Sun 22 Feb – Iron Maiden
I will try and be as critical as I can, but everyone knows I am Maiden obsessed, and thus will be biased.
I won the Iron Maiden Fan Club's FTTB competition, that is; first to the barrier. This meant Jack and I (and 118 others) were let into the venue 20 minutes before everyone else, to get right up the front of the general admission floor area. I was dead centre, next to my new found mate Elliot. I was a bit slow getting in so I don't get right on the barrier, just one hand (which you will soon see was ultimately my downfall) was holding on.
I was so excited to see Maiden; 4 hours of flights, 2 days of driving and countless sleepless nights all came down to one moment. This moment was right upon me. Except for one thing. Support bands. First up was Tainted. They were pretty terrible. Some death metal band. A terrible choice to support maiden. I can't say much more on the subject except that elliot shit his pants when the singer jumped off the stage right onto the security-step directly in front of him.
Next was Lauren Harris. I have spoken of her before; she's a pop-rock outfit. She's pretty good looking but that's about it. She can't sing all that well and throws up the devil-horns WAY too much. That said, she was more interesting than Tainted.
Then the lights dimmed and my moment had come. 5 minutes later and after heaps of cheering, "Maiden, Maiden" Doctor Doctor
started. They play this song as a signal to get all the crew in order. It felt like Elliot and I were the only two in our immediate area singing along but that's alright, it's not MAIDEN! We knew they were only minutes away. The excitement was overwhelming! Then came Churchill's Speech
. If there ever was a PERFECT intro piece for a band to play live, this would have to be it. Seconds later, "WE SHALL NEVER SURRENDER" and Aces High
began! It's amazing how the overplayed songs become so much more awesome when they're played live. The band jumped out and were absolutely full of energy. I was a bit worried about how Bruce would sound as in Melbourne last year he wasn't spot on, but as soon as I heard the opening lines, I knew he'd be so much better. The song was absolutely awesome. The crowd behind me started to punish us but not as much as I expected. Bruces final "aces highhAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH" was so loud - it suprised me to say the least. Was spot on!
Bruce just said "evening all" then Steve Harris got Wrathchild
started. This got the whole crowd bouncing in no time. If this song doesn't get you bouncing nothing will. Catchiest song they've written in my opinion. Adrian's solos were fantastic. They had a tiny bit of improv but stayed very true to the originals. Bruce's huge scream mid-song was one of his better ones, very impressive. I couldn't believe how much eye-contact Steve Harris gives the front row. If he spots you singing along loving it he will sing (probably SCREAM) along with you for a good 5 seconds, and in some cases he was singing along with me for more! It's a great feeling for me because I have so much respect for him as a songwriter and human being - he's just fantastic! With a final "YEAH!" that song was over and 2 Minutes to Midnight
started. Bruce opened up a bit and said "evening to ya Christchurch! How ya doing out there alright my friends?" There wasn't much of a crowd reaction which disappointed me and him, and then he goes "that's no fuckin' use... scream for Christchurch!" got a bit of a response, but nothing compared to when he goes "take your fucking knackers and SCREAM FOR ME CHRISTCHURCH!!!" and the crowd went mental. The song was played flawlessly and the crowd knew the lyrics well which was good. Dave's solo was pretty much completely improvised, whereas Adrian stayed much truer to the original.
Bruce seemed to be a bit suprised with the crowd at this point; we aren't known for being crazy like the South Americans in this part of the world. Bruce had a bit of a banter at this point. He was suprised that a lot of the seated dudes wouldn't get up off their seats, and called them "posh" and pointed out that they "probably play golf or something". He then went on for a bit about how it'd been 16 years since they last played New Zealand and last time it was only Auckland and they had twice as many people than that here tonight. He made me laugh when he said "oh it's a Sunday night in Christchurch what do you want to do? I know, you want to go to church!" which was met with boos, naturally.
