CONCERT REVIEW: Judas Priest – Sabaton Live at MVP Arena Albany

Albany, New York may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of live music and specifically, Heavy Metal. If you take a look at the history of the MVP Arena which was opened in 1990 as the Knickerbocker Arena, you’ll find a gem of a venue in the New York capital. It opened with a concert by Frank Sinatra and has also played host to The Grateful Dead, Phish, The Rolling Stones, and even Metallica on multiple occasions.  Most recently it was visited by a Metal God in the form of Rob Halford with Judas Priest

Located in downtown Albany, the MVP arena is a bit on the smaller side with a capacity of about 15,000 and on this night the top tier was closed off making for a much more intimate show. There are a lot of food options in the area and inside the arena as well. A parking garage is attached to the back of the venue and there are also multiple private lots within a couple of blocks where you can save some money if you are willing to take a short walk.  

Opening the night was the Swedish Power Metal band Sabaton. They are one of those bands that for whatever reason are substantially more popular throughout Europe than they are in the United States. Their European popularity is well deserved and anyone who gets the chance to see them here understands why. They have a theme to their music of military history and staying true to this theme, they took to the stage in camouflage and stylized uniforms. The drummer sat well above the stage on a riser designed to look like an army tank.

The set began with the organ music in the background and the drummer being the only person on stage. The rest of the band joined to an explosion of sound and were headbanging with long hair flying about much like the beginning days of Metallica. Lead singer Joakim Brodén is joined in harmony by all of the other members of the band as they all play their various parts. These guys have a big bold sound and joke around on stage with each other as they play. At one point, one of the other members was pushing against Brodén’s head until he lost his concentration and started to laugh mid-song. Say what you want, but these guys are having fun on stage, and a band enjoying themselves will always give a better performance for it. During “Resist And Bite,” we are treated to Brodén playing guitar. The joke is that he was given a pink Hello Kitty guitar and threatened to complain to Human Resources about his treatment. “Carolus Rex” was sung in their native Swedish and during “The Attack Of The Dead Men,” a backpack fog machine underscores the chemical warfare theme. We need to see more of Sabaton in the United States, but all too soon their set was over and it was time for Judas Priest.

Judas Priest is one of the original Metal bands, and has been playing since their formation in 1969. Mainstream success came their way in 1980 with their album British Steel (Columbia Records) which contained the hits “Breaking The Law” and “Living After Midnight.” With its’ iconic album cover featuring a hand gripping a razor blade, it is no wonder that the band was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2022. 

Every band seems to have walk-out music now and Judas Priest chose “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath. This did a great job of getting the audience to sing along and paid homage to their Birmingham neighbors and contemporaries. 

The lights came on and the band gathered on the drum riser as they launched into “Panic Attack” from the current album Invincible Shield (Epic Records). Rob Halford with a shaved head and long white beard looked like a metal Santa clad in his trademark leather and studs. He immediately silenced anyone with doubts about the quality of his voice and started hitting notes that few can.  The set consisted of a mix of songs from the new album, and a parade of hits from over the years, costume changes, and two guitar players who looked like they were trying to one-up each other with every note played. The crowd was encouraged to sing along during “Breaking The Law” and the guitar work during “Crown Of Horns” blew everyone away. Every musician on stage is clearly a master of their craft. Hit after hit is mixed in with a few choice pieces from the new album. When you think it can’t get better, they pause before the encore. That is when Halford re-emerges on a motorcycle covered in chrome. The final song “Living After Midnight” comes about an hour early but no one seems to mind as they filter out into the night.

While the North American tour is now over, there are still a couple of US festival dates in the fall along with a European tour this June and July plus four dates in Japan this December. Sabaton doesn’t have any dates listed but their website promises “exciting updates coming soon!” Any opportunity to see either band would be well worth the effort. 


Judas Priest Setlist:
Panic Attack
You’ve Got Another Thing Coming
Rapid Fire
Breaking The Law
Lightning Strike
Love Bites
Devil’s Child
Saints In Hell
Crown Of Horns
Turbo Lover
Invincible Shield
Victim Of Changes
The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown) (Fleetwood Mac cover)


Electric Eye
Hell Bent For Leather
Living After Midnight

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