Richie Faulkner says that K.K. Downing "looked and sounded great" when he returned to the live stage earlier this month as a special guest of ex-MANOWAR axeman Ross "The Boss" Friedman. Downing's August 11 appearance at the Bloodstock Open Air festival at Catton Park, Derbyshire, United Kingdom marked K.K.'s first public performance since October 17, 2009 when JUDAS PRIEST played the final "British Steel 30th Anniversary" date on the "Nostradamus" world tour at Japan's Loud Park festival in Chiba City, Japan.
Asked by a fan on Twitter if he has seen video footage of Downing's latest performance, Faulkner responded: "Yeah I thought he looked and sounded great. Good to see the man up on stage where he belongs again"
Last September, Downing said that he felt like he was "being cloned" when he first found out he was being replaced by Faulkner.
Downing, who announced his retirement from PRIEST in April 2011 after nearly 42 years in the job, admitted to the "Appetite For Distortion" podcast that he was taken aback when he first saw his replacement.
"Richie, as far as I know, is a nice guy and obviously an excellent player," Downing said. "I was a bit disappointed when, basically… I think the idea was to replace me [with a lookalike], so I did feel as though I was kind of being cloned. But I'm not sure that was exactly fair to Richie. I mean, I could be off the mark here, but I think Richie had the right to bring himself to the stage with his own… portray his own image and ability to play the instrument the way that he does. But it is what it is."
He continued: "When Glenn [Tipton] retired from touring [earlier this year], the same didn't happen — obviously, [Tipton's replacement] Andy [Sneap] doesn't look anything like Glenn; he doesn't wear the same clothes, the red pants, guitars or anything like that. So I don't really know what's going on. But it is what it is.
"I know Andy quite well and worked with him before and consider him a friend and a great talent," Downing added. "And the guys seem to be pretty comfortable with what they're doing now, and I would encourage everybody to… if you get a chance to see PRIEST whenever they can, go out there and support the mighty PRIEST in whatever format they may be in."
Despite his initial reservations about Richie's visual appearance, K.K. never questioned Faulkner's playing ability, saying: "I know Richie is predominantly a Les Paul guy and he's looked up to Zakk Wylde, Randy Rhoads, Michael Schenker and players like that. That's what he says. I don't recall me being cited as an influence on Richie when he was in his young days. But it is what it is.
"To my mind, JUDAS PRIEST is certainly bigger and more legendary than any individuals in the band," he added. "So PRIEST will always put on a good show, and, obviously, I like to think they have great songs and, obviously, you've got Rob [Halford] up there who's the voice of PRIEST and does incredibly well, certainly at this time in his life."
In a 2011 interview with the Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat, Halford stated about Faulkner's physical resemblance to a younger Downing: "People are saying, 'It's a clone. You've got some of K.K.'s DNA.' It's just the way it turned out. We made, like, a secret search When we knew K.K. was not gonna be making the tour, we did a lot of secret, kind of, searching for another player. And Richie just happened to be the guy. And he just happens to look a little bit of the K.K. image, you know?! I think it would be silly to say, 'We looked for a guitar player that looks like Ken.' What we want is a very good metal guitar player, and that's what Richie Faulkner is."
In early 2018, Downing — who is a founding member of the British heavy metal legends — released a statement in which he said that he was "shocked and stunned" that he wasn't invited to return to JUDAS PRIEST following Tipton's announcement that he would no longer be touring with the band due to his battle with Parkinson's disease.
Downing's autobiography, "Heavy Duty: Days And Nights In Judas Priest", was released in September 2018 via Da Capo Press.
Yeah I thought he looked and sounded great. Good to see the man up on stage where he belongs again RHRF DOTF https://t.co/Ja8uya8fOR— Richie Faulkner (@RichieFaulkner) August 13, 2019