Saturday, April 25, 2009

Iron Maiden - October 13, 2006

Steve Harris, Bruce Dickinson, Nicko McBrian, and the heavy threesome of guitarists were playing the Continental Airlines Arena on a Friday Night in October to the delight of their New Jersey fans. Metal Eddie and I had tickets. It was one of Maiden’s few US stops, and I was going to see one of my favorite bands perform live for the very first time. I was seeking an experience that would never be forgotten.

Touring in support of A Matter of Life and Death, Iron Maiden opened in the US for the first time ever. Their CD had sold well in America. It debuted at #9 on the Billboard 100, the highest US debut in their history. That helped to fuel their decision to open in the states.

Eleven days prior to our concert, Iron Maiden performed their opening night in Hartford, Connecticut. Thanks to the modern technology of the Internet, we were able to locate the setlist in a matter of minutes the next day. After reading what they were playing, I was a little nervous and very disappointed. The band had decided to perform A Matter of Life and Death in its entirety and then close the show with five classics.

My first time seeing the band was going to be a bust! I didn’t want to hear the entire new disc. Sure, the songs were great, but 5 of them would be enough. I wanted the classics. I never saw the boys before! This was not going to be the experience that was so hoped for when purchasing tickets. I was distraught and upset.

The week leading up to the concert found me listening to the new CD like I was cramming for a big exam in school. While the album was terrific, I still didn’t pay to hear the whole thing live. I rationalized that it was going to be a good show regardless; it’s Iron Maiden on a Friday night. There was plenty of incredible music on this CD and hearing it live was going to be an unforgettable experience. As much as I told myself this, I still had trouble convincing myself.

Bullet For My Valentine was the opening act, and while Metal Eddie loved them and told me more than a few times that they were really a great band, I thought they sucked. I couldn’t understand a word that was being sung, the guitars seemed out of tune and obnoxious, and the band didn’t seem to put much into their performance. Get these clowns off the stage and bring on the Maiden!

Sitting in the arena and seeing the lights go down had us on our feet and chanting for the band to appear. We wanted Maiden and we wanted them now! The opening notes to A Different World were fired out and the night began. This was one of the songs that I was stoked to hear live and it was not a disappointment.

Bruce sprinted onstage like a madman with a mission. Still unheralded and still underrated, Bruce Dickinson is one of the best frontmen in the business. He works the crowd, talks to the audience, tells interesting little stories, and demands the most of his fans, who respectfully deliver all they can in response to his massive energy. Bruce is up there with Eddie Vedder, Bono, and the other Bruce (Springsteen), as one of the greatest bandleaders of my generation.

What we all knew, Bruce announced anyway after the band finished playing The Pilgrim. Iron Maiden was going to be playing their new album in its entirety. He was proud of the fact they had cracked the top 10 on the US album charts. It was an honor to the band that so many people were enjoying the new music.

Knowing the entire setlist beforehand may have taken away the surprise factor, but it also raised the anticipation level of what was to come. Listening to each new song as they performed it, I was intrigued to see how it compared live and what else they had up their sleeves in the way of stage props and costumes.

On the floor, most of the audience sang along, word for word, with the songs from the new disc. They pumped their fists and went wild, singing along with Bruce. For The Greater Good of God, one of the highlights from the new material was performed to album perfection and the crowd sing-along was loud and proud. An intense arena rocker, that song was written for audience participation.

The moment of the night came when Iron Maiden took the stage to play their final song from A Matter of Life and Death. We all knew it was the last song, which meant the classics were on deck. The acoustic intro and the three guitar arrangement set this song up perfectly. The Legacy is a beautiful composition that I had not paid much attention to prior to this concert. However, seeing it performed live changed that, and this has since become one of my favorite Maiden songs ever. The live version was a turbo-charged, kick in the ass experience.

