Back on June 18th, 1984 Judas Priest fans at New York’s Madison Square Garden still had the 1980 British Steel anthem Breaking The Law fresh in their rambunctious metal loving heads.
Before the show even began, the crowd was peppering the pre-show announcer with beer bottles, lighting firecrackers and tossing lit M-80’s onto the stage. After the smoke cleared, Judas Priest fans caused over $250,000 in damage. The Judas Priest Madison Square Garden incident caused an immediate banning of the band from performing at the famed New York venue, a ban that still holds till this day.
Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford was later quoted as saying … “The horrible thing is that if we did play Madison Square Garden, there would be some enthusiast who was there from the original riot with his pen knife out. It would start all over again! So, it’s probably best.”
When Judas Priest took the Madison Square Garden stage on June 18th it was much the same as the past shows on the Metal Conqueror Tour, with Judas Priest plowing through their blistering 20-song set.
The U.S leg of the 1984 Judas Priest Metal Conqueror Tour consisted of the following.
“Breaking the Law”
“Some Heads Are Gonna Roll”
“Rock Hard, Ride Free”
“Night Comes Down”
“Defenders of the Faith”
“Victim of Changes”
“The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)”
“Living After Midnight”
“Hell Bent for Leather”
“You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'”
The only noticeable different on June 18th, 1984 was the heightened tension looming in the air due to a growing ferocity in the crowd and a large number powerful fireworks fans were igniting throughout the main floor.
Firecrackers have often been common in heavy metal audiences, but on this night promoters sensed something excessive was on the table. Bootleg tapes of the show soon started circulating and in those tapes almost all the explosions heard came from the unruly fans and not from the Judas Priest pyrotechnics. But that is not all that triggered the decision to have Judas Priest barred from MSG.
The first thing that whipped the Defenders of the Faith crowd into a fury was something that didn’t entirely sit well with the fans, a New York local disc jockey Perry Stone and his introductory announcements were a series of upcoming events at the Garden that were anything but heavy metal. This seemed to infuriate the crowd.
New York DJ Perry Stone later recalled – “Naturally, the crowd of 20,000-plus booed me when I introduced myself, but began to get truly unruly when I read that list of uncool acts.” Out of frustration Perry hurled some disparaging words right back to the fans and you could literally smell the trouble brewing. The crowd began tossing beer bottles at Perry Stone. Along with Judas Priest, Mr. Stone was also banned from Madison Square Garden for life.
The Madison Square Garden set went on despite the ruckus but the problems didn’t stop there.
During the encore one fan decided to rip the foam cushion from his seat and flung it like a Frisbee toward the stage. Soon enough the entire venue was a blitzkrieg of flying seat cushions. The New York Police arrived on scene and politely started busting heads and many fans were given free rides to numerous police stations in the area. Judas Priest were ultimately forced to underwrite the massive repairs that totaled a quarter of a million dollars.
In a Loudwire interview, Glenn Tipton explained how he and K.K Downing went to The Garden afterward to watch John McEnroe in a tennis championship, getting past security by wearing hoodies and dark glasses. Mid match, an usher came up to the two and said with a smile, ‘Thanks for the new seats.'”
Rob Halford added: “They wouldn’t have had new seats without Judas Priest!”