the hell? We were pretty much the only ones standing in the entire 305 section of the stadium.

I passed it off by believing most people were still at the swag shops. But as the band headed into their second song, "War Ensemble," very few people had risen to their feet. I was starting to get worried. Did these people know that the quartet before them were the kings of thrash metal? Or were the fogeys just too exhausted from the car ride to rise to their feet? It was really starting to get depressing.

However, my concerns soon dissipated as the magnetic Araya was able to whip the people into a frenzy. The crushing intro riff to "Mandatory Suicide" started, and more and more people rose to their feet. Soon, several hundred people could be heard singing "Murder at your every footstep / A child's toy sudden death…"

Heads were in the process of banging, horns and fists were raised in triumph, and a few rowdy teens a few rows down had even started a half-mosh, half-fist fight. People had finally realized the glory of the band. It was about damn time.

Slayer forged ahead, playing such classics as "Dead Skin Mask," and "Stain of Mind," while hammering out a newer tune ("Bloodline") and even playing a much more cult hit, "Hallowed Point." When they got into "Seasons in the Abyss," nearly everyone was on their feet, singing along like a hellish chorus. The main set ended with "Postmortem" and an absolutely furious rendition of "Raining Blood."

Moments later, the band returned for their encore, which consisted of my favourite Slayer tune, "South of Heaven," and their most famous song of all time, "Angel of Death." The band bade farewell, and my friend and I collapsed in our seats, exhausted from the forty-five minutes spent on our feet.

"That's going to be one hard act to follow." I managed to say to him, despite my voice chords being shattered by singing along. I don't think he heard me, as we were both near-deaf.

Twenty minutes passed as we watched the stage being set for the main act, Judas Priest. The banner was raised, and the crowd became impatient with anticipation. Soon, Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing, Ian Hill, and Scott Travis had all manned the stage. Even though everyone was frantically screaming their approval, there was one question on all our minds: where is Halford?

"Up here in space / I'm lookin' down on you…" There is Halford! Appearing in a cloud of fog on the left corner of the stage. The audience nearly drowned out the band with their approval as they played "Electric Eye." Rob Halford of Judas Priest gets the crowd on their feet
Photo courtesy of Ernest Doroszuk, Toronto Sun

Now, being only a casual Priest fan, I wasn't sure of every song they played. Most of them I didn't even know the lyrics to (I'm pretty sure I was the only sorry bastard in the whole amphitheatre not singing along to "Diamonds and Rust"). However, the songs I did know absolutely rocked. They included "The Ripper," "Breaking the Law," "Beyond the Realms of Death" (complete with a disco ball), "The Green Manalishi" and "Victim of Changes," to name a few.

I was dazzled by Priest's stage performance. Tipton and Downing were in top form (as seen on the mind-blowing solo to "A Touch of Evil"), and Halford strutted around the stage nonchalantly like the Metal God he is.

After nearly an hour of non-stop metal, they ended their main act with the thrash anthem "Painkiller." Though almost everyone's vocal chords were on the verge of snapping (mine included), we all sang along anyways.

The band left the stage for a minute or so, and then returned with, the coup-de-grace, Halford on the motorcycle. What followed was a fabulous encore that consisted of "Living After Midnight," "Hell-Bent for Leather," "United," and "You've Got Another Thing Coming." There may have been one more song, but by that point, I was just too exhausted to remember.

All things considered, this was one of the best shows to hit Canada in the past five years. Personally, I enjoyed Slayer a bit more than Priest, but that can probably be attributed to the fact that I'm a much bigger fan of the former. Though I was slightly disappointed that Priest didn't play some of the songs I'd have liked to hear ("Love Bites" and "Jawbreaker" come to mind), I'm really in no position to complain.

I'm keeping Halford's last words in mind: "See ya next year!" And maybe, just maybe, I'll have enough to buy a shirt then…!

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