How Judas Priest’s Power Trip Performance Almost Didn’t Happen
Judas Priest delivered one of the standout performances at 2023's inaugural Power Trip festival. As frontman Rob Halford tells UCR, their travel experience left them sweating collectively as they tried to get there for their highly-anticipated appearance.
The British heavy metal legends were a late addition to the bill, stepping in after Ozzy Osbourne was forced to cancel his planned return to the concert stage due to continuing health issues. It was a perfect opportunity for Judas Priest, who seized the chance to announce their new album to the world, moments before they took the stage.
Who Else Performed at Power Trip?
In the midst of the weekend bill, which also featured fellow heavy hitters AC/DC, Metallica, Guns N' Roses, Iron Maiden and Tool, it was Judas Priest who delivered the goods (to borrow a reference from their own catalog). They turned in a 90-minute set that was hard to beat, featuring all of the essential classics, plus nuggets like British Steel's "Rapid Fire," making its first U.S. set list appearance in a decade.
Invincible Shield, the band's 19th studio release, will be released on March 8. We spoke with Halford in advance of the album's arrival -- and as they were starting to tune up for the forthcoming tour -- to get his memories regarding Power Trip.
One of our writers was in the crowd for the Judas Priest performance at Power Trip. It was an incredible experience. What are your reflections on the gig?
Now I can relax and be full of cool memories. It came out of the blue, as you know. We jumped at the opportunity right away, because just look at the list of who’s going to perform. So we graciously and gratefully accepted the opportunity. We had planned to take all of that year off, because we’d been on the road doing the 50th anniversary tour and we’d agreed to say, “See you in a few months” or whatever. But when this came up, the instinct was, “We’ve gotta do it, man.” You can’t pass up something like this. You’ve got to do it. We all came together after what was probably a six or seven month break. We had maybe a day and a half or two days of rehearsal, for two or three hours per day and then we were out on stage at Power Trip.
Man, it was such a beautiful experience, because on that particular day, we were working with AC/DC. You know, everything’s on the internet. [Laughs] I looked it up and it had been 40 years -- 40 years -- since we’d last worked with AC/DC. I told Brian [Johnson] that, I said, “You can’t believe this man, I’m going to throw these figures at you.” Where has the time gone? As you get older, time goes faster. But it was just amazing. The day, the event -- the hundreds of thousands of people that were there. It was just such a beautiful exchange. All of the guys from Metallica were out in the front and they came to hang out with us after the show.There was all of this friendship and all of this camaraderie. All of the bands that performed at Power Trip, we all know each other and we’ve all lived very similar lives. It’s like that family environment where you all connect.
You look at each other and you know what you do, you know where you’ve been and you know the experiences you’ve had. Because all musicians have very, very similar life experiences. So it was great, you know? I wasn’t feeling totally on top, because I had the worst insomnia. I only got about two hours of sleep. Then it was a schlep from L.A. to Palm Springs in the traffic. [Laughs] I think we got there with barely an hour and a half to get ready to go out on stage for the first time in over seven months. But we did it, because that’s it. That’s it. That’s rock and roll right there. Whatever is going on in the periphery is immaterial. What’s important is the stage and your fans. Those are the two important factors. Everything else can just fall away.
Watch Judas Priest Perform at Power Trip
How did you learn to leave whatever’s going on, on the side of the stage before you go on?
It’s that thing that happens. I’m sure it’s the same for every band. But when I go from shorts and a t-shirt into the Metal God outfit, it just happens. It’s no different to a football or basketball player gearing up. Your psyche, your mentality, your attitude, it’s all about, “Okay, I’ve got a job to do -- I need to do it a thousand percent. I’ve got to get this happening.” You know, there aren’t any second chances. It’s like that for any band. Your performance, wherever you are that night at any venue is unique to that moment. It’s never going to happen again. Even if you’ve done “Breaking the Law” a thousand times, the moment you play it [that night], it’s fresh, it’s new, it’s never been done before. So when we’re walking to the stage, I know that’s going through our minds. When you get in the little golf buggy and they take you to the side of the stage and you’re waving to your mates, it’s just a blessing.
You mentioned how the Metallica guys were out there in the crowd. Did you get a similar chance to watch any bands?
I was in and out. I had so much stuff to do with the record. Because as you know, the calendar is always full. I wanted to try and be there for the three days. Obviously, Metallica did. I was talking to James [Hetfield] about it. “Nah, we wouldn’t have missed this for the world. We saw everybody.” I wish I would have had that opportunity. Just to emphasize that again -- here's the biggest metal band in the world and they’re out front [watching the groups as fans]. Air guitar and heavy metal horns in the air with all of the fans. They’re the most amazing people in the business as far as keeping your feet on the ground. It’s no more of the ‘80s thing, “I’m not getting in the limo because it’s two degrees too warm.” There’s none of that! [Laughs] These guys are so real, beautiful and caring. That’s what I love about them. There’s this nurturing that they have, not only for each other, but for other bands that they’re fans of. It’s a very real thing for Metallica.
READ MORE: Metallica Dominates at Power Trip
It's cool that you got to have that moment with the AC/DC guys.
It is. And it was unplanned. I stopped by the compound as I came offstage. I said, “Just drop me off here. I want to go say hi to the guys.” I only saw Brian and Cliff [Williams], just for a few minutes. It was hugs and, “I know you’re getting ready for work,” blah blah blah. [Laughs] At this point, you’re like a walking, living, breathing metal museum. With 50 years of metal in your head and metal memories. The fact that AC/DC took Priest out 40 years ago on a European tour, that really broke the band in Europe. You never forget that. Those are very, very special moments that mean a lot, just like when Kiss took Priest out on a tour umpteen years ago. I never forget to say thank you to Gene [Simmons] and Paul [Stanley] when we see them, as we did on some of the festivals recently in Europe -- and they’re massive Priest fans. Keeping it all together, because we’re all living in the same life is important.
Judas Priest at Power Trip 2023
Gallery Credit: Bryan Rolli