Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Maiden Voyage

This voyage depicts the Iron Maiden live gig juggernaut, as witnessed through my eyes. So you better grab your beverage(s) of choice, some snacks and get comfortable, 'cause this one may take a while. So, let's start by venturing somewhere (back) in time...

Ozzfest, San Bernardino, CA 20/08/2005
I had not long been living in the US, perhaps a few months into a stay that has just ticked over 5 years now, and counting. I had learned that Iron Maiden were one of the, and in my very biased opinion, the top billing for that years Ozzfest. Maiden, as I shall be regularly referring to them as, could not make it to Texas due to their European summer music festival calender, and their last US gig would be in San Bernardino, CA. Now, for someone who's been a fan of all things Maiden since my early high school years (that's the mid to late 80's if you really want to know), and had never seen them perform live before, this was a must see event. I was no longer a graduate student so I could afford a 'smash and grab' trip and fly up to California to see the lads on stage for the very first time, crash the night and fly back to San Antonio the next day. So, I did. However, there had been some rumours floating around about the brewing animosity between Maiden (more specifically, Bruce Dickinson) and a brown daisy steg (BDS). Word had it, Maiden did not show enough respect to the alloted time constraints placed upon them in order to make the festival run as smoothly as possible, and Dickinson was quite vocal about this when on stage. On this particular night, I remember Dickinson introducing their set by saying to the crowd, “Well, we don't drive 55 (miles per hour), so we're not playing 55 (minutes).” When you are Maiden, one of the most influential metal acts of all time, and I'm sure I am not alone in saying that, you've done a fuck load of hard work to make yourselves one of the biggest things on the world metal stage. Hence, they deserve a “bit” of respect! I guess all this came to a head on the night my live Maiden cherry was popped. It had only taken nearly 20 years for that day to eventuate! It was from the plethora of chatter over the web the next few weeks that I leaned that the BDS had orchestrated the PA during Maiden's set to be disconnected, and on more than one occasion! During that night I had no idea what the fuck was going on, but for it to happen again, I knew something was not right. An outfit as professional as Maiden would not allow this to happen (even once) to their massive international fan base. It must of set the Maiden lads aback somewhat, but it did not quash the crowds enthusiasm as we kept in tune...well, sort of...and continued to sing every word of the number being belted out at that time. When this heinous gesture happened again to these Gods of Metal, we the crowd, only sung...well, screamed...louder!

Before proceeding, I forgot to first mention how the start of Maiden's set was met on that fateful evening. To quote a passage from Wikipedia, which I now do remember this happening, “During the first song, several members of the crowd bombarded Maiden with eggs, bottle caps and ice!” I have no doubt that this act of sabotage was again organised by the BDS.

To comment on the third attempt to sabotage this set, Maiden's song “The Trooper”, off their Piece of Mind album [released May 16, 1983], is about the Battle of Balaclava in 1854 during the Crimean War. Briefly, the Battle of Balaclava was part of the Anglo-French-Turkish campaign to capture the port and fortress of Sevastopol, Russia's principle naval base on the Black Sea (thanks Wiki, again). I have seen live footage of this song before and somewhat knew that Dickinson would don a replica British Army jacket and wave a tattered Union Jack whilst singing and running around on stage atop the elevated platforms. Thankfully, on this night, Dickinson did not disappoint me, and was true to form. What did infuriate me however, was witnessing some brainless cunt enter from backstage waving the US Stars and Stripes. Now, please do not read me incorrectly when I say that this cunt had no right to (an obvious planned) grate crash Maiden's set and to wave the Stars and Stripes during “The Trooper”! It is also obvious that, again, this cunt and whoever help set this up (hmmm, shall I be correct in assuming it was the BDS?) probably had no fucken' idea about the story portrayed in “The Trooper”. In my opinion, these cock smokers must of thought Maiden were being disrespectful, once again, by waving the Union Jack in the faces of the American crowd, plus one Aussie, at least. My gripe here is not with the American flag but the event that transpired during this particular song.

An action figure of Eddie in his "The Trooper" configuration.
Not that I had much respect for the BDS before hand, because that so-called “reality” TV show it is apart of is some real “quality” viewing, but after my first taste of live Maiden was left a little sour due to the aforementioned happenings, I would not even piss on that ditch pig if she were on fire!

