Iron Maiden -- Camden, NJ -- June 17th, 2008
Last night (June 17th, 2008) was now my fourth time seeing my favorite band of all time, Iron Maiden. This would now be my second show of the "Somewhere Back in Time" tour, as I caught one of the March shows at the Izod Arena in New Jersey. The show then was spectacular, among the best I had ever seen, and I had an amazing time. I had nothing but the highest expectations for this show.
My 3 friends and I were lucky enough to score GA Pit tickets for the Camden, NJ show, which was an accomplishment considering how small the afforementioned section is at the venue. With the opportunity ahead of us, we had one goal: See Maiden from front row. We were prepared for the worst, packing foldable chairs, a cooler of drinks, all sorts of snacks, a deck of cards, an MP3 Player with external speakers, and just about anything else you might imagine. Unfortunately we had forgotten something essential... sunscreen - A mistake we would pay dearly for. Regardless, we arrived in Camden at about 10 AM, and naturally were among the first half-dozen people there. Unfortunately the venue was unorganized and unprepared, not allowing us to line up at any entrances for hours. We had to hold camp in a little "park" area where we stayed along with a half dozen other people arriving within the next few hours. Around 3:30-ish we shifted and began forming a line across the street from the doors we were going to enter through. The venue said no lining up before 5:30, but naturally a group of almost a dozen people showed up around 4:45 and just stood there, and no one said anything. Naturally we took that as a green light, crossed, and formed the line accordingly. The next 60+ minutes was one of the most gut-wrenching waits of my entire life... we were so nervous. Between 3 seperate entrances, different procedures after entering the building, and whatever else, there was opportunity for us to get screwed, but much to our happiness, we didn't. I was one of the first people to set foot in the doors, and among the first maybe 15 people to enter the pit. I managed to get the EXACT spot I had always wanted... Front row, right in front of Adrian Smith.
Now, the wait. We were inside promptly at 6, and Lauren Harris didnt go on until like 7:30, which meant the anticipation was just building. My friends and I were lucky enough to be interviewed for Iron Maiden TV due to the flag my friend had put together and we had had people signing for some time. It was really neat getting to actually do that, knowing that the band themselves would see the footage.
For those of you who don't know, Lauren is the daughter of Steve Harris, and basically plays pop-rock. She's not a very good singer, her bassist looks like Nikki Sixx, her drummer looks like Kenny Rodgers, and her guitarist has 5x the talent of everyone else in the band. Regardless of my general disliking for the music, I still find it more tolerable than a number of other opening acts Maiden has had in recent years, and hey, I never say no to a little eye candy. Set was a tolerable half hour and then came the 40-ish minute wait for the almighty Maiden.
At about 8:45 just as it was just about dark, the infamous Doctor Doctor came over the PA, followed by the dimming of lights and the Tour Montage to Transylvania playing on the screens. Then came Churchill's Speech into the glorious PA intro of Aces High. Just as in the past, despite all the anticipation, I'm never quite ready for the actual moment the band flies out