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30 Years Ago: Judas Priest Fans Cause $250,000 Damage to Madison Square Garden

Talk about breaking the law. On June 18, 1984, Judas Priest got themselves barred from performing at Madison Square Garden after a rambunctious crowd peppered a pre-show announcer with all manner of objects then proceeded to rip out $250,000 worth of seating. The ban is still in effect.

“Very metal,” frontman Rob Halford quipped in a recent talk with Loudwire (embedded above). “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.”

Things got off to a bad start, even before Priest’s highly anticipated performance as part of its 1984 ‘Defenders of the Faith‘ tour, when local radio disc jockey Perry Stone was sent out to share a series of upcoming events at the Garden. Unfortunately, that list featured some distinctly un-metal acts, including Neil Diamond and Helen Reddy, among others.

“Naturally, the crowd of 20,000-plus booed me when I introduced myself,” Perry later recalled. ”But began to get truly unruly when I read that list of uncool acts.” A frustrated Perry hurled some epithets back, and the first signs of trouble were literally everywhere. “The crowd,” he said, “proceeded to throw firecrackers, M-80s, Cherry Bombs and assorted beer bottles at me.”

An often-tumultuous 20-song set went on anyway, one that culminated in two muscular encores, but xploding fireworks from the crowd can actually be heard in bootlegs during the show. The problems didn’t stop there, either, as eventually “chairs started flying around, New York’s finest arrived and many were carted off in various patty wagons,” added Perry, who was also banned for life. Judas Priest was forced to underwrite the massive repairs.

Photographer Bob Leafe was at the show, and hired “on the spot” by the venue to take pictures of the damage (which you can see here). “Afterwards, Priest had a party at the Limelight,” he remembers. “When I finally walked in, Kenny (guitarist K.K. Downing), who had seen me half-buried by cushions in the pit, yelled out, ‘you’ve survived!’”

“There’s actually quite a funny ending to that,” longtime Priest guitarist Glenn Tipton told Loudwire. “Me and [former Priest member] Ken ["K.K." Downing] went there to watch [John] McEnroe play tennis in some indoor tennis championship. We went in hoodies, because we had been banned from Madison Square. Halfway through the tennis match, one of the ushers came down and he went, ‘Thanks for the new seats.’”

Halford added: “They wouldn’t have had new seats without Priest.”

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