After Maiden had finished their set and left the stage the BDS "graced" us with its presence on stage. Yeah real fucken' brave you stupid twat! This docker's omelette told the audience that it “absolutely loved Iron Maiden” but thought Dickinson was a prick. As like a lot of other metal heads, livid at BDS's antics that night, we let our feelings be heard by walking out before the final act of the night hit the stage. A few days following the gig, Maiden's long time, and still, manager, Rod Smallwood, issued a statement condemning the attack on the band.

Right, I think I've vented all that I wanted to vent about my first Maiden experience. But I'd like to finish this gig off on a good note and say that I still think it was worth the trip from Texas to California to see Maiden for the very first time.

Actually, there is one more event I would like to share with you that occurred during the daylight hours, sometime before Maiden hit the stage. I was positioned in the last row of seats in the ampitheatre portion of the venue. Immediately behind me was a concrete thoroughfare and behind that was the lawn, general admission area. Sometimes I find these general admission areas the better places to be because a lot of non-musical activities tend to occur there with some real characters that generally attend metal music festivals, or music festivals in general for that matter. This day was no exception. I could hear quite a commotion with the general mass of metal music folk behind me at one point in the arvo so I decided to turn around and see what all the fuss was about? At this stage, I would also like to point out, enough time in the day had elapsed for the combined affect of sun exposure with alcohol consumption and/or the ingestion of other “particulate matter” start to take hold on these fine, upstanding, good folk. In turning around I found myself looking at two lovely young ladies perched upon the shoulders of two gentlemen. Their boyfriends? Perhaps, perhaps not? Obviously the male audience, and might I say a large portion of the female audience (not that there is anything wrong with that) within the vicinity of these two ladies, who seemed well abreast of things, were very concerned for their health and were encouraging them to pour water over their t-shirts to cool off from the hot sun. Needless to say the two ladies in question, heeded these concerns of the surrounding throng, and actually went a little better by removing their t-shirts all together. Then poured the water on themselves. Naturally this brought a huge cheer from the crowd on the lawn, and by this stage half of the crowd in the seated area. Ozzfest, what Ozzfest? And to this very day, I am still yet to see an event where the number of cameras, camera phones or any other digital recording device instantaneously popped up to document an event. No, this event was not the removal of the ladies t-shirts, but when they also decided to passionately embrace their, probable, new found friendship by locking lips for at least 5 minutes. Well is seemed like a long time anyway. The unpredictability of music festivals, ya gotta love it!

Hang on...I somewhat remember writing a review of my Maiden experiences...well I did experience that at a Maiden gig.

Somewhere Back In Time World Tour, Selma, TX 21/05/2008
An Australian, Irishman, Brazilian, Indian, Texan, and 2 Norwegians drove to a covered amiptheatre in South Texas, to witness a British heavy metal band. Sounds like an opening line to a joke doesn't it? Far from it my friends, this was no joke! Fortunately, my second Maiden experience was far greater than my first insofar as, [1] Maiden headlined the tour, so no BDS's were allowed within a few hundred kilometres of the gig. I also swear there were 'WANTED' flyers posted around the venue with variations on how the wretched bitch would look like. Three years is a long time for an old, shriveled up hag who would need a blow torch to remove the makeup off its arse puckered face. These flyers, displaying the variations of a theme would assist us true Maiden fans to easily identify the BDS in order for us to smack the bitch up before we booted its arse out of the venue and onto the street (hopefully into the path of an on coming 18 wheeler). [2] I shared the experience of a Maiden gig with 6 good mates of mine, most of which had never seen them before, and [3] to cap off a very memorable night, as the title of this Maiden tour stated, they played nothing beyond their Fear of the Dark album [released May 11, 1992]. In other words, all their early classics to the stage setting of their previous World Slavery Tour promoting Powerslave [released September 3, 1984]. Fucking brilliant!