He then got Children of the Damned
started. This was the highlight of the concert for me. It was played to perfection by all band members, but Bruce's vocals were just phenomenal. Really over the top and filled with emotion. I could've just about cried in it. I was singing along the whole time with Steve, he really knows how to appreciate those who know all the songs, I could see him going from my area to other fans who were just as into it as us. In my immediate area there didn't seem to be too many who knew all the lyrics, but Elliot and Blair (another guy from the IMFC) were really into it. The way the solos were played you wouldn't know that these guys are all in their mid fifties. Gives me something to look forward to as I get older. Loved joining the crowd in singing the whoooaaa's in the song. Bruces final "you're children of the damnnneeeedddd" lasted seemingly forever, and pretty much encompassed his entire vocal range. And if you've never heard Bruce Dickinson sing, well you probably should.The Phantom Of The Opera
was up next, and I was desperately looking to hear this live. I wasn't let down. They played it full speed, which suprised me! It was once again played to perfection however I was a bit disappointed Bruce didn't go for all the massively high notes that he used to hit live. Steve's backing vocals were a lot louder and I was impressed with his voice, as I used to think it was pretty terrible. The midsection with "keep your distance..." was great; I've always loved that part since the day I discovered Maiden. The following solo was played with so much emotion by Dave Murray. He is quite a phenomenal guitarist. Bruce then demanded we "get a fucking jump going here" but "not yet" as soon as that next part started and Bruce said "go" we all bounced away, and at that point I gained a deeper appreciation for Steve Harris' songwriting abilities. The song is just so perfectly written, so intricate. It stands up as the one song that could be used to describe Maiden as a whole. The whole song was incredible. Janick did a good job of the next solo, which made me happy. He usually butchers them up and they don't ring true to the original.
Bruce quickly changed into his out fit for The Trooper
, which I must admit I have had enough of. I thoroughly enjoyed it live, but would have prefered it replaced with something like Revelations. The crowd loved it and it was played with ferocity by all members of the band. The solo was smoking hot - especially Dave Murray's part. All three guitarists and Steve on the bass spent most of the song directly in front of us, forming what I call "The Four Horsemen".Wasted Years
was next which I was sick of before the concert, but once it started I loved it. I felt a connection with all of the band as the song is essentially about how, even though touring is taxing on their bodies and how it can be hard for them at times, they are actually what they live for and the "golden years" are the years they spend with us, the fans. Adrian played his solo with heaps of extra flair (and wah) which was awesome to behold. I also loved listening to Adrian sing the backing vocals, he really has a very underrated voice. His harmonies with Bruce are quite good; he must have a hell of an ear.
Bruce kickstarted another banter, this time about the Brit award they won just a couple of weeks before the Christchurch show. He really made me laugh when he said, "the nice thing about it was, it was in front of an invited audience of all the wankers that the music industry could possibly get in one place, an invited audience of media lovies who would probably die a death and have some sort of heart failure if you ever dragged them near an Iron Maiden gig full of real people" and thanked us for voting for them (which I did) on the BBC website and "stuffed it up their arses". He then talked about how clean New Zealand is and how they haven't fucked up the air and water, and then made a joke about the "eco-friendly cars that drive around at 2AM" talking about the Boy Racers that were around, before introducing the next song as a song about "what happens when man fucks with nature, then nature fights back. The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner
." Of course this was another epic song I was desperately looking forward to after being blown away by it in Melboune just a year ago. It was played faster and more proficiently this time. The entire 13 minutes sounded fantastic. Not too many people were singing along (not suprisingly) but that was fine with me as I was rewarded with heaps of Steve-time and even Dave came up and sang along for a bit! The show thusfar had been so fast that I hadn't noticed that I was feeling dehydrated until the interlude part of the song when we all relaxed for the first time. I was struggling for fresh air and needed a drink, pronto! Unfortunately the security couldn't get me any which was disappointing to say the least, as I didn't feel I could make it through the rest of the concert without one soon. The song picked up again and Bruce's "RAIIINNN" scream was really something else. It sounded phenomenal. Dave and Janick's harmonies sounded great and then all three guitarists came up right in front of us and played for a bit.
With a burst of fire, Powerslave
started. I was becoming increasingly conscious of my dehydration, especially with the heat of the flames hitting me. Powerslave is one of my favourite songs so I wouldn't dare hold back, regardless of my immediate health. Bruce asked us to scream for him a few times and we did. Massively. Adrian Smith stepped up and played a blistering solo. It sounded fantastic, really blew my mind. Dave's part sounded to be fairly improvised, as far as I can remember.
