The Metal Gods returned to Poland last Saturday, and I was there.
For years I saw Judas Priest as a band who did a few good songs but generally too light. Seeing them live last year (also at Spodek) showed me just how heavy they are, and how rich their back catalogue is. The truth is, they are one of the best bands of all time.
Katowice, a rich treasure of good music
Years ago I read this article which mentions how heavy metal is big in Katowice and Upper Silesia in general, liking the popularity of metal to both being anti-MTV as well as being an industrial area. While the bigger cities of Warsaw and Wrocław have produced a fair share of heavy metal bands, Katowice has produced bands like Kat and each year the Spodek arena plays host to various metal festivals. Interestingly, Judas Priest and Birmingham compatriots Black Sabbath also come from an industrial area. In this video Black Sabbath band members speak of how the heavy noises of factories influenced the heavy music they created.
In any case, this was my second concert in Spodek and again I was, by and largely very impressed with the fans. Unlike concerts I’ve been to in Warsaw, here people were energetic and well up for it.
The connection between heavy metal fans and 19th century Russian philosophy
The setlist was classic Priest, with songs like “Rapid fire”, “Metal Gods”, “Painkiller”, “Victim of changes” and “Living after midnight” inspiring mayhem among the fans. For me the highlights were “Star breaker” (despite being an old song plenty people were singing along to it with a reasonable rocking reaction from the fans), “Turbo lover” (not from my favourite album but much heavier live) and “Breaking the law” (sung wholly by the fans).
What struck me was how student-aged fans were also giving it loads, including to the older less well-known songs. They were real fans. Many people of their age group don’t listen to “old” music, which can even include Nirvana! No, the fans in Spodek knew all of the songs (not like the many wools who attended the Metallica concert in Warsaw in 2011). Some Russian philosopher (I cannot remember his name, something like Alexei Alexov, or Nikolai Nikolov), in the 19th century wrote that the new mass migration of people from villages to cities was very bad as it took people away from their parents and traditions. While heavy metal is the music of rebellion, including against “authorities” a healthy respect for the elders of metal is needed. Any metal fan of any age group should know all the words to “Breaking the law” or “War pigs” by Black Sabbath. As did the fans in Katowice.
The heavy metal image(s) and the Polish language
The article I gave a link to earlier speaks of people not liking it when Polish bands sing in English. On the one hand I’m all for the development of music in different languages, it is also the case that languages are not static; they are fluid and many words migrate into other languages (for example, the Polish language contains the words laptop, szlafrok, restauracja and pizza). In fact the Polish language (like all other languages) is like Judas Priest. Judas Priest pioneered what became to be known the heavy metal look of leather (taken from gay culture). However, the singer Rob Halford was inspired by 90s industrial and even did a solo album with an industrial influence. Judas Priest have been both standard heavy metal (hell, it was them who largely defined the fucking standard) as well as being adaptive to changes. When a band from Poland asks “czy tu jest piękło?” (“is hell here?”) in Polish and people from Poland answer with “yeah” one sees how the Polish language is like Judas Priest in being adaptive.
On modern trends
Not all modern trends in heavy metal are good. Some fans (of all ages) now see concerts as a chance to block the views of people behind them by taking shite videos and making shite videos. Or they do the circle pit thing. Now, I have nothing against circle pits per se. I’ve been in a few myself and they can be fun. I also understand the need to prove ones strength in a slightly dangerous way. On the other hand, concerts are about music. Circle pits detract from the music. One cannot sing along or bang your head when you’re in one.
All in all though, I have very good memories of seeing Judas Priest. Despite them saying that this tour is their final one, I hope they change their mind and come back to Katowice.