On the final notes of The Legacy the buzz and tension in the air were enormous. Everyone knew that the classics were next and everyone held their breath anxiously awaiting the moment when Bruce would announce it. With a wicked grin he stood on the catwalk behind Nicko’s drum kit and unleashed a growl. “Fear! Of! The! Dark….!”

The deafening roar that followed was immense. The excitement that coursed through my body was indescribable. I was going to hear Fear live for the very first time after witnessing it the DVD version on numerous occasions. These were moments in life that I lived for.

Along with the rest of the arena, I was on my feet and practically leaping in the air. Singing along, high fiving Metal Eddie and grinning with pure happiness. Fear sounded as good as I had imagined and Bruce worked the crowd like a master puppeteer. When he commanded us to rise, we rose. When he commanded us to shout, we shouted. When he wanted us to sing, we sang, and we sang loud. The audience chorus of Fear of the Dark is eerie, haunting, and memorable, just like the band themselves.

The best song of the night came next as the main set closer. The band’s signature song, Iron Maiden. From the opening line I was jumping up and down, unable to contain myself. I felt like I was 12 again and hearing this song for the very first time. The chills that ran through my body and the euphoric wave of utter giddiness that enveloped me were astounding. Bruce’s voice was high and mighty, Nicko’s pounding drums were perfect, Steve was a lunatic on the bass guitar, and the triple guitar threat off Adrian, Dave, and Janick only added to the quality of this song.

Toward the end of the song, Bruce asked “Who would you like to see?” He knew the answer. The mascot to end all mascots, the one and only Eddie himself. From behind Nicko’s drum set, a large tank rose and Eddie emerged through the top, looking out to the crowd below. We went nuts and I almost exploded with nervous energy. There he was, Eddie!

The band gave the obligatory, “Thank you and goodnight!” before leaving the stage. We knew they were coming back for an encore, but I was thankful for the quick break, as it was going to give me a moment to catch my breath.

Moments later, to the roaring chants of “Maiden! Maiden!” the band reappeared and launched into 2 Minutes To Midnight. They followed this up with The Evil That Men Do from one of their best albums ever, 7th Son of a 7th Son.

During The Evil That Men Do, Eddie made his second appearance of the night. A 10ft tall robotic figure walked out onto the stage, dressed in battle fatigues. He slowly worked the stage, turned looked at the audience and fired a gun. He then walked a little further down the stage and repeated this process. Very cool effects indeed! This is what I remembered as a boy of 12 when we talked about Iron Maiden in concert. We all knew that it had to be one of the coolest shows ever, and it was because of reasons like this.

Eddie returned to from whence he came, and the band launched into the opening chimes of what would be their final song of the night, Hallowed Be Thy Name. Bruce brought as much energy to that song as he did to the opener, and he was still running around like a madman, orchestrating the crowd, dancing, surfing, singing, and leading the band. He was simply amazing.

When Hallowed Be Thy Name ended, the band received an enormous standing ovation from the capacity crowd who were pleased and delighted at the amazing performers that are Iron Maiden. Even I was thoroughly impressed and while I had wanted to hear more classics and less new material, I still had witnessed the awesome power of Iron Maiden and they mesmerized me with their ability. It was a big risk for the band to go out on tour and play their entire new album, but Maiden was able to pull it off. For a first concert experience, it was an incredible one. Maiden had conquered and when they would come back to my town, I would be seeing them again.

A Different World
These Colours Don’t Run
Brighter Than A Thousand Suns
The Pilgrim
The Longest Day
Out of the Shadows
The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg
For the Greater Good of God
Lord of Light
The Legacy
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden
2 Minutes to Midnight
The Evil That Men Do
Hallowed Be Thy Name


Yves said...

I was at the Maiden show in Quebec city on October 9th 2006.

You're description brings me back. I felt the same way... I wanted more classics.

But.... wow. Maiden have always put on a great show.... and that night was no exception.

A totally underated super-group. They've been doing this on a huge level for years.... and are still at the elite level of live performers.

Ryo Vie said...

You're right about that, Yves. They always have been and always will be, an underrated super group.