San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Judas Priest and Whitesnake finally bang heads in Costa Rica

British heavy metal pioneers Judas Priest and hard rockers Whitesnake rang in the metal for the first time in Costa Rica on Tuesday at the National Stadium in western San José’s La Sabana Park.

Three Costa Rican bands, Dominage, Metal House and Pneuma, opened the concert with cover-dominated short sets. Then, the metal mainstays took over, each featuring their own outrageous lead singers.

David Coverdale and Whitesnake were promoting their latest album, “Forevermore,” the group’s 11th, released in March. Whitesnake’s 85-minute set kept the crowd involved. “Muchas gracias, Costa Rica,” Coverdale bellowed out after every couple of songs.

Judas Priest at last made it to Costa Rica, during its final world tour, taking the stage around 9:30 p.m. The band led the audience through more than 40 years of Judas Priest songs. While there was less moshing than, say, at the recent Slayer concert, the crowd seemed keen all night and went into a frenzy during classics like “Turbo Lover” and “Breaking the Law” in a 2.5-hour set.

“Hello, Costa Rica! The priest is here!” screamed frontman Rob Halford at the start of the show. “I’m looking at all you heavy metal maniacs. Are you ready for some heavy metal, Judas Priest style?”

After decades of waiting for a show in Costa Rica, Judas Priest and Whitesnake made it seem well worth the lapse. Here are the highlights:

Whitesnake takes cover in Deep Purple:

Despite not headlining, Whitesnake owns the tour’s famous song, “Here I Go Again.” But they didn’t close the show with the ’80s anthem. Instead, after playing the minor hit “Still of the Night,” they ripped through two electric tunes, “Burn” and “Stormbringer,” by classic rock giants Deep Purple, to close the set. Coverdale was lead singer of Deep Purple when those singles were released in the mid-1970s.

The Best-Dressed Award goes to … :

Rob Halford. Heavy metal legend. Gay icon. Motorcycle enthusiast. The culture around him has always swayed Halford’s act, but he’s also influenced the culture. Like he’s done since the beginning of his career, Halford sported dozens of costumes, most of them featuring leather, during the band’s set, right up through the encores of “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” and “Living After Midnight.” Halford first appeared on stage dressed in his trademark knee-length black leather jacket adorned with metal spikes. Among the outfits he changed into during the show were a jean jacket, a silvery leather jacket with fringe, a long sequined hooded cape (for the song “Nostradamus”) and a leather biker jacket and motorcycle cap, complete with riding whip and his Harley, which he rode onto the stage.

Most existential moment:


Whitesnake lead singer David Coverdale emotes. 

Matt Levin | Tico Times

Even more than usual, mortality pervaded Judas Priest’s music. For starters, the tour’s name, Epitaph, signaled this was their last world tour (although not their last tour of the world; they’ll still play select international spots in the future and are working on a new album). Halford also belted the hell out of ballad “Beyond the Realms of Death” near the end of the show, while shooting flames and dark imagery bedecked the stage. Still, the most fascinating “farewell tour” moment for the four-decade-old band came during its press conference Monday, when Halford, 60, took a moment to reflect on the state of metal. He said Judas Priest will not be around forever, and neither will he. But he’s thrilled to see metal grow in the mainstream, and take root in places like Latin America and Iran and Iraq. He even namedropped some current metal bands – August Burns Red, Bullet for my Valentine – and said the future of metal is in good hands. Meanwhile, guitarist Glenn Tipton pretended to drop dead in the middle of the question.

Fanatical fans:

The vocal metal following in Costa Rica may not have the numbers they imagine – it was announced days before the concert that the stadium would be sectioned in half to accommodate for low ticket sales – but the metaleros in Central America are dedicated. Some fans set up shop outside the stadium two weeks before the concert date. Impressed with their enthusiasm, Don Stockwell, promoter RPM TV’s president, even bought pizzas one day for the campers planted outside the stadium.

Don’t enjoy metal? Chill with some Whitesnake wine:

Whitesnake launched its own wine a couple of years ago – a zinfandel from the Russian River Valley in California – titled, appropriately enough, Whitesnake. Coverdale describes his wine as “a bodacious, cheeky little wine, filled to the brim with the spicy essence of sexy, slippery Snakeyness …” Cheers!

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