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Sunday, June 20, 2010


Yes, Iron Maiden fans, it is "Up the Irons" night in Concord, CA!! Finally. A dozen hours from now I will be rocking with thousands of others to the greatest, smartest, and most amazing rock band to ever take a stage. Thirty-two years they have been performing, and it is hard to believe some of them are older than me and move around like they are 25. (I suggest reading this entire blog post before going back to hit the links.)

I first saw Maiden in 1982, but then life (and law school, marriage, kids, and a mortgage) got in the way. I saw them on their Somewhere in Time tour (sort of a greatest hits extravaganza) in 2008 in Concord, and tonight it is The Final Frontier tour.

If you are unfamiliar with Maiden, they are an acquired taste, but nothing like most people think. Forget the speed metal pure noise crap so many heavy metal bands these days put out. The vast majority of their songs are about historical events--battles, wars, explorations, philosophy, and so forth.

The guitarists are amazing (and love to play in minor thirds), and their founder and bassist Steve Harris is simply jaw-droppingly good (as a bass player myself, I find it very challenging to come close to repeating what he does.) How six guys can play so tightly, so crisply, every song, song after complex song, is a real mystery. Listen to most bands live and you see immediately what I mean.

One of the Iron Maiden classics is Aces High, about the epic WWII air battle of Britain against Germany in 1940. Click here to see Maiden open with that song, kicking off the 2008 tour in India. It has some great behind the scenes footage as the band prepares to take the stage. They start with Churchill's spine-chilling speech about defending the beaches, etc. I recommend reading the lyrics so you can see how deep the band gets into this. Other great tunes include Alexander the Great, The Trooper (Crimean War), Run to the Hills (about American Indian Wars), and one they will play this tour, Passchendaele, about the terrible WWI battle.

One of my favorite live songs is one absolutely remarkable 13-minute opera-like masterpiece called The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (based upon Steven Taylor Coleridge's magnum opus poem) about a lost ship of souls. Maiden performed it in 2008 (they rarely do it live) and was a stunning spectacle (especially part 2). You can watch it here: Part 1 and Part 2 (at 2.00 minutes in Part 2, when Steve Harris starts the resurrection of the souls on his bass, I always get shivers. It is simply breathtaking to see live.)

They have only released one song from their new album (which won't come out until August) called El Dorado, about the search for the lost city of gold. It is the only song they will play on this leg of the tour from the new album.

The lead singer, Bruce Dickinson, is a commercial airline pilot and flies Maiden's 757 jet. In the picture below, he is in the Space Shuttle simulator at the Houston NASA space center. He got to fly it. One of the lead astronauts and many of the people there are huge Maiden fans, and they invited the band for a private tour. You can read about it here.

I might not be in Monday. . . . OK, I will be in, but I won't be at full throttle. But I am confident Maiden will be tonight.





Anonymous said...

Ted, I saw them last night in San Bernadino! Fabulous show!! Fourth time, and I think the best ever. Somehow don't picture you as a headbanger. LOL

Steven Rottman

J David Petruzzi said...

So how was it, T?? And how early did you make it into the office today?


Paul said...

You never cease to amaze me. I had no idea that you were a dedicated hard rock fan. That may also show how little I pay attention. Anyway thanks for posting your thoughts about Iron Maiden. I will definitely have to rethink my thoughts on them. I've always been more attracted to the progressive rock bands of the era and not really a hard metal fan. However there are a few which I have come to appreciate, i.e. Metallica (they are the only band I can think of for now). I will have to give Iron Maiden another listen.

I noticed on another posting of yours "Slash at the Warfield: The Best Live Rock Guitarist Ever?" that you had mentioned Rush as one of the bands you had seen live. I've been a Rush fan since 1979. The first time I heard 2112 I was hooked. I've been fortunate to have seen them six or seven times, I've lost count. The reason I am even bringing this up is because you had recommended "Atlas Shrugged" to me over five years ago when I was struggling grad student. Well I finally got around to reading AS this past summer and was thoroughly blown away. What has this got to do with Rush? My 15 year old nephew Jesse has become a huge Rush fan and is quite the accomplished drummer. Needless to say, he has become summarily, a worshiper at the altar of anything Neil Peart, Rush's drummer/lyrist. What does my nephew (stud drummer) have to do with any of this? Probably nothing, except for the fact, that I am a proud uncle of the hard rock drummer boy. I did, in fact, do a little research on Neil Peart using Wikipedia while, as a lyricist, there are few which can weave a tale like Neil. What I found, which should not have surprised me, is that NP has been heavily influenced by Ayn Rand. After all these years of listening to Rush, I was finally able to put 2+2 together. Rush's lyrics are laced with Rand's philosophies. I already told you how little I pay attention. Hell it took me five years to read a book you recommended.