The legendary Robert John Arthur Halford deserves no shortage of accolades for the many laudable things he’s done during his 67 years on planet Earth.
Start with the fact that, before signing on as the frontman of Judas Priest, he earned a paycheque as the manager of a porn cinema, his main achievement being showing up for work after day one. During a Wikipedia: Fact or Fiction session with Loudwire in 2014, he described the theatre in question as having three chairs occupied by guys who’d sit there shaking hands with the milkman before baby-battering a shag-carpeted floor that crunched when walked upon.
And you thought everything released by Metallica after…And Justice for All was horrific.
As the frontman for Judas Priest, Halford managed to make metal sound legitimately menacing, to the point where the band ended up in court in 1990, accused of planting subliminal messages in songs that led two Nevada kids to kill themselves by shotgun.
And after spending years hiding his sexuality, the singer came out as a gay man in a world where the majority of his fans were specimens straight out of the ode-to-skid-culture documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot.
Doubly admirable is that Halford navigated the ’80s without ever pulling on pink spandex tights and a black fishnet tank top, something that, incredibly, was considered socially acceptable thanks to the unrepentant hair farmers of Mötley Crüe, Cinderella, Warrant, and Winger.
Today, Halford proudly describes himself as “the stately homo of heavy metal”. And while that title may fit, a just as noble one would be the Patron Saint of Everyone Who’s Ever Stood Near a Concert Cretin.
Said cretins come in many forms, from those who show up at Cat Power to yap away like Chatty Cathy after six cups of Kicking Mule espresso to those who decide that nothing spices up a Sarah McLachlan set like a little spirited slam dancing.
The worst are the amateur David Finchers—fuckwits who’ll spend an entire evening watching a concert through their phone screens. It’s a strange phenomenon that speaks to a 21st-century obsession with documenting everything in life as it happens through a smartphone. Presumably because that will allow said videographers to relive the magic they totally missed out on the first time around in the privacy of their own homes.
In a valiant effort to get their fans to live in the moment, artists such as Tool and Jack White have taken the step of banning cellphones from their shows. (Upon arrival at the venue, potential concert cretins are required to place their iPhones, Galaxies, and HTC ThunderBolts in a hermetically sealed bag, which is then unlocked by attendants after the show.)
A couple of weeks ago, Halford took more drastic and—let’s admit it—satisfying action to make it known no one should be watching a live spectacle through anything other than the eyeballs generously provided to them by God. You might have seen the singer take matters into his own hands when a concert cretin in the front row celebrated his StubHub purchase by firing up the phone and then turning on the video light for a bit of extra illumination.
Rather than issue a polite request that the offender enjoy Judas Priest the old-school way—with a feathered roach clip, unwashed jean jacket, and warm mickey of lemon gin—Halford instead chose the nuclear option, karate-kicking the device out of the amateur videographer’s hands into Row 10.
We’re talking a fucking toe punt that would have impressed Lui Passaglia, Jan Stenerud, and Crispin Glover as seen on Late Night With David Letterman.
In doing so, Halford sent concertgoers everywhere an important and timely message, namely that there’s no point standing there fuming while being annoyed by some inconsiderate asswipe when you’re out at a live show. Instead, the way to solve the problem of Chatty Charlies, iPhone filmmakers, space invaders, and idiots wearing fully stuffed backpacks is to give them a good fucking swift kick.
As Nike might say, Just Do It. If the singer of Judas Priest gets applauded for it, so will you.
Thank you, Rob Halford. Of all the accolades you’ve received, this one might be the one that’s most deserved.
Judas Priest plays the Abbotsford Centre on Monday (June 17).