Image of the Selma, TX stage for Maiden's '08 tour. Takk Siv for fotografiet.
The set list for this gig included Iron Maiden's [released April 14, 1980], “Iron Maiden”; The Number of the Beast's [released March 29, 1982], “The Number of the Beast”, “Run to the Hills”, “Hallowed Be Thy Name”; Piece of Mind's, “Revelations”, “The Trooper” (minus some dumb, uneducated cunt waving another flag other than a tattered Union Jack); Powerslave's, “Aces High”, “2 Minutes to Midnight”, “Powerslave”, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”; Somewhere In Time's [released June 29, 1986], “Wasted Years”, “Heaven Can Wait”; Seventh Son of a Seventh Son's [released April 11, 1988], “Can I Play With Madness”, “The Clairvoyant”, “Moonchild”; and Fear of the Dark's, “Fear of the Dark”. These pre-1992 classics were all played to the rapture of a near 15,000 strong crowd.

The track "Iron Maiden" is generally now a signature end to Maiden's set before they re-enter the stage for an encore. This song also signifies the entrance of “Eddie”, Maiden's ever evolving and iconic mascot, to the stage to jam with the lads or be beaten up (all in good fun mind you) by the lads. If my information is correct, Maiden were one of the first handful of bands to establish some iconic symbol that would allow the fans, in this case, to readily identify a Maidenized product. From Eddie's inception as a simple facial figure situated on a board above the band during their early live sets, he has evolved and taken on many guises to fit in with the many themes of Maiden's albums and world tours. Therefore it is always great to see what form he takes when a new album release is imminent. So, on the cover of every Maiden album, t-shirt or any other piece of Maiden merch, the character that you see is the one and only Eddie. As for his new image, well you will see that shortly. As an added tidbit, the iron maiden (object) was a torture device affiliated with the Middle Ages. Basically, this device was an iron, coffin like, cabinet with a hinged door large enough to “accommodate” a human being. The cabinet had entry points where the designated torturer could insert sharp objects (e.g. knives, spikes, nails) into the unfortunate victim and inflict a 'world of hurt' upon them. Sure enough, many people did not survive their iron maiden “experience” and I encourage you to read or listen closely to the lyrics of Iron Maiden's self titled song of their debut, self title album to get an idea about this device. By intently listening to this classic song, you'll also understand, in my opinion, the Maiden mind set and work ethic.

Any track from the Number of the Beast is regarded as a Maiden classic. This album hit number 1 on the UK album charts, was within the top 15 of all other album charts around the world but here in the US it peaked at position 150 on the Billboard charts!

Piece of Mind would have to be one of my favourite Maiden albums and “Still Life” one of my favourite tracks. Unfortunately I am yet to hear this one live. Actually, as a side note, I'd like to have “Still Life” or Seventh Son of a Seventh Son's “Infinite Dreams” played at my funeral which would be in the very distant future mind you.

Powerslave opens with another two classics, “Aces High” and “2 Minutes to Midnight”. A live version of “Aces High” generally kicks off with a narrative of Sir Winston Churchill's “We Shall Fight On The Beaches” speech whilst “2 Minutes to Midnight” makes reference to the Doomsday Clock. “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, titled from the poem of the same name, is Dickinson's self proclaimed most favourite song to perform live. It is a great song to listen to and it is a song of fucken' epic proportions (13 and a half minutes in length)!

Somewhere In Time's “Wasted Years” is a song about life on the road touring, which is a common theme for successful bands who work hard and play real music and not this “popular” and pre-fabricated bullshit that you tend to hear mostly these days. Bands who have stood the test of time, been able to share their exceptional music artistry with the world tend to pen lyrics about their own experiences and what those experiences may have or have had on their lives and musicianship.

“Moonchild” is the opening track off Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and it is was the very first metal song that I heard, way back in my high school days (no need to disclose when that was again). I had previously seen and been very much intrigued by the artwork of Eddie gracing Maiden's album covers and a school mate of mine just so happened to have a cassette tape of Seventh Son... which he lent to me. Well fuck me standing, fuck me lying! Hearing that opening song, hearing Maiden for the very first time I wondered, this shit is fucking insane! I absolutely loved every bit of it! It was love at first listen. “Moonchild” started with a softly spoken narrative about the seventh son of a seventh son which gradually progressed into the signature “galloping” sound of Maiden's axe men (on that production they were) Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and the bass of Steve Harris, Nicko McBrain keeping it all together at the back on drums/percussion and how could I ever forget the distinctive melodic, operatic metal vocals of Bruce Dickinson. After my first Maiden encounter, the rest as they say, “is history.”

