Judas Priest's current Epitaph World Tour has been dubbed a "farewell" tour, which has caused many fans to believe the heavy metal legends are calling it quits entirely.
That isn't true, says Priest founding member Ian Hill. The "farewell" tag merely indicates that Epitaph will be their final globe-hopping world tour.
"It was a bit confusing, I guess," Hill said in a recent phone interview from a tour stop in San Francisco. "[But] we still genuinely enjoy what we do."
Judas Priest lead singer Rob Halford and guitarist Glenn Tipton will lead their band at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena on Nov. 19.
The Epitaph Tour - which began in Europe in June and has already been through Latin America - will make one of only two stops in Pennsylvania when Judas Priest comes to the Cambria County War Memorial Arena in Johnstown at 6 p.m. Nov. 19. The bill also includes Black Label Society (led by legendary metal guitarist Zakk Wylde), Thin Lizzy and Lady Starlight.
The concert is a huge "get" for the War Memorial, according to general manager Mike Silva.
"I felt like it was lightning in a bottle when we booked it," Silva said. "How often can you get quality bands like Judas Priest and Black Label Society in Johnstown?
If you go
Who: Judas Priest, with Black Label Society, Thin Lizzy and Lady Starlight
When: 6 p.m. Nov. 19
Where: Cambria County War Memorial Arena, Johnstown
Tickets: $49.50; Tickets are available at the War Memorial Box office, charge-by-phone at 800-745-3000 or online at ticketmaster.com
"A lot of people are really excited that they don't have to travel an hour or two in either direction to see these kinds of bands."
Judas Priest, one of the most influential bands in heavy metal history, both in terms of look and sound, took shape in the early 1970s near Birmingham, England, with childhood friends Hill, a bassist, and K.K. Dowling, a guitarist. The band's classic lineup - adding lead singer Rob Halford, who had been dating Hill's sister, and a second lead guitarist, Glenn Tipton (the group has had several drummers, with Scott Travis serving the longest after joining in 1989) - took shape in 1974, when the band released their debut album, "Rocka Rolla."
After several years of developing their sound, Judas Priest's twin-guitar attack and Halford's soaring vocal range clicked with metal fans and the group turned into one of the biggest rock bands of the 1980s behind such hits as "Breaking the Law," "Living After Midnight" and "You've Got Another Thing Comin'." The leather-clad rockers persevered through Halford leaving the band in 1993, through eight years with replacement singer Tim "Ripper" Owens (famously discovered singing in a Judas Priest cover band) and into a second run with Halford, from 2003 to the present.
The group has sold more than 50 million albums during its more than 40 years and was named the second greatest metal band of all-time by MTV in 2006.
This final "mega tour," as Hill calls it, will give the aging band members - Hill, Halford and Tipton are all in their 60s - a chance to rest more in between gigs. But they aren't rushing the end of the Epitaph Tour. Hill said the group hasn't set an end date for the tour, which is scheduled to begin an Asian leg in February.
"We're taking a great bit of time," the 60-year-old said in his thick Birmingham accent. "I should imagine that when the last show of the tour does go on, I suppose there will be some reminiscing."
But the Epitaph tour took a major hit even before it began, when Dowling abruptly announced his retirement from the band in April. He was replaced on the tour by British guitarist Richie Faulkner.
Hill said the band went through an adjustment period after the departure of one of its founders.
"Of course there was, yeah," he said. "He left last year and it was an immense shock to all of us when he announced he was going to retire. We kept it quiet at first because we thought we could talk him out of it."
Judas Priest is putting together material for its 17th studio album, due out some time next year, but Hill said that album is currently on the back burner.
"We're planning on, as soon as we get the chance, to record it," he said. "Obviously, with the touring, that's coming first at the moment."
And after that, the band's future is up in the air.
"Obviously, we can't go on forever," Hill said. "The thought of not doing it is something that we're genuinely afraid of. What we do for a living keeps us young, as well. ... There's not much there not to enjoy. We'll carry on as long as we can."
"Until someone drops," he added with a laugh.
Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.