Think this is Judas Priest's final concert? You've got another thing coming

The metal band really loves its Harley.

With some of the most memorable and recognizable heavy metal anthems ever put to tape or performed live, Judas Priest has been at the forefront of the scene for some 40 years now. Featuring singer Rob Halford’s piercing vocals, the twin guitar attacks of Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing, and the rock solid rhythm section of Ian Hill and Scott Travis, the band has come a long way from its humble beginnings in Birmingham, England, where it earned the moniker, “Metal Gods.”

Songs such as “The Ripper,” “Breaking The Law,” “Living After Midnight,” “Hell Bent For Leather,” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” are among just a few of the classic tracks that fans will be able to sing along with the band when they take the stage in Concord tonight. Although this outing for Judas Priest is being dubbed the “Epitaph” tour, and some venues are advertising it as a “farewell” tour, that doesn’t exactly mean what it might imply, as Halford explains over the phone from a tour stop in Las Vegas.

“We don’t want to get wrapped up in these farewell fiascos where people say ‘We’re quitting,’ and then come back three years later, we think that’s not a very cool thing to do, so we’re making it plain and clear to fans that this is not the end of Priest — this is our last world tour, but we will be going out for selected shows in the future.”  Halford, who recently turned 60, said the band’s decision to stop undertaking massive world tours after this one was due in part to several factors, with the desire to continue to making quality music and put on the caliber of shows that fans have come to expect from Judas Priest being the ultimate reason.

“We’re just facing mortality and reality — the fact that these big world tours take a couple of years to accomplish, and we’re such a physically demanding bunch of guys, we really push each other on stage, so it’s a workout as much as anything else. We just had three back to back shows and I’m feeling it today,” Halford says.

He promises fans an epic concert tonight, worthy of the band’s storied reputation — a nearly two and a half hour set featuring songs spanning the entire spectrum of it's career, and of course, an elaborate stage show, complete with the lights, lasers, smoke, costume changes, and more. The singer adds that he will ride out on his signature Harley-Davidson motorcycle, which is something done for JP tradition, and it also represents something for him personally.

“The Harley really represents rock 'n' roll — it’s made of metal, which is very apropos, and then of course it’s loud and smells and pisses certain people off. Rock 'n' roll should still be a kick in the butt, it should still be offensive to some people who don’t understand it.”

As a sign that Judas Priest really is going to continue on in the future, Halford says the band is working on a new album. With most of the songs already written, he hopes to record and have it out sometime next year.  “We’ve been in each other’s lives for so long, it would just seem an impossible thought not to see each other again, and not to work with each other again. There will be more to come,” Halford laughs, “as Johnny Carson used to say…that’s showing my age!”

He ends in a more serious tone: “It’s a combination of a lot of feelings and emotions when you’ve been doing something as wonderful as we have for the last four decades — we’ve loved every minute of it.”

Judas Priest
With Thin Lizzy and Black Label Society
Thurs/27, 6pm, $20-$108.50.
Sleep Train Pavilion  
2000 Kirker Pass, Concord