JUDAS PRIEST, WHITESNAKE, TESLA
Rockalottapus Tour, 8/1/2009
Sleep Train Amphitheater
Marysville, CA
by Todd K Smith

Capturing the spirit of 1989, three of the world’s biggest names in rock took the stage for one glorious night of hard rock mayhem. The 2009 Rockalottapus Tour arrived to sprawling farm fields of Marysville, CA on a very hot August night. The show ran all day with the second stage crammed with acts like Rehab, Cavo and Since October while the main stage boasted Pop Evil, Powerman 5000, Trapt, Tesla, Whitesnake and the mighty Priest! The day was a scorcher but Michigan-natives Pop Evil did right by delivering a crushing set. For a young band they loaded up 20-minutes of pop metal frenzy, got the girls to take their tops off and nailed trax “Breathe,” “Somebody Like You” and “Jupiter in June” off their Universal debut Lipstick on the Mirror. During Powerman’s set Pop Evil came out and signed copies of their CD, pressed the flesh and made some new friends.

Second stage was loud and angry catering to the younger crowd, primarily the kids of the geezers coming out to see their idols. Since October were fine-tuned spreading their brand of Christian rock. Cavo mixed it up with a Hinder-meets-any boy band, and makes off like an American Idol cloned band. A four-some of strippers walked by in next-to-nothing with super soakers in-hand spraying down the crowd. Like the Pied-piper, they lead a throng to the Trapt show on the main stage where they continued to gyrate and soak the crowd. Trapt has always been one of those weak millennium alt bands that survived on one hit, but lack any real pizzazz. Live, they aren’t much better even though the girls in front were going insane. Seriously, this it the fourth time we’ve seen them and dude, there’s nothing there… but the strippers were nice.

As the sun set and the temperature started to drop, Tesla roared out on stage. This was the third time we’ve seen Tesla this year and was one of their best performances. Even though they only live an hour south (in Sacramento) they’ve never played the Sleep Train. Tonight they brought their entire hometown crowd and ripped through a 60-minute “best of” package with a couple highlights from Forever More including “I Wanna Live” and “PVT. Ledbetter” which is actually maturing into a nice number. The eighties tracks still hold weight where “Hang Tough,” “Cumin Atcha Live” and the acoustic “Signs” sound fresh twenty-five years on. Singer Jeff Keith never changes, skinny as a rail and a graveled voice that is the yin to Frank Hannon and Dave Rude’s guitar slinging yang.

David Coverdale’s Whitesnake were album perfect, which is both positive and negative. Promoting their year old opus Good to be Bad the hand-selected line up of Doug Aldrich (guitar) Reb Beach (guitar), Uriah Duffy (bass), Chris Frazier (drums) and Timothy Dury (keys) maintain nothing of what gave the original band its guts and glory. This is a well-oiled machine, devoid of character and personality. Coverdale has improved as a singer since his marble mouthed Deep Purple days, but lacked the force he exuberated several years ago when co-headlined with the Scorpions. Visions of note-perfect Def Leppard come to mind when watching WS cut through “Fool For Your Loving”, “Slow An’ Easy” and (sappy ballad) “Is This Love.” The only redeeming tracks were “Love Ain’t No Stranger” and encore “Still of the Night”. The guitar and drum solos were old and tired and went on far too long. That being said, Coverdale looked quite dapper and in good shape. (ed. Whitesnake has since pulled out of the tour due to Coverdale’s current throat troubles).

Under full stage lighting revved the mighty Judas Priest. Having seen them several times since the group reformed in 2005, this was easily their best set list to date. The prize ticket was the promise that the band would play 1980’s British Steel in its entirety. There was no announcement from the stage; just the roaring twin guitar of “Rapid Fire”, the steady beat of “Metal Gods” and the crowd favorite “Breaking The Law”. It was only here that singer Rob Halford addressed the crowd and introduced British Steel as a banner unrolled from the rafters. In perfect unison came “Grinder” then the fist pumping “United”. “You Don’t Have To Be Old To Be Wise” was surprisingly fresh followed by the classic “Living After Midnight”. Lesser known “The Rage” and “Steeler” were scorching and brought the converts in waves to the front of the stage.

Guitarist Glen Tipton and KK Downing are amazing to watch and, with large screens on both sides of the stage, the close ups on their unified fingering was stunning. But, Halford is the universal visual center stalking the stage in his long priest-like leather robe. His buckled motorcycle boots give off a certain Frankenstein look to his wardrobe and his shaved head is constantly bowed as he growls the lyrics into the microphone. Halford’s known as the voice of metal with a range and pitch that is succinctly perfect. His vocal control is simply astonishing. Drummer Scott Travis and bassist Ian Hill are the rhythmic machine behind the metal beast and became the fuel behind “The Ripper”, the crowd chanting “Prophecy” and fire-burning “Hell Patrol”.

We’re all familiar with the Priest encore where Halford rides his Harley onstage to the clanging of electric guitars. In the past, “Hell Bent For Leather” takes its turn, but tonight the rumbling “Freewheel Burning” made the spot. The Joan Baez classic “Diamonds and Rust” (cover by Priest on Sin After Sin –’77) followed in a shocking but glorious metal moment. Its genuine mood was not lost under a cascade of metal fury. Just when the night seemed to fade into a smoke-filled orange glow, Halford bellowed, “Sacramento… You've Got Another Thing Comin'” and the place went ballistic once more.

Website: Judas Priest, Whitesnake, Tesla

A special thanks, with great appreciation, to Jen Farhood at Chipster PR.