"If you don't know this one, you shouldn't be here!" and so began Run to the Hills
. Another song I'd prefer replaced but was happy to hear nonetheless. The thing that got to me though was the fact that I was desperate for a drink, I was really starting to fall around, still clinging onto the barrier, and everyone around me was trying to either get me to jump out, which I refused to do, or get me some water. Granted I had a few sips here and there but nothing substantial, especially considering the security guys were intent on squirting it themselves rather than handing it out. Then this guy behind me starts going all crazy jumping around - which I have no problem with - that's what we're hear for, but then he puts his hands on my head and uses it as leverage to jump around. I turned around and said "get off me bro" and he didn't, so I asked again for him to "fuck off!" and after a few more goes when he didn't, I turned around, and with what little energy I had left I punched him square in the middle of his face. He stopped immediately and I was sure (for the next two or three songs) that I was going to get bashed. Fortunately that didn't happen and I had no more encounters of that type for the rest of the show. The song was a real big sing along and Bruce's trademark scream was EXACTLY what I was looking for.
The set went all dark and on started Fear of the Dark
. Bruce did his typical "Fear of the dark... your turn!" and the crowd loved it. He seemed a little taken back, but I am sure he has heard better in South America and Europe. Janick and then Dave both dominated their solos. Bruces voice at this point continued to impress me, he held the notes longer than usual and included plenty of vibrato.
With a gong of the bell, Hallowed Be Thy Name
began. This song plays out like a story in my mind every time I hear it. The lyrics and background licks are set out in such a way that it just screams, "picture me!" and that it does. Every time I hear it I see this man freaking out as he's being executed. "The four horsemen" were right up in front of us, all but Janick giving me the nod. A few "scream for me Christchurch"'s later and the crescendo of the song was reached, absolutely fucking with my mind. You just had to be there to understand what was running through my mind at this point. Dave unleashed a blistering solo and then Janick, who impressed me once more.
Up next was the song Iron Maiden
, which was a bit of fun. Eddie came out and played a bit of guitar with both Dave and Janick. At this point I was well and truly out of it. I remember focusing more on the security guards than Maiden, desperately needing water. I eventually got one of them to pick up an "empty" bottle and I managed to get enough water out of it to keep me going for the rest of the show.
Maiden went off-stage and then came back a few minutes later to start The Number of the Beast
. This of course was a crowd pleaser and went down really well. Bruce's scream was fantastic. It was funny listening to "sex, sex sex, the number of the beast" and Elliot and I had a laugh at the Kiwi's accents. The thing that amazed me, though, was that Dave Murray's solo, during which he normally pulls a sustained bend for about 10 seconds in, which gets him out of playing one of the faster solos, he didn't skip! He played the whole thing! Adrian dominated his solo as usual.The Evil That Men Do
was next which is also another of my favourites. Bruce sounded a bit tired at this stage but still put in a great performance! This was the first song I noticed Adrian really get into. He seemed a bit distant, a bit bored. But not in this song. He got right into it! His solo sounded great too.
One of the catchiest riffs Maiden have written started and so came Sanctuary
. Bruce sounded to be right into it, forcefully enunciating those vocals. Mid song he did his normal little banter, letting us know they'd be back to Christchurch! He then made me laugh when he asked "have you yada, have you hada, have you had an enjoyable little musical swarre?... HAVE YOU FUCKING ENJOYED YOURSELVES TONIGHT?" Before getting the crowd to face off in the yelling stakes. Adrian really hammered his solo on his goldtop Les Paul.
Bruce then gave the usual, "goodnight from Iron Maiden, from Eddie, and from The Boys" but what summed up the concert for me was when Nicko grabbed the mic and did his trademark "ayeee". I cracked up. Then came Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
, and I suddenly faced the reality that it was all over, and that I was about to pass out. I slumped over the barrier before a security guard found me, and gave me a huge industrial bucket to drink from, which I did, before he decided to turn it ass over and pour probably 30L of water on me. Once I got outside in the freezing weather I was gone. Chucking up everywhere, shaking to no ends. I was scared that I would need an ambulance because I hadn't taken out travel insurance. I came alright the next day but was disappointed I couldn't head out to the town with everyone else.
Don't ask me to rate the concert, oh fine, 10/10. It was phenomenal. It was probably, the night of my life, to date.