So, as you may well gather, my second Maiden gig was very memorable and it was great to share it with my new international circle of close mates.

The Final Frontier World Tour, The Woodlands, TX 11/06/2010 & San Antonio, TX 12/06/2010
I think it is only fitting that I blend some of the descriptions of my third and fourth Maiden gigs together, but I will primarily focus my efforts on the San Antonio gig. These most recent gigs also have a splattering of international flavour where we will hear about an Australian, an American, a Brazilian, an Irishman, a Canadian and a brief Indian cameo.

Prior to my departure, I had an earlier discussion with India which resulted in India's interest in attending The Woodlands gig with me. After purchasing an extra ticket for my mate, India bailed on their interest which really wasn't to my surprise. So, India's withdraw became America's (whom I shall refer to as AB) very delighted inclusion for The Woodlands gig. This worked out even better for me as my initial intention was to drive to the gig and then take the ~3 hour return trip home immediately after. It was to my delight that AB, who lives about 20 minutes from the The Woodland gig's venue, offered me a bed for the night which I gratefully accepted. Now that this gigs participant lineup was settled and I had accommodation taken care of, Matt's Maiden train could get underway, bound for The Woodlands, TX. But first, a few and customary pre-travel checks; Maiden tickets (check), iPod Maiden music play lists (check), Maiden t-shirt(s) from previous gigs to wear to this one (check), cash to buy my next Maiden gig t-shirt (check), and....well everything else was pretty much irrelevant, I had what I needed. I arrived at AB's sensational house late on the Friday arvo of the gig, met his lovely wife, sampled some cold brews (which are always good after a long drive), scoffed down some pizza, and then proceeded to get ready for the night which basically meant a shower in the can 'cause I was already in my Maiden attire.

Now, a word of warning for those of you wishing to see any live performance at an open amiptheatre where the seating arrangements funnel out from the stage. For AB he was fine being out on the lawn section at the back but when I first looked at the seating chart I thought I had a reasonable position, front section to the side but near the stage none-the-less. It may just of been how Maiden had set their stage up for this world tour, but needless to say, I first thought my view was not the best as I was initially looking at a bunch of equipment cases and the like.

My view of the stage, empty gear boxes, speakers...and that was about it. But that was soon to change...for the better.
But, by the end of the night, and after reviewing the photos I had taken, I thought to myself, “You selfish cunt, how could you be such a whiny bitch? Just be thankful you got to see and hear Maiden live, again!” I'm sure some Maiden, and metal fans, have yet to experience the splendour that is a Maiden live performance, let alone 4 as I now have.

Seeing how we have recently finished witnessing the football/soccer world cup it was quite ironic that this night in The Woodlands was the group match stage eve of (football mad) England playing U.S.A. (where soccer may struggle to make it in the top five sports in the country). Now, what do you get when an English metal act playing in the U.S.A. on the eve of a match such as this? Well, you get a very confident front man (aka Dickinson) having a dig at the crowd. When Dickinson greeted the crowd for the first time he duly reminded us about this match which then brought a very quick and loud chant of "U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A...." from the crowd. Dickinson fired back just as quickly by saying, “Bring it on! By the time the match kicks off, we'll be in a San Antonio bar watching England kick some U.S.A. arse!” Naturally the response from the crowd was a resounding and deafening booooo!! But in the true spirit of it all Dickinson asked the crowd, “No matter how much we beat you by we will still be brothers, yeah?”, and to those of us knowledgeable to the plethora of Maiden songs, without question, agreed as this was the lead in to “Blood Brothers.” I'll get into the songs a little later but for now, a few pics of the night. I think you'll agree with me that I was a whiny bitch at first when you take a look at them.

Dickinson in full flight. Not bad for a 50+ year old!
Dickinson atop the elevated stage 'runners' positioned to the sides and at the back of the stage.
The four axe men, Janick, Steve, Dave and Adrian.
A glimpse of "The Final Frontier" Eddie.
I caught up with AB afterwards and to be honest, you couldn't get the smile of his face which was great to see. I now had to get some rest before heading back to San Antonio the next day to catch up with Brazil, Irish and Canadia. To rest was easier said than done as it took me a while to relax after being hyped up for another live Maiden gig. As it turned out I think I only managed a few hours sleep. But the new day started off a treat, a good hardy breaky thanks to AB's wife and 3 or 4 coffee's to aid in my rapid progression to some normality.

