Words truly cannot do justice to an Iron Maiden concert, as the entire experience itself is often as memorable as the actual show. Some of the happiest memories of my life are of Maiden gigs and everything surrounding them, from the unbearable anticipation leading up to the gig, to the finally band taking the stage and completely setting the place on fire, to the feeling of being utterly spent afterwards both mentally and physically. Every detail is magnified tenfold when your heroes, the driving force of what your life has become, are right there in front of you, and that's never been clearer to me than on Wednesday night when I finally had the fortune of witnessing my favorite band and the greatest changing force in my life during my teenage years from the pit, mere feet away from the guys who have become like a distant family to me in a strange way, though it makes perfect sense to me. Having listened to Maiden's music for so long, watching their videos, reading articles and looking at pictures, poring over anything having to do with Iron Maiden for hours upon hours, it feels like I know them personally, and that connection was never stronger than on that night in Concord. Without trying to sound pretentious of heavy-handed, I'll try to capture the essence of that night, capping off a chapter of my life in the most fitting way imaginable: crushed between the throngs of sweaty crazed metalheads at an Iron Maiden concert.
My little brother Evan and my friends Dan, Paul, and Tony piled into my car as we began the trek to Concord at about 4 PM. Bumping a mix of Boston, King Crimson, and Hatchet albums on the way over, the 2+ hour drive was reasonably bearable despite the awful rush hour traffic we got caught in. We finally made it to the Sleep Train Pavilion out in the boonies of Concord at around 6:45 and found parking pretty easily, which was a nice surprise. On a mild spring evening we excitedly made our way to the gates, noting the legions of Maiden fans from all ages and sizes. Of all the bands I've seen, Maiden always have the best t-shirt support by far, as you will be hard pressed to find someone not in a Maiden tee at their show. We headed down to the pit area as quickly as we could, though my friend Tony unfortunately had seated tickets and couldn't come down with us. Establishing a good early position slightly to the right of center about 5 rows of people back, we chatted up the old metal dudes who were commentating on my denim jacket with the band logos I'd drawn on with Sharpie's, since that's way cooler than sewing patches I think
One obnoxious drunk dude was trying to talk down to us since we were younger and calling us all Maiden Virgins, but once he found out it was me and Dan's 4th time seeing Maiden he took it easy. Still I got a kick out seeing these older dudes still partying and coming out to have a good time, and plus you can't really take a guy seriously who thinks Celtic Frost are too heavy
Mingling in the crowd during a Maiden show has always been fun and this show was no exception.
Finally Lauren Harris took the stage along with her backing band of dudes who didn't seem get the memo that its no longer cool to dress like Motley Crue. Seriously these losers thought they were the biggest rock stars ever, and I think Pavo said it best when he said they should be opening for Cinderella or something. I mean, hoop earrings? Really? That aside, Lauren Harris is friggin' hot. Like, ridiculously hot. I'm pretty sure those leather pants must've been surgically applied because they couldn't have been any tighter. She needs to reconsider her career options methinks. That being said the crowd didn't totally hate her so I guess she must be doing something right.
Now I've heard stories of the fabled Maiden Sardine Can, so I was preparing while the wait between bands ensued. The crush didn't start to come until Doctor Doctor though, at which point my little brother wisely bailed to the back area of the pit. The excitement only intensified the pressure at the front, as I ended up squeezing my way to about the 3rd row of people back of the rail. You could barely hear the UFO classic through the PA as it was drowned out by chants of "MAIDEN! MAIDEN!" and the collective screaming of the crowd. The feeling was slightly surreal as the opening of "Aces High" came on, like an out of body experience of sorts, before I was quite literally jolted back to reality by the sound Nicko's snare hit and the explosion of pyro as the band rushed the stage.
THERE GOES THE SIREN THAT WARNS OF THE AIR RAID! THEN COMES THE SOUND OF THE GUNS SENDING FLAK! At this point I can't even hear Bruce over the roar of the crowd madly screaming the lyrics, but I don't care because Steve Fucking Harris is staring me right in the face with that intense grimace permanently etched across his face singing the words right along with me and the thousands of crazed fans losing their shit. I'm already drenched in sweat and completely out of breath by the end of the song, and the onslaught in the front has taken its toll on several people who crowd surf their way to safety. The stage set is completely unbelievable, and the explosions and fire are a new Maiden experience to me as they have not had it to that extent in the past few tours. "The Trooper" sent the place completely off the walls, and "Wasted Years" was one of my favorites of the night. Even "Number of the Beast" had a twist as they had some Demon-looking figure on the right of the stage, which reminded me of something you'd see at a theme park, but then again Iron Maiden's stage set is basically a heavy metal theme park. Best performance of the night however was "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Every show I've seen of theirs has a standout song or two ("Revelations" in '03, "Paschendale" and "Dance of Death" in '04, "Hallowed Be Thy Name" in '06) but tonight "Rime" absolutely took it. So much heavier live, and with the awesome backdrop and the smoke machine during the middle section it had already sealed the deal. But when the song built back up again and Bruce unleashed that unholy scream, and the crowd starts jumping up and down in a sea of bodies, and the fucking beat drops and the explosions start and continue through the first solo, goddamn that was just the best fucking concert moment of my life. Following that with my other favorite in "Powerslave" featuring the best Maiden guitar riff ever in the solo, fuckin ridiculous. As Pavo mentioned in his review we got to see a nice pair of titties during the sing-a-long part of "Heaven Can Wait", and some guy stage dived and landed a couple people next to me. My energy was completely spent at this point, but "Fear Of The Dark" and "Iron Maiden" both ruled so fucking hard especially "Fear". I can see why they always bring that one out, it gets a monster reaction every time. The big mummy Eddie with snakes dangling from his mouth came out too, it's so ridiculous but there's nothing more badass. Unreal stage show they brought out this time, all the little details that I got to appreciate being so close too, these fuckers go 100% into everything they do. Finally the encore started with a gem in "Moonchild", the massive Somewhere In Time Eddie coming out during "The Clairvoyant", and capping the show the best way they could have with "Hallowed Be Thy Name."
Maiden are the only band I've seen that I can honestly say have gotten better every time I seen them. Every show is better than the last one, yet they all rule and bring out that euphoria that only Maiden can truly deliver for me. This was my little brother's first Maiden gig, and it was so awesome to share it with him and my best friends Paul and Dan. Music is the number one connecting force in my life that I've experienced and observed in others, and to see how people come together for it, from all different walks of life, I just can't explain how awesome it is. You're getting pushed against sweaty strangers all night long yet you fuckin love every disgusting minute of it because you're all there for the same reason. All the shit we go through in our daily lives doesn't mean shit when you're screaming "RUUUUN TOOOOOO THE HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILLS!!!!!!!! RUUUUUUUN FOOOOOOOR YOUR LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVES!!!!!!!", or when Steve Harris is gunning you down with his bass, or when you see Bruce running around the stage at full speed not stopping the entire show and still singing like a champion.
Some people live for the thrill of sports, or they get enjoyment from reading a book, or maybe they like watching movies or painting pictures or building model airplanes. That stuff is all well and good, but then there are some people who live to have their eardrums assaulted for 2 hours in the company of total strangers going batshit crazy and acting like little kids because the sound created by those overdriven guitars and pounding drums makes them feel something so powerful and good that it can't be fully described or measured. People might not understand it, but somehow that makes it even more special. That's what I live for.
Up The Irons, Long Live Rock & Roll, see you fucks next time