Live Review & Photo Gallery: Judas Priest and Sabaton at the Ameris Bank Amphitheatre

Judas Priest. Credit: Mike White.

Words by Gordon Lamb and photos by Mike White

I never intended to go this long without seeing Judas Priest. And by “this long” I mean since the first time I ever heard them many, many years ago. It just never worked out. But on Saturday, May 11 at the Ameris Bank Amphitheatre, it worked out beautifully.

Swedish metallers Sabaton were pretty much all set up as the crowd filtered into the amphitheater. The sun was still relatively high at this point and the band’s drum riser—a full on model of a tank—immediately stood out. I was less than familiar with them but ready to watch and listen. As they plowed through an incredibly tuneful yet powerful set, I was increasingly charmed by their casual personality, crowd interaction and utter security in their own masculinity. How so? At one point, singer Joakim “Jocke” Brodén brought out a pink Hello Kitty guitar and rocked it out just as casually as if he’d been playing one of those old school Kramer guitars with a pointy head. He also made jokes about their matching outfits, referring to the band as the “village people” at the set’s open. The high point for me, though, wasn’t even when the whole band donned gas masks and he brought out a “gas tank” and proceeded to spray the audience with it (it was harmless stage smoke, by the way). No, it was when he left the stage, returned in a long, semi-decorated coat, and said, “We’re obviously gonna sing about Swedish military history now.” My compatriot I was sitting with, and lifelong Judas Priest fan, turned to me and said, “Well, that’s certainly what I came for!”

Sabaton performing live at Ameris Bank Amphitheatre on May 11, 2024 in Alpharetta, GA.

Before the main event, there was a huge banner hung on the stage with this statement: “United we stand, Divided we fall. Defenders of metal, for one and for all. Keeping the faith, honour and pride. Strength in this bloodline, God on our side. Eternal immortal, metal burns bright. Lifting our horns, ready to fight. Stand and bare (sic) witness, with all of our might, as we raise the invincible shield.” Defenders of the faith, indeed, right? 

They’re touring in support of the new album Invincible Shield, itself a very decent entry into the bands deep catalog that already spans 50 years. The current lineup of the band is slightly different than that if its mid-1980s heyday but still includes founding member Ian Hill (bass), Scott Travis (drums since 1989), Richie Faulkner (guitar since 2011), non-touring member and fan favorite Glenn Tipton (guitars since 1974; Tipton stopped touring in 2018 after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and his live role is filled by guitarist Andy Sneap), and, of course, the man of the hour singer Rob Halford who can still hit the high notes even after grinding it out since 1973. He’s easily the most well-known member of the band and has appeared on every one of the bands albums except for two totally forgotten releases (1997’s Jugulator and 2001’s Demolition). 

Judas Priest performing live at Ameris Bank Amphitheatre during the Invincible Shield Tour on May 11, 2024 in Atlanta, GA.

As a side note, anyone who knows Priest recognizes that Halford has suffered a very fragile hairline for decades (even inspiring my own mother to once remark when seeing a photo of the band years ago, when Halford would have been in his mid-30s, “Gordon, he’s an old man!”) but whatever strength was lost up top has clearly transferred to his chin as his full, grey beard was strong as an ox.

Like any band with a very long history that continues to release new music, there’s a certain balance to introducing new songs while peppering in expected and awaited hits. Some artists are really bad at handling this, but Priest was great at it. Opening with “Panic Attack,” the first song from the new album, set a blistering tone for the rest of the night. Then they immediately plowed into the classic “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’.” Then came the one-two punch of favorites from 1980’s British Steel, “Rapid Fire” and “Breaking The Law.” There were no break, no pauses, nothing to stop the momentum.

Judas Priest performing live at Ameris Bank Amphitheatre during the Invincible Shield Tour on May 11, 2024 in Atlanta, GA.

The least expected, at least by me, moment of the night was Halford leading the crowd through a series of call-and-response chants before the band launched into their cover of Fleetwood Mac’s (that’s Peter Green-era Mac, not Stevie Nicks era Mac) 1970 song “The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown).” A studio version originally appeared on 1978’s Hell Bent For Leather. Again, seamless artistry throughout and nothing left wanting. 

After about a good hour and a half there was a little anxiety in the crowd over what else the band would play. My friend and I starting talking to this woman in front of us as we all namechecked a pile of songs we wanted to hear and then, as if on cue, the telltale intro to 1982’ “Electric Eye” emanates from the stage. I turn to my friend and quote Albert Brooks from the 1987 film Broadcast News and say, “I say it here, it comes out there!” 

Judas Priest performing live at Ameris Bank Amphitheatre during the Invincible Shield Tour on May 11, 2024 in Atlanta, GA.

Then, the moment literally everyone had been waiting for happened: Rob Halford drove his motorcycle onstage with a leather riding crop between his teeth and then band blasted into “Hell Bent For Leather.” Most would have been totally satisfied if everything ended here but there was one more for the road.
Closing the show with “Living After Midnight,” another classic from British Steel, the show was at this point turned from a heretofore spotty sing-a-long to one where pretty much everyone knew all the words or could at least fake it with enthusiasm.

The band itself faked nothing the whole night and didn’t need to, either. There were simply no weak spots, missteps, lackluster moments or anything of the like that could have easily been overlooked or forgiven especially considering that Halford is currently clocked in at age 72.

At the end of “Living After Midnight,” the band all took bows, threw guitar picks and drumsticks out to the crowd, posed for photos and all that while Halford spoke some words to the crowd that I couldn’t exactly make out clearly. But his final five words before he slipped back behind the curtain were crystal clear: “We are Judas Fucking Priest.”


Judas Priest