I went to see Iron Maiden with some friends on Sunday. It was, as the title might suggest, the shit. Here are the particulars.
- Any concert will pull in a fair amount of miscreants, but the sheer variety and ubiquity of the yahoos and malcontents present for the Final Frontier World Tour at Concord's Sleep Train Pavilion was almost inspiring. You had white trash, tremendous fat people, abrasively terrible haircuts as far as the eye could see, and you even had some teenagers who looked like they were waiting for Ace of Spades to hit record stores circa 1980-studded jean jackets, hair down to the ass and all.
- Just outside the gates, there was a Christian group(three whole people!) protesting the concert, which in many ways was not a huge surprise. What was a surprise was when one of them said, "Yeah, you ARE a slave to the power of death!" For those not in the know, this is a paraphrased quote from the song "Powerslave". So not only are they familiar with the material, they're using a line from an Iron Maiden song to make Iron Maiden fans...feel bad about themselves? What was going on in that guy's head? Hypothesis: Not a ton.
- By any objective standard, opening act Dream Theater's performance was mediocre at best, but compared to what came after them, they completely bit ass. Their stage setup was a joke, and they only played about five songs to boot, with their traditional lack of pizazz when it comes to their live shows. You're in a progressive metal band, you fucks! Put on a cape or something!
- Thankfully, once Iron Maiden started the atmosphere positively detonated with excitement. After an opening involving a menacing classical music score, a video series of constellations and other outer space displays, and a whole ton of red mist that draped the front of the crowd, the band let loose with an exhilarating rendition of "The Wicker Man". It's also worth noting that the stage was built to look like the control deck of a spaceship, which is awesome.
- Bruce Dickinson proceeded to talk up Iron Maiden's new album The Final Frontier a little bit before playing a track from it, "El Dorado", and went on a rant against the entire idea of MP3s: "Some people are saying that this song sounds like shit, and when you hear it on a CD, what you were supposed to hear from the studio, it sounds fucking amazing. But when you hear it on your little earbuds on a machine powered by a little fucking battery made by Steve fucking Jobs, yes, it's going to sound like shit. For the record, this is what it's supposed to fucking sound like!" And then they totally ripped it out, giving possibly the most energetic performance of the night.
- A confession: I'm not terribly familiar with Iron Maiden's newer material. I mostly listen to their golden age albums-Number of the Beast through Seventh Son of a Seventh Son-so I was a little bit scared that, given that they would mostly be preforming songs off of their last three albums, I would be lost. This turned out to not be the case, as between the light show, Dickinson's impassioned vocals and Spiderman-esque leaps from end to end of the stage, Janick Gers' guitar showmanship and a stage background that changed with every single song, I found myself enraptured throughout the entire show, whether I knew the song or not. Thankfully, they did play a couple that I knew from their past few albums-"Dance of Death" and "The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg"-and those were by far two of the funnest songs of the evening.
- Later in the show, Dickinson made a little speech about the brotherhood aspect of being an Iron Maiden fan before taking a moment to honor the memory of Ronnie James Dio: "I know we've got some bad blood due to the World Cup or whatever, but it doesn't matter what your skin color is, whether you're a dog or porpoise[which he pronounced "poor-poyss] or whatever...if you're an Iron Maiden fan, you're family." They then launched into a rendition of "Blood Brothers" and not only was the entire audience singing along with the chorus, they were harmonizing, myself included. It was honestly a pretty touching moment.
- To close out the "official" part of the show before the encores, Iron Maiden preformed "Fear of the Dark" and "Iron Maiden". The first song was tremendous fun, given that one part of it that's so easy to sing along with("Woah-oh-oh-oh, Woah-ohhh-oh-oh"), and I just about snapped my neck headbanging once the song kicked into high gear. During "Iron Maiden", a gigantic alien version of Eddie lumbered onto the stage and stole Dave Murray's guitar. My friend Jack was saying "un-fucking-believable" for the entire time this was going on.
- For their first encore they played "Number of the Beast", wherein everybody in the crowd, myself included, went absolutely clownshit. They then moved on to "Hallowed Be Thy Name", my favorite Iron Maiden song. I was described by my friends as having "completely freaked out" as soon as I heard the opening notes to the song, which is actually understating my reaction a little bit. They finished the whole thing off with a jam version of "Running Free", during which somebody threw a bag of weed onto the stage and Bruce Dickinson, somehow, managed to procure a police hat and jokingly chastise the crowd. It was a funny end to a wonderful show.
- Traffic sucked getting out. It was not quite as bad as it could have been, however.
If you hear Iron Maiden is going to be playing in your area, I wholeheartedly recommend going to see them. Even if you're not particularly fond of their music, they put on such an impressive show that you'd have to have a heart of stone not to be thrilled by the sheer energy of their performance. Combine this with incredible production values in terms of lights and staging and you have a concert that'll raise the bar for all others this year.