Tim Ripper Owens – ABC2 Glasgow 25th July

After nine straight gigs around the UK, ex-Judas Priest/Iced Earth/Yngwie Malmsteen vocalist Tim Ripper Owens brought his debut UK solo tour to an almighty conclusion in Glasgow, and we were there to catch it in all its glory.

As one of the two billed support acts, Memories in Torment couldn’t appear, so it was left to English Metal trio Past The Fall to warm the crowd up. They had their own problems to contend with, as they were minus a drummer (insert Spinal Tap joke here..), and had to bring in a last minute replacement, but given their predicament, the guys managed to put on a good show. Will Wright handles bass and vocal duties, ably assisted by Thomas Cope on guitar. Very much in the vein of bands such as In Flames, At The Gates, or Lamb of God even, Past The Fall have a solid, steady sound, and on songs like ‘Injustice’ and ‘Only the Strong Survive’, they offer up enough to warrant checking them out further.

When Judas Priest replaced Rob Halford with Tim Owens, they didn’t so such replace The Metal God, they simply created a new Metal God. We’re all familiar with Owens’ rise to fame, although it’s best to dismiss the movie ‘Rockstar’ (very, very loosely based on his story) as a work of fiction. Mind you, it did give us Jennifer Aniston as a Rock Chick, as well as an early glimpse of Myles Kennedy! Priest will always be first thing people think about when you mention Tim Ripper Owens, and so they should, as let’s be honest here, can you imagine the balls it took to step into Halford’s shoes?

At the ungodly early hour of 8.20pm, the opening strains of ‘Jugulator’ came pumping out of the PA as the band came trooping on .Then once they battered into the title track from Owens’ 1997 debut Priest album, the commanding figure that is Tim Ripper Owens took to the stage and unleashed that voice. Having only witnessed Owens before with Dio’s Disciples, I wasn’t quite prepared for the sheer ferocity that the man possesses when he is singing heavier songs. Incredibly, even though he is singing at such a high pitch, his voice is crystal clear and nails it every time. How does he follow up that intro?… simple. “What’s my Name?” he asks the crowd over and over, every time he’s answered with screams of “Ripperrrrrrrrrr!” Of course, it could only be ‘The Ripper’ (a song that will be 40 years old next year!), and yet again everyone is slack-jawed at the sheer power of his voice. No time to rest, as the band kick into ‘Diamonds And Rust’, the classic Joan Baez track that Priest covered in the early days. It’d fair to say, Ms Baez never sang it quite like this!

We get to stop for a breather just before Owens introduces the only forage into his time with Iced Earth, with a 4 song medley that climaxes with the classic ‘Ten Thousand Strong’, a cracking track that I would have preferred to have heard in full, but the medley works really well. He then takes the opportunity to tell us that tonight we are going to hear some deep cuts from his time with Priest, using the words “Let’s be honest, you’ll never hear Priest playing them…”, so we get ‘Dead Meat’ and ‘Bullet Train’, from the aforementioned ‘Jugulator’ album, along with ‘Lost And Found’, a classic from the 2001 album ‘Demolition’. From his Beyond Fear days we get ‘Scream Machine’, as well as ‘Starting Over’, from his 2009 solo album ‘Play My Game’.

Special mention must go to his incredible backing band Sandstone. These four guys from Derry are a joy to behold, and are tighter than a knat’s chuff! Blistering twin guitars from Stevie McLaughlin and Dee Kivlehan, Eamonn McNaught pounding away like a maniac on the drums, especially on a stunning version of ‘PainKiller’ (Owens told a great tale about how Priest legend KK Downing came to the Manchester show and after watching McNaught on drums said “He’ll sleep tonight…”), rounded off with booming bass from Tom Alford. Months on the road together with Owens, has meant that Sandstone don’t seem like hired hands. This is a band and it’s easy to see that Owens loves performing with them. The interaction between them is great to witness.

Owens is having a blast onstage. If he’s not complimenting the barman on his well groomed beard, or saying thanks to the faces in the crowd that he recognizes from past gigs, then he’s getting an education in swearing, Scottish style, from our photographer Ritchie Birnie, who a few minutes earlier was procuring Owens a much needed beer from the bar! Owens is having such a good time, that the 10pm curfew sneaks upon him, and it’s time for only one more. As it’s the last night of the tour, Owens calls support band Past The Fall up onstage for one almighty jam, on what else, but ‘Living After Midnight’. From here on it’s party time, as now Ripper is on guitar, Dee Kivlehan has taken over on drums, leaving Eamonn McNaught to enjoy a well earned beer. Tom Alford has gave his bass to Will Wright from Past The Fall, and it’s turned into one massive metal karaoke session. Mental as anything!

A great ending to an incredible gig, and if you get a chance to catch Ripper and Sandstone, when they hopefully return next year, then don’t be a div, get a ticket…then tell all your friends to get one too!

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”17″ gal_title=”Tim Ripper Owens”]

Review: David Stott

Photography: Richie Birnie

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