A second live album to go with a second Ripper studio album seemed excessive. Double live albums, both. ’98 Live Meltdown was a suitable way to get fans familiar with Ripper Owens’ spin on Priest tunes. With only one new studio album between them, was 2003’s Live in London necessary?
Maybe not “necessary”, but certainly beneficial. Wisely, Priest avoided double-dipping on many songs. Eight songs were not on ’98 Live, including old classics like “Desert Plains”, “Heading Out to the Highway” and the rarely played “United”. Notably, “Turbo Lover” was back in the set for the first time since 1987; no longer an embarrassing pariah but slowly becoming a classic. It’s also a stronger album sonically than ’98 Live, with guitars more in-your-face.
Ripper is commanding. On the Live in London DVD, he spoke about his stage attire. He would come out on stage dressed in the leathers, but after a song or two, changed into a baseball cap. He was clearly more comfortable just being himself. And that translates into him sounding comfortable on album.
The new songs from Demolition included are “One On One”, “Feed On Me”, and “Hell Is Home”. It’s hard to ignore the modern sonic touches like Morello-inspired guitar noises. All decent enough tunes, but up against the back catalogue of the mighty Priest, they just disappear into the scenery.
One of the most impressive performances is all 10 minutes of “Victim of Changes”, probably the longest jam of the song you are likely to find. KK’s guitar solo is mental. “Diamonds and Rust” is the same acoustic version they played on the previous tour, but “Turbo Lover”…oh baby! It is strange hearing anyone other than Rob Halford singing it, but this Priest is convincing enough. It is largely stripped clean of the synths, as Priest seemed scared of this part of their history. “Desert Plains” is also special — Ripper just lets loose a molten scream at the start. This is the only version available with Ripper, or Scott Travis on drums. Scott nails the pulse of “Desert Plains”. Another special song is “Running Wild”, rarely played, from Hell Bent For Leather. It’s joyful to hear. Ripper really screams it up. The oddball anthem “United” is heavier with the guitars amped up, but it’s definitely the one that sticks out like a sore thumb.
So how does Live In London stack up “One On One” against ’98 Live Meltdown? It’s more well-rounded, and has two more tracks. That means room for more old rare classics. Overall the new Jugulator material worked better in concert than the Demolition stuff, which is an element in the favour of ’98 Live. Both albums are so close to equally enjoyable that’s there’s no point in splitting hairs. Just hit play and enjoy a “lost” era of Judas Priest that wasn’t bad at all.