I left The Woodlands about an hour later than anticipated but that was due the great hospitality of AB and his wife. This then meant I had no real time to swing my apartment first, but instead continue on to Brazil's house where we had some pre-gig grub and the obligatory frosty beverages. Now, on this day one nation decided to imbibe a little more of the amber liquid than the others which he subsequently paid for, but I'll elaborate on this a little later. Whilst we were relaxing a little, watching the England v U.S.A. football match, which by the way was a 1:1 draw, I decided to double check and see if the seating position on our tickets was going to be adhered to. As it turned out our tickets for the floor were standing room only. Needless to say after that phone call I became a lot more anxious about our somewhat blasé demeanour insofar as our estimated time of arrival to the gig. This then prompted Canada to drink a little more at a quicker pace, and yes Canada, you are welcome for me introducing you to the Chimay Grand Reserve :) Well we got underway and naturally Canada had to have a 'traveler' which had to be disguised in the form of a fast food chain fountain drink cup. Thanks to Irish's driving skills we made it to the venue in good time and I'm glad we left when we did, because there was already a largish crowd starting to line up. You stand in the hot sun and you will be rewarded as we were eventually positioned about 10 or so metres from the stage and dead centre.

Our view of the stage just before Maiden hit it.
I can understand for us general admission, floor ticket holders to get there early but it fucks me why those of whom have an assigned seat that they too wish to stand out in the hot sun to make sure they get to their seats? Anyway, I don't care about them as we were in a prime position. Now, by this stage Canada was feeling a bit thirsty..again. Standing in the sun will do that to you. So off he went to the bar with the $20 I promised him as drinking money just to get his lazy fucken' arse into car and leave Brazil's house earlier than first anticipated. But he appreciated the position we had but obviously that appreciation did not last long. Now, consumption of alcohol in a rapid manner often results in the urge to expel the water waste in an equally rapid manner. So, Canada had to depart once again, leaving his prime position to take a snake's hiss only to find upon his return the floor crowd had swelled so much that he was unable to make it back to us. As it turned out the floor patrons were not having a bar of these cunts who think fitting a square peg in a round hole is a viable option. So Canada fell victim to this scenario and could not get through and back to us. I might add we were also not allowing any fuck wit to try and push their way past us only to get a bee's dick closer to the stage. So that was the last we saw of Canada until after the gig. Poor cunt :)

Dream Theatre were the opening act and I must ashamedly admit I had not heard of them before this tour. But I'm glad I got to hear them as they were very solid. One thing I distinctly remember about the Dream Theatre set, aside from their music, was during their penultimate number. These two dickheads decided to gatecrash what little area Irish and I had on the floor. They also had a blatant disregard to others in their immediate surroundings, as if they were the only cunts on the floor. At the conclusion of Dream Theatre's set, Tweedledum and Tweedledumber tried to tell everyone that the real show is over, there is no need to see Maiden and everyone should go home. With that they left, much to our delight and quite frankly if that is your attitude then fuck off, good riddance and next time don't bother getting tickets so that other more respectful fans can get the opportunity to see their music heroes!

Dream Theatre's Mike Portnoy's percussion set-up. Never seen one like this before but very sweet!
Right, on with the SA show! As with most live acts there is always a prelude to initiate the imminent arrival of the main act. This world tour of Maiden's was no exception. To the throng of Maiden die hards that prelude came in the form of Maiden's cover of UFO's “Doctor, Doctor”. I must admit this is a pretty cool intro as, in my opinion, it's gets you pumped and ready for the explosive action that is a live Maiden gig. Following this, and in tune with the theme of this “The Final Frontier” tour, a series of astronomical images graced the large side screens to prep the crowd that what they are about to witness is something beyond the final frontier, perhaps beyond the bounds of inner space and into the realms of deep outer space. This is all the more prominent as Maiden's stage set-up for this tour resembles the inside of a space traveling vessel.

