Judas Priest marked their long-awaited induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with a supersized performance of three of their most beloved songs Saturday.
Despite years of estrangement and sharp barbs in the press, the quintet — in their signature leather, studs, and metal chains — welcomed original guitarist K.K. Downing and former drummer Les Binks for likely the loudest performance of the night. The group is one of only a handful of heavy metal bands to claw their way into the institution.
Glenn Tipton, who has been sidelined for years by Parkinson’s Disease, was also back for the one-time only Priest past-and-present superjam. The set list featured three songs that solidified their status as self-proclaimed Metal Gods: “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” “Breaking the Law,” and “Living After Midnight.”
Downing took the mic after Scott Travis, who remembered the group’s late drummer Dave Holland, who died. in 2018, while a teary Glenn Tipton thanked the group’s longtime fans.
“I’m the gay guy in the band,” said frontman Rob Halford, taking the mic to end Priest’s speech. “We call ourselves the heavy metal community which is all-inclusive, no matter what your sexual identity is, what you look like, or what you believe in or don’t believe in. Everybody’s welcome.”
Halford also acknowledged the group’s half-century history: “We should get out another 50 years, but the joy about music is that it lives forever,” he said. “And that’s the reason why we’re here. We live for heavy metal. We live for music. And we’re living for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”
Before hitting the stage with their medley, the group was welcomed by Alice Cooper, who described Priest as “the definitive metal band.”
“They defined the sound we know of heavy metal and their sound is unmistakable,” Cooper said. “And what can you say about Rob Halford’s voice? Never have screams covered such a range. Is there any emotion that he can’t express?”
Cooper described Halford as “one of the greatest singers in heavy metal history” and praised the group for defining “what heavy metal looked like.”
“They’re electrifying on stage and one of the hardest-hitting live bands in the history of rock and roll. Priest has carried the flag of hard rock and heavy metal proudly for something like 50 years, never wavering or following trends or pretending to be anything but exactly what they are,” Cooper said. “They are flying high tonight. Much deserved and long overdue.”
After being up for nomination in 2018 and 2020, the group finally made it into the Rock Hall in the Musical Excellence category. In addition to four members of its current lineup — Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill, and drummer Scott Travis — the institution recognized the contributions of Downing, who was a member of the band from 1970 until he quit in 2011, Binks, who played with the group from 1977 to 1979, and the late Dave Holland, who drummed for the group from 1979 to 1989.
Hill has expressed remorse that the Rock Hall isn’t also recognizing current guitarist Richie Faulkner and singer Tim “Ripper” Owens, who replaced Halford.
Judas Priest formed in 1969 with a completely different lineup than the one that helped popularize heavy metal in the Seventies. After Halford joined in 1973, the group found its footing within a couple of years playing hard-driving, blues-influenced riffs that featured Tipton and Downing’s harmonized guitar leads.
Halford’s powerful, almost operatic singing influenced generations of metal and hard-rock singers, while the group’s preference for wearing black leather codified the genre’s look. Among their many gold and platinum albums in the U.S., the razor-sharp riffs of British Steel and Screaming for Vengeance influenced Metallica, Slayer, and legions of rockers that followed.
“There wouldn’t be a lot of metal bands without Judas Priest — us being one of them,” Slayer’s Kerry King told Rolling Stone this year in an op-ed about why Priest deserve recognition. “The people who do vote [in the Rock Hall] are probably going to vote for the bigger bands. That says nothing for Priest’s longevity and the things they’ve done. If you’re not a metal fan, you’re never going to get it. If you are a metal fan, you’re never going to forget it.”
Halford has expressed his gratitude for the induction. “Naturally, it’s a super honor,” he recently said. “I always felt that Priest would get in eventually, only because you can’t have something called the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and not have Judas Priest in it.”
“Am I the only gay metalhead in the Hall of Fame?” he asked Rolling Stone in May. “How cool is that?”
About having former members Downing and Binks join Priest on stage, Halford said at the time that he was “absolutely” opened to performing with them.
“As I said before, you’ve got to push aside anything that gets in the way. You’ve got to remove the emotional clutter and just reference this great celebration. Otherwise, if you don’t do that, and you leave the building, a couple of years later you’ll go, ‘What the hell? Why didn’t we do that?’ It’s a few hours, but those few hours last forever,” he said. “The music matters. It’s all about the music.”