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A Touch of Evil: Live isn't the worst of the Judas Priest live offerings, but considering that it was recorded across numerous tours and following up a pair of double disc releases (fronted by Tim 'Ripper' Owens), you would think that Epic Sony and the band would desire to unleash something far more substantial. At just under an hour, it's not exactly a dearth of material, but clearly the skimpiest they put out since Unleash in the East, only without the awesome working in its favor. Don't get me wrong, it was great to have Rob back in the band and I'm always excited to check out live material and see just how he's held up over so many years, but the heavy focus on newer songs was hardly a boon, and there's just not enough here that I'd recommend spending money on it.
I was neither a fan of Angel of Retribution nor its bloated and boring successor Nostradamus, so the inclusion of four tracks from these records out of a total of 11 did not sit well with me. Of course they were going to be present, because the band has traditionally introduced the more recent material into the live records each decade, but opening the disc with "Judas Priest" and "Hellrider" was not in its favor. Both are acceptable but painfully average tracks, lacking the catchy melodic chorus lines or the intensity of the band's better songs. Halford gives a fair performance, he's lost some of his range but still better than the lion's share of other heavy metal singers out there half his age, and the guitars have the expected heaviness and chugging you'd expect from a very natural live performance post-Painkiller. However, the even newer tracks like "Prophecy" are yet more bland, despite the orchestration with the keys and Rob giving it his grimy best. Just as much a drag on stage as they seemed in the studio.
So it's really up to the rest of the track list to compensate, which it certainly strives to do. Painkiller is fairly well represented with "Between the Hammer & the Anvil", "A Touch of Evil" (of course) and "Painkiller" itself which I doubt the band will ever leave off a live album since it's creation. The songs don't have that same enthusiastic energy that they once had when I was seeing the group gig in the early 90s, but then again that was 15-20 years in the past and with age comes some inevitable slowdown. That said, the leads sound pretty great here, the guitars good and choppy and the crowd response never tramples the performance. The earlier classics include "Eat Me Alive" (Defenders of the Faith), "Riding on the Wind" (Screaming for Vengeance), "Beyond the Realms of Death" (Stained Class) and "Dissident Aggressor" (Sin After Sin), the last of which sounds like a pretty decent update with the harsher vocals and the chugging grime applied to the guitars and serves as my personal highlight for this collection.
All in all, though, there is little or no reason to hunt this down unless you're a huge fan of the newer albums and wanted to hear Rob singing a few tunes that he hadn't done on the previous lives Priest...Live! and Unleashed in the East. There is simply not that much going on here, outside of proof positive that the band still 'has it' as they approach retirement. A second disc would have benefited this greatly, especially as the material was drawn from entire tours. There was nothing else we could have tossed on here after...how many gigs? The meager rationing of A Touch of Evil: Live isn't even a match for Live in London.
Judas Priest's newest live album consists of songs recorded live when Rob came back to the group in 2003 all the way up to the Metal Masters tour just last year. What makes this live album stick out is more obscure and lesser know songs being featured on here rather than the hits like "You've Got Another Thing Comin'", "Breaking the Law," and "Living After Midnight."
The great aspect of this live recording is all the songs are injected with energy and extra added heaviness which spice up the crunch and power of the guitars. Songs from newer albums like "Angel of Retribution" and "Nostradamus" are on here and are all performed brilliantly. "Prophecy" is a track to check out as Rob Halford nails it perfectly in the live setting. It captures the feeling given off by the studio output. The other "Nostradamus" track is "Death" and it does a good job of setting the dark mood onto the audience. "Judas Rising" and "Hellrider" were both strong tracks from "Angel of Retribution" and were good choices to include on here.
Finally, a live version of "Painkiller" is available and it does not disappoint. Halford does a magnificent job of singing such a difficult song and of course K.K Downing and Glenn Tipton perform the back and forth soloing brilliantly. "Beyond the Realms of Death" was also an excellent choice to include on here and it sets the dark and evil atmosphere and delivers from start to finish. The minute the opening guitar part starts, chills are sent up your spine.
Other songs included are "Riding on the Wind", "Dissident Aggressor", and "Between the Hammer and the Anvil." It is nice to hear the extra energy and excitement live and Halford delivers a more rough and tumble "Dissident Aggressor" which makes the song thrashier. An interesting song choice is "Eat Me Alive" from "Defenders of the Faith." The live version sounds more sinister and is much more aggressive than its studio counterpart. "Riding on the Wind" starts with Halford playing with the crowd for a little and then roars and blasts as Halford's rougher tone gives the song an extra edge not heard before. Even 20 some odd years later from when these songs were released, the band makes them sound fresh and amped up.
Any fan of Priest would do themselves good buying this album. It is definitly worth repeated listens and kicks a lot of ass. From top to bottom, the whole band performs flawless. They show that after all these years that they still got it and it rivals "Flight 666" which was released by Iron Maiden earlier this year as well.