ripper tour flyerTim “Ripper” Owens: former Judas Priest front-man, and an awesome one at that – especially live. It’s hard to comprehend then how on this Saturday night his gig at Norwich’s Waterfront managed to attract just seventy people. As the frontman would bemoan later, it seemed squarely down to the lack of promotion, with not one flyer in sight around the place (a lesson to be learnt from for the well-intentioned university organisers, perhaps). Even so, the question still stands: where were you tonight, Norwich?!

Opening up the show were two UK bands: Memories In Torment, whose overall take on metal seemed somewhat vague, and Past The Fall, who definitely put more of a stamp on proceedings with their heavy riffing. Beyond catching a bit of each, it was pleasant catching up with some fine English beers in the beer garden until at 8:20 the lights dimmed and the introductory tones to ‘Jugulator’ started filling the near empty venue (the smaller upstairs part, by the way). Indeed it was time to jugulate, and from the start, one thing was clear: “Ripper” Owens has lost none of his immense range or power as a vocalist. Equally impressive were his backing band – Northern Ireland’s Sandstone – who tore through such unremitting material with apparent ease. As the night wore on, they would treat us similarly to bits of Iced Earth, Beyond Fear and the main-man’s solo work, all of which slotted in seamlessly with the Judas Priest material dominating the set.

The really excellent aspect to tonight’s show was the emphasis on tracks from Owens’ Judas Priest debut – an album which I don’t think that band has come close to touching since its arrival in 1997. Airing the likes of ‘Blood Stained’ and ‘Death Row’, along with rarer gems such as ‘Cathedral Spires’ and ‘Bullet Train’, “Ripper” reminded us why he was chosen by Priest in the first place. The fact that only the few gathered were witnessing this amazing performance was obviously a bit surreal but, as Owens himself pointed out, the intimacy also made it feel like a “living room” performance. To be fair, his approach to the disappointing turnout was pragmatic – stories involving Lemmy being shared along the way, as well as a ton of laughs for the punters gathered in front of the stage. As a result, the connection between fans and band became more evident as the night wore on – especially as the likes of ‘The Green Manalishi…’ and ‘Metal Gods’ infected the air.

In some ways tonight was also a minor re-enactment of the flawless ‘’98 Live Meltdown’ album; ‘The Ripper’, ‘Diamonds and Rust’ and the anthemic closer ‘Livin’ After Midnight’ confirming this sense. Possibly the most interesting aspect on a personal level was the rendition of ‘Painkiller’, which absolutely pummelled the version I saw Judas Priest perform a month or two back. But yeah, while there’s very little justice in a unique talent like Tim “Ripper” Owens performing in such ridiculous circumstances, the smiles on people’s faces at the end of the night told you everything you needed to know about what it meant to be here.

(Review by Jamie)