STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
English hard rock guitarist Richie Faulkner nearly missed the opportunity of a lifetime to join an enduring band with more than 4.5 million likes on Facebook.
Judas Priest’s original guitarist, K.K. Downing, announced in 2011 that he was officially retiring, and the influential heavy metal group was seeking a replacement.
“The subject line was ‘Judas Priest.’ I just assumed it was a blanket (rejection) email, and I trashed it … twice,” the 34-year-old Faulkner said. Fortunately for him, there was a phone follow up by the band’s management.
Had he been passed over because he deleted the most important email of his career, “I would’ve beat myself into oblivion,” he said sheepishly.
Faulkner’s first public appearance with Judas Priest was about as public as you can get — the “American Idol” Season 10 finale, backing semifinalist James Durbin on their 1980 signature songs “Living After Midnight” and “Breaking the Law.”
An estimated 30 million households worldwide saw it, according to Faulkner. “It can be daunting if you think too much about it,” he said of his debut. “It was a great way of flying the flag of metal.”
Continuing his baptism of fire, Faulkner played on the 17th, and newest, Judas Priest studio album, “Redeemer of Souls,” and is on the road with Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, Ian Hill and Scott Travis playing the new songs and metal classics.
In a phone interview, given before the set list had been organized, Faulkner promised Oct. 15’s show at the PPL Center in Allentown would include “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming,” “Breaking the Law,” “Living After Midnight” and “Hell Bent for Leather.” He was hopeful that the band would agree to play songs from the “Defenders of the Faith” album, which marks its 30th anniversary this year.
Like Tim “Ripper” Owens, the Judas Priest tribute band singer that took Halford’s place for a few years (his story became the 2001 movie “Rock Star”), Faulkner grew up a fan. He vowed to be respectful of Downing’s musical contributions while putting his own individual stamp on the Priest sound. “There’s a lot of improvisation in K.K.’s solos,” he noted.
When asked about the 2014 Judas Priest stage show, he said: “To quote ‘Spinal Tap,’ it has all the bells and whistles … the smoke and lasers and motorbikes and costume changes.”
“They can go in different places musically,” Faulkner said of the band’s future, citing the sonic differences between the 1977 album “Sin After Sin,” 1990’s “Painkiller” and “Redeemer of Souls.” As for the concert experience, he predicted a time when they “maybe pull back on the production and let the music do the talking more.”
However, showing that they have a sense of humor about their legacy of theatrics (including wearing leather-and-studs and Halford’s often-operatic bombast), Priest has tapped over-the-top, glam metal act Steel Panther to open their October and November concerts.
IF YOU GO
Judas Priest with Steel Panther begins at 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at the PPL Center, North Seventh Street at Hamilton Street, Allentown. Tickets range from $39-$62.50. Call (610) 224-4625 or visit www.pplcenter.com.