Musical Explorations, or My Ever Shrinking Indie Cred, Volume 1: Halford | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Musical Explorations, or My Ever Shrinking Indie Cred

Volume 1: Halford

Dec 17, 2010 By Frank Valish Web Exclusive
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My high school physics teacher used to joke, “Do I look like the kind of guy who would own eight Judas Priest records?” Apart from the fact that he kind of did, the point he was trying to make was that metalheads are found in all shapes, sizes, and professional aptitudes. And though this wide-eyed, acoustic guitar-toting teacher’s attraction to heavy metal never got me to actually buy any Rob Halford albums, his predilection for Priest was intriguing, despite its being played up for comic affect and hoped shock value to a bunch of physics-challenged 16-year-olds.

As my life’s path in writing about music has led me in a vastly different direction, good old Mr. Cullen’s honor of Halford was never too far from my musical consciousness. So when Halford’s band, simply named Halford, came to the Crocodile Rock Café club in Allentown, PA, about 20 minutes from my house, it seemed like the perfect time to see if the old physics man had been on to something all those years ago. Stuck in the indie-rock world for so many years, not often do I get to mix and mingle with those of a very different musical inclination, and this seemed to be the perfect time to explore the world of metal with the Metal God himself.

I arrived to the club at about 9 p.m., hopefully in time to miss the lion’s share of the opening acts. No disrespect meant, but rocking out indie style for most of my life, I figured I might as well take things slow. I arrived for the last half of the set by the second opening band, OpFor, which presented a very capable mix of heavy riff-driven rock played by a tall muscular dude in army fatigues and his much weaker-looking yet vocally demonstrative counterpart singer. While the club was already packed with an unwashed mass of metal maniacs, I, with a “P” for either “press” or “pictures” etched on the back of my hand in permanent marker, was able to slink to the front and in between a barricade, stage left, next to some Halford-stamped equipment and a piece of luggage with an airport tag, perhaps ironically, marked “HEAVY.” It was excellent viewing position of the band and crowd, perfect for metallic observation and all sorts of auditory bludgeon. But my fate was soon to change.

Just prior to showtime, with the Halford staff needing to make way for the metal master himself, I and a few of my cohorts were ushered out of our protective coves and into the mass of lunatic fringe that populated the club proper. Keep in mind that this particular venue is set up similar to an empty cardboard box, with every position having limited viewing potential with exception of the very front. So, after some sparring (read: pleading) with the overzealous (read: large and angry) security guard, I took my position against the bar, back arched to unhealthy angles so as to avoid any number of leather-clad older men who pushed their way up front trying to get a better view. And by view, I mean backs of head all the way to the stage, a pillar, and some speaker stacks. Yes, the metal god’s bald bobbing head and generous goatee came into view a time or two, but this was not exactly prime real estate. Plus, the large woman sitting on the bar felt the need to do what seemed like the watusi with her hands the entire night, several times smacking me in the head.

All this said, Rob Halford sounded amazing. His voice was remarkably strong for a man who made his name by screaming bloody murder in high falsetto 20-some years ago. From my compromised vantage point, Halford seemed to command the stage with ease and perfect, should we say, metal grace, directing his band in its raging riffery while hitting those old high notes with a precision and power that could not have been imagined of someone pushing 60. And while his set was heavy on music from his present band, he managed to throw in a few Priest cutsnone of the radio staples, but “Diamonds and Rust” from 1977’s Sin After Sin, for one. The problem here again was that Halford’s particular brand of metal could not be enjoyed as much as this newfound metal maniac would have liked. Between being knocked in the head by the exuberant and heavy, metal princess and negotiating the constant stream of back-in-black older gentleman with facial hair and dirty denim, a pillar directly in my line of view and a security guard ready to whup someone’s ass at the drop of a beer cup, focusing on the music became secondary. And moving back to the club’s rear put me what might as well have been a football field away from the stage, for as much of the band that could be glimpsed.

Granted, none of this is the fault of Rob Halford or his band, who put on a 90-minute set of heavy rock like no other and one seemingly unaffected by decades of musical passage. There was much to appreciate here. The problem was that in its current set-up, the show was too hard to enjoy. Perhaps Halford should have been playing a larger venue, someplace better equipped to deal with the masses, with a sound system that would allow Halford’s between-song banter to be heard overtop the chubby cheerleader screaming in my left ear. But unfortunately, this was not the case. For now, metal will have to wait. I never was very good at physics anyway. (


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Jimmy Mill
December 22nd 2010

Jesus that’s annoying. I was recently at a gig for a new Australian Band who were awesome. And being it was new and NOT heavy rock I kind of wanted to hear the songs, which were great, but i had princesses and a pillar too. Looks like all live gigs are suffering because of the limitations of some of their venues- but worse the fans distracting the fans from the music. Thanks for a good read.

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January 19th 2011

I took my position against the bar, back arched to unhealthy angles so as to avoid any number of leather-clad older men who pushed their way up front trying to get a better view. And by view, I mean backs of head all the way to the stage, a pillar, and some speaker stacks. Yes, the metal god’s bald bobbing head and generous goatee came into view a time or two….SEO Services Canada

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