As like the night before, the SA show was opened with Brave New World's [released May 29, 2000] “The Wicker Man” with one “slight” exception, that being, a huge surge from the the crowd behind us towards the front of the stage. This is a pretty common experience being on the floor for the opening number of the night for a metal act but in most instances that surge dissipates pretty quickly, unless you get caught in the middle of a Slayer mosh. I also reckon a lot of these surging individuals could not sustain that energy for too long as by the looks of some of them they've been enjoying some very green pastures during their life. A tip for anyone caught in this situation is not to fight it and just go with the flow, so-to-speak. It is literally like a wave of water pushing you, so just ride it out.

We were then treated with another Brave New World track, “Ghost of the Navigator”, which followed in quick succession by Killers' [released February 2, 1981] “Wrathchild”. This is a prime example of this bands very successful longevity to play songs produced near 20 years apart back-to-back and have the crowd either rise up for "Ghost...", "Wrathchild", or both. I say this because you either have a generation who grew up with and prefer their pre or post 1990/92 productions, or for those like me, enjoy all of their productions from any year, with the exception of the Blaze Bayley 'era'. This divide in song eras does however cause the whiny fucks something to bitch about. As it was mentioned at both gigs, Dickinson did inform the crowd that they would be playing a lot of numbers from their most recent productions and not so much of their earlier material to the somewhat low volume jeer from The Woodlands crowd, predominantly. To that jeer and who ever else wishes to complain, you do seem to have short fucken' memories because if I cast my mind "all the way" back to 2008 Maiden completed a very extensive world tour playing nothing but their older (classic) material. So, for those of you who wish to cry, bitch and moan about the set list of this tour, fuck off! Don't bother coming if you are going to cry like a kid about Maiden not playing this song or that. Maiden have a very large repertoire to choose from, be grateful you get the chance to hear any of their songs live. Now, back to the show.

The completion of SA's “Wrathchild” did allow Dickinson to greet us for the fist time tonight and he mentioned that over the many years that Maiden have come to SA, tonights sold out show was probably the most vocal SA crowd he has experienced and with that he gave a heartfelt thanks to SA. It also gave him to opportunity to comment on the world cup football result between England and U.S.A. (again, a 1:1 draw). Dickinson this time round wasn't as boisterous as he was the night before, as he with the rest of the Maiden lads, who are mad keen football fans, and who even have their own Maiden football team, were not impressed with England's performance. This sentiment was clearly stated when Dickinson said to the crowd, “In football, or soccer as you call it over here, you can get a yellow card, you can even get a red card, but I swear our (England) goal keeper was trying to get his Green Card!” This brought the house down and to me it showed a great sense of humour from Dickinson.

Prior to this tour Maiden had set the release date [August 16, 2010] of their forthcoming 15th studio album, The Final Frontier. This title signifies the theme of their latest production and not any hint that this might be their last album. Well I fucken' hope not. Besides, they'll have to tour again on the back of the album's release and who knows, if they do perhaps they'll play one song from each of their albums? They'd be able to and it should satisfy everyone...well probably not. But for this tour it was common knowledge that the second track off this new album “El Dorado” would be played and a free download of it would be available from their website. I must say I was immediately impressed with “El Dorado” (not very biased at all). However to see it played live here in SA you could say I had an interesting view of the stage for 8 minutes and 42 seconds! The fucken' hobbit who was standing in front of me must of thought he'd never see or hear this song again so in his infinite wisdom decided to film the entire song on his fucken' phone! I was a bees dick away from saying to this little cunt, “Listen Frodo, I didn't pay $90 bucks to see Maiden through the fucken' view finder of your fucken' phone!” For whatever reason though I did not say it. But anyway, “El Dorado” live is very sound. And thankfully, Frodo never put his phone up again.

The 5th number of The Woodlands gig was Dance of Death's [released September 8, 2003] “Dance of Death”, whereas in SA we were blasted with another Dance of Death track, “Paschendale”. Personally, I rate the more explosive “Paschendale” over “Dance of Death” and as like a few of Maiden's songs, the tales of war are again depicted in Paschendale's lyrics. Paschendale portrays a young British solider who dies in the Battle of Passchendaele during World War I. When you get up close and personal at a Maiden gig it is great to watch the emotion and effort Dickinson puts into singing these songs, well all their songs for that matter. You can liken him to a very theatrical story teller, who puts his heart and soul into every performance no matter how many times he's performed the song.

