Tim “Ripper” Owens. Belfast Voodoo. Thursday 25 September 2014.
Celebrating Judas Priest's 'Jugulator' album by playing it in full, former Priest vocalist Tim "Ripper Owens" brought his talents to Belfast, for an intimate show at the city's Voodoo.
Photo: Darren McVeigh
Arriving on stage dressed head to toe in designer black leather, trademark peaked cap and Aviator shades, Tim “Ripper” Owens cuts a menacing figure. The man famous for inspiring the storyline to the ‘Rock Star’ movie - his rags to riches story of tribute band frontman to that of the real thing – is in Belfast tonight at the tail end of a solo tour that has seen him celebrating Judas Priest’s ‘Jugulator’ album. Tonight he’ll play most of the album, as well as a mix of Halford-era Priest classics, and some choice cuts form other periods of his career.
If his more-metal-than-metal approach seems a little over the top, it’s entirely appropriate, for as his band launch into ‘Jugulator’, the electrifying title track from Owens’ 1997 debut with Judas Priest, his tones are simply spine tingling. With a band as sharp as Owen’s highest pitched screams, it’s an impressive entrance. “What’s my name?” he repeatedly asks the crowd to an enthusiastic response, as “The Ripper” quickly follows. What’s immediately apparent, at only two songs into the set, is just what an incredible voice Owens possesses. His range, power and sheer flawlessness make it hard to argue with one punter who declares Owens to have “the best voice in metal”. It’s not just his ear-shattering high octaves that are remarkable either, as demonstrated on more subtle material, such as the tender “Diamonds And Rust”, and although he covers plenty of bona fide classics from a time that he wasn’t a member of the band, his eight year tenure with Judas Priest entitles him to lay claim, in part at least, to these tracks.
It’s the tracks from ‘Jugulator’ and its follow-up ‘Demolition’ however, that are the real treat for connoisseurs. With some of these songs having never been, or are ever likely to be played by Judas Priest, it’s a rare chance to hear them in the live setting. Whereas the likes of ‘Dead Meat’, ‘Bullet Train’ and ‘Death Row’ are heavy, brutal and punishing, it’s the epically haunting ‘Cathedral Spires’ that is the real highlight. Other highlights meanwhile include ‘Painkiller’, which predictably sends the crowd into a frenzy, singing along to every word, and ‘Metal Gods’, which incites a similar reaction. There are a few surprises in the set too, including a cover of King Diamond’s ‘Abigail’, which Owens covered as part of the Roadrunner United project, and a rare outing for Beyond Fear’s ‘Scream Machine’.
Owens’ good humoured banter between songs ensures that despite his macho metal posturing, the show is in no danger of becoming po-faced. When guitarist Dee Kivlehan is the only band member to leave the tiny stage at the end of the main set, Owens quickly beckons him back; “Dude, there’s nowhere to go!” he says, before launching into an impromptu and unrehearsed ramshackle version of Black Sabbath’s ‘Heaven And Hell’. It’s indicative of the nature of the man, who makes the gig a joy to watch from start to finish. Bringing the show to an end with a suitably celebratory ‘Living After Midnight’, there’s not a voice in the house that isn’t singing along.
The numbers in the crowd may have lessened since his days of fronting arena and theatre filling bands, but the enthusiasm is no less so. And there’s good reason for that. Owens is a talented, entertaining and engaging frontman. Doubters may be in for surprise, in for a shock. Never turn your back on the Ripper.