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Royal Albert Hall, 31 March 2006

I tend to avoid the Royal Albert Hall for rock gigs if I can, but the prospect of seeing three of the all-time greats was worth making an exception for, especially as this was part of the Teenage Cancer Trust benefit shows and also a tribute to Tommy Vance, the man who almost single-handedly in the 1980's kept rock on Radio 1 and inspired me to get into the music I love.

After Boned, who I confess to never having heard of, played a set of bar-room rock calling to mind AC/DC and Great White, Ian Gillan took the stage with his 'friends'; Roger Glover, three guitarists including Heartland/Shadowman's Steve Morris (looking like an older Tony Iommi), a keyboardist, a violinist and Harry James on drums.

The man's voice is a shadow of what it used to be but his genial presence complemented the band's relaxed jamming. A few jaws dropped when he opened with the Gillan double of No Laughing in Heaven and Unchain your Brain, while, among some solo compositions, Purple was represented with When a Blind Man Cries and a crowd-pleasing Black Night.

Like Ronseal, the Scorpions always do what they say on the tin and delivered the usual mix of Klaus Meine's camp, tasteless clothing, charging around the stage and some of the greatest hard rock riffs ever.

They only had 45 minutes but, Wind of Change apart, it was full tilt all the way with anthems like Bad Boys Running Wild, Blackout, Big City Nights and set closer Rock You Like a Hurricane, while Lovedrive was the surprise of their set.

After a long break, including a moving film about the work of the Teenage Cancer Trust and an appearance from their patron Roger Daltrey and Tommy Vance's children, Judas Priest were not on until 1030, opening with Electric Eye, Metal Gods and Heading Out to the Highway which it was great to hear again.

I wondered whether it might be a near full-length set but we only got edited highlights - the one new song Judas Rising, the Green Manalishi, an acoustic Diamonds and Rust, Turbo and Breaking the Law. But the sound was the best for all three bands and Rob Halford seemed in better form than on last year's tour.

The encores just got better and better: the Royal Albert Hall had surely never seen anything like his appearance astride a Harley for Hell Bent for Leather, and Living after Midnight had the whole place rocking. The final encore was a huge surprise - all the bands joining in for Take on the World, which I remember as an 11 year old seeing Priest do on Top of the Pops but which cannot have been in their live set for many a long year.

Despite the frustration of not seeing the bands in full-length glory, this was a memorable night of the best in metal that 'TV on the radio' would have loved and which benefited a very worthy cause.

Review by Andy Nathan

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