Up next we were given a double dose from A Matter of Life and Death's [released August 28, 2006] “The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg” and “These Colours Don't Run”. As it was in The Woodlands the 8th number of the night was Brave New World's “Blood Brothers”. But unlike the World Cup gee up from Dickinson to the crowd we were informed about the true meaning to this song. “No matter what colour, race, religious belief we may have, metal does not care, and if metal were in political power then there would be no wars, no racial persecution or the like. We are all blood brothers.” Dickinson then continues to dedicate “Blood Brothers” to all the metal fans in Iraq, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries who, as much as they want to, cannot quite express their love of metal as we in the Western World can do. I must say this isn't too far from the truth. If you get the chance I recommend you watch the doco “Heavy Metal Baghdad”. This doco follows a metal band trying to pursue their love of metal and playing metal in a country without the opportunities we readily have available here in the Western World.

We return to a Dance of Death double in “Wildest Dreams” with Nicko's spoken 4 count and drum stick tap intro and “No More Lies”. While introducing “No More Lies” to us in SA, Dickinson talks about how we are sick of hearing bullshit remarks like, “the cheque is in the mail” and "friends don't rat out other friends”, for example. But, in the midst of this and with a wry smile he also quips, “I won't cum in your mouth,” which I sure not all of us on the floor heard it, or they chose not to hear it? I do know one thing though, both Irish and I cracked up with laughter!

To finish off their set list we hear a triplet of album title tracks, Brave New World's “Brave New World”, Fear of the Dark's, “Fear of the Dark”, and Iron Maiden's “Iron Maiden”. This time around we see a more futuristic Eddie and it is a testament to this band that the measures they go to and the detail they put into their shows for their huge fan base. Hear we are viewing a brand new, revamped Eddie for what...all but 30-60 seconds of “Iron Maiden”. They have no trouble spending a "few" fivers and tenners to continually evolve Eddie. But it's not about the money, it's the effort Maiden go to, to re-invent their stage shows to keep it fresh for themselves and more importantly, their fans.

Eddie jamming with Janick.
Eddie parading around on stage during "Iron Maiden"
During the set-list break before the encore we see a demonic figure rise in the back right corner of the stage before we hear, “Woe to you, Oh Earth and Sea, for the Devil sends the beast with wrath, because he knows the time is short... Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the beast for it is a human number, its number is Six hundred and sixty-six.” Yep, you guessed it, it's The Number of the Beast's “The Number of the Beast!” which rounds out a quadruplet of album title tracks.

A poor grainy pic of the demonic figure as it rises from the stage to initiate "The Number of the Beast"
We then finish off another memorable Maiden concert with The Number of the Beast's “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, and Iron Maiden's “Running Free.” If there was ever a song with Maiden's signature galloping axes and bass, “Running Free” is that song, especially when Dickinson has some fun with the crowd while Harry's bass and Nicko's drums are in perfect sync for a good 10 minutes or more. To me that is musical bliss and a fine way to finish of Maiden's set-list for this "The Final Frontier" world tour. But, for a complete ending, what Maiden gig would not then send the crowd home to the tune of Monty Python's “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life", from their piss funny “Life of Brian” flick.

Bruce, in Bobby helmet, having fun with the SA crowd during Nicko & Harry's galloping "Run to the Hills" interlude.
After the SA gig I was very content after being up close and personal with the Maiden lads. Being this close to the the four axe men (Harris, Murray, Smith, and Gers), Dickinson and Nicko holding it all together at the back you can see all their facial expressions and just how much fun they have together on stage and how much they still enjoy entertaining metal fans around the world. Watching them perform live on stage it is hard to believe that these guys are pushing 50 and beyond, shit, Nicko is damn well near 60! These guys are true professionals and I hope, well I'm sure I will, get to see them again, perhaps for one last time?

Up the Irons!!

Looking back at the commoners in their seats.

Harry & Adrian
Dave & Janick

Nicko's work bench
It doesn't get much better than this!
PS. We did end up finding Canada out the front of the venue sprawled out on one of the grassy knolls. He was conscious but a little narky that he couldn't quite make it back to us. To that I say, “You should of took my advice mate and taken a snake's hiss in your empty cup. You'd not only relieve yourself, kept your position on the floor, you may also of created more room for yourself too.” ;)