Heavy metal bands don't come any heavier than Judas Priest, the British-begat purveyors of some of the genre's definitive headbanging sounds of the past half-century.

Even so, that status doesn't exempt you from the whims of life, fate and worse.

For example: When the band's Sunday night show in the Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington was announced last fall, it was trumpeted as packing classic-era members Ian Hill on bass (longest-running member, from 1969 on), lead singer Rob Halford (who joined in 1973, left in the ’90s and returned in 2003) and guitarist Glenn Tipton (who signed on in 1974).

Rounding out the lineup: drummer Scott Travis (on board since 1989) and guitarist Richie Faulkner (who joined the Priest-hood in 2011). 

Alas, life, fate, or whatever you choose to call it, intervened.

Before the "Firepower 2018 Tour" (tied to the band's current hit album) embarked on March 13, Tipton had to bow out.

In fact, a month to the day prior to that, Tipton made public the worsening of his Parkinson's disease, first diagnosed a decade ago and becoming an issue as far back as four years ago at the time of the "Redeemer of Souls Tour," which marked the band's last Central Illinois pass, via the Peoria Civic Center. 

"We went through a very similar situation then during the tour rehearsals, and it was rough to start with. But then he started to get better and better, and we had a great tour. We were kind of hoping that's what was happening this time. But by around the second week (of rehearsals) it was obvious that was not going to be," says Hill.

"Everybody is missing Glenn," he adds. "It was a very brave decision that he made, admitting that if his body was not going to do what he wanted it to do, he did not want to go through with the tour."

With very little lead time, Tipton has been replaced with guitarist Andy Sneap, a producer on the "Firepower" album ... Judas Priest's eighteenth to date, and a big hit for a band that has been gaining steam over the past decade instead of losing it.

"Andy is doing a great and tremendous job ... he was there at the time this all started happening.... he was part of the production team, and a part of the 'Firepower' album."

Though Tipton has officially retired from touring, Hill says the announcement is in no way absolute.

"Glenn will be joining us on occasional tour dates, when he's feeling better and able," says Hill, though this weekend's Bloomington show won't be among them.  

"He won't be able to handle a full set, but he'll get on and do what he can do for a couple (upcoming) shows in the New York area."

His first stand since the retirement announcement was at a March 20 show in Newark, N.J.

Per a Rolling Stone account: "Tipton returned to play guitar on the three-song encore consisting of 'Metal Gods,' 'Breaking the Law' and 'Living After Midnight. The crowd saluted Tipton with thunderous applause as Tipton made his first appearance since revealing his 10-year battle with Parkinson's."

Hill, who turned 67 in January, admits that "it's a terrible thing, a sad thing to see the man who is so full of life degenerating the way he has over the past year ... but life goes on and so do the rest of us who aren't ready to pack it in and want to continue carrying as long as we can, with Glenn's full blessing, which we have."

Certainly, Judas Priest has been no stranger to change over the course of its storied journey to the top of the heavy metal hill (the band's seminal 1980 album, "British Steel," is currently ranked at No. 3 on Rolling Stone's list of the "100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time").

Drummer Dave Holland, who died this past January, left the band in 1989, per what Hill calls "our numerous drummer changes over the years."

Lead signer Halford left to form his own band in the 1990s, then returned the band in 2003 as one of heavy metal's first openly gay lead singers. (He came out in 1998, during his time away from Judas Priest.)

More recently, guitarist K.K. Downing parted ways with the band in 2011, and was recently critical of not being invited back to replace Tipton (responding, Hill told an interviewer, "Well, I don't know where Ken is coming from, to be honest. He retired seven years ago and he made it clear at the time that he didn't wanna come back").

All told, says Hill, "You roll with the punches, and we've had many over the years. You don't think about those things or ask yourself 'why the hell I'm still doing this after 60 years?'

"You keep doing it for the love of it, and I can say that we all still love doing this for our living. The people I know who've retired ... the next thing you know, they're going downhill quickly. This keeps you young and gives you something aim for. Touch wood, I'm doing well at the moment, and will continue along those lines. " 


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