By MIKE CHAIKEN
2019 has seen a horde of rock bands reach their 50th anniversary.
The year 1969 has proven to be a watershed year for classic rock. And one of the bands that arose from that bountiful harvest at the tail end of the ‘60s was Judas Priest.
Judas Priest returns to the Mohegan Sun Arena on May 16.
Rob Halford, singer for the prototypical metal band, said 1969 proved to be so fruitful for rock talent for a variety of reasons.
Speaking for himself and Priest, Halford, born in 1951, explained he was a teenager when the Beatles arose to stardom in Liverpool in the early 1960s. The Beatles gave Halford and his peers an idea.
Form a band.
By 1969, the creativity of these bands born of the Beatlemania began to pick up speed. Adding to the mix, said Halford, there was a great musical roar coming from America that stirred the creative juices even further in the U.K. The music Halford and his peers heard was stronger, more powerful, than anything before it.
Besides the music, Halford said, politically, the world was changing in 1969. And music helped drive the cultural shifts of the time.
Judas Priest arose from the Birmingham, U.K. scene, which gave birth to such bands as Black Sabbath and the Moody Blues.
Again, Halford said, the Beatles were responsible for the creative explosion in Birmingham.
Prior to the Beatles, said Halford, every band that had success in the U.K. came from London. But the Beatles, Liverpudlians, proved talent was not tied to a geographic region.
“The Midlands (of the U.K., geographic home to Birmingham) was a goldmine for all of this phenomenal music,” said Halford.
The music of 1969 proved to have staying power with many bands from that era, such as Jethro Tull, Yes, and Judas Priest still on the road. And most of that music has turned out to be the anchors of the classic rock era.
“It’s glorious to be at this moment and have this opportunity to celebrate (our 50th anniversary),” said Halford.
The band proved its creative vitality has not diminished with the years when its most recent album, 2018’s “Firepower,” proved to be their highest charting effort of all time.
“‘Firepower’ was an incredible moment, not just for Priest, but for heavy metal,” said the vocalist.
The popular success of the album also “shows you don’t have much control over the music,” said Halford. A band like Priest can go into the studio with the best intentions to make the best album they can, but you never know for sure how will resonate with the fans.
Priest, however, doesn’t go into the studio looking to make a hit album, said Halford. “You just keep doing what you do.”
“It’s very instinctual for us.”
However, said Halford, to continue to have success, you have to keep the fire burning in your heart. And you can’t ever slack off.
“We work very hard and are very self-critical,” said Halford. “Priest can only sustain itself by the quality of its work.”
Through the years, Halford has had opportunities to work on a couple of outside projects such as Fight and Halford. These workingman holidays (albeit forced on him by the temporary divorce with Priest) allowed him to explore his other musical interests. “I think if you do step away you can learn things about yourself,” he said.
But, said Halford, while he was doing those other projects, he knew that the journey was temporary. “Priest kept pulling me back.”
Ultimately, after this musical exploration, Halford said, “Reuniting with Priest was enough for me.”
For this tour, Priest’s opener is classic hard rock band Uriah Heep (“Easy Livin’,” “The Wizard”). On the previous tour, Judas Priest brought along another classic British metal band, Saxon, as its opener.
Both Uriah Heep and Saxon were huge in the U.K. but their success in the states was limited.
Halford said Priest likes to bring acts like Uriah Heep and Saxon on their tours because “we love to bring our friends with us.”
Plus, Halford said, “Our fans are so rabid, it’s tough to open for Priest.” Uriah Heep will weather the storm, said Halford, and “go out and be the great band they are.”
As for the May 16 gig, Halford said, “We are thrilled to come back (to Connecticut).” To create a different experience for their fans, Halford said fans can look for 10 new songs in their set list.
“There’s a few surprises,” said Halford.
Judas Priest, with Uriah Heep, perform at the Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville on Thursday, May 16 at 7 p.m.
For more information, go to JudasPriest.com or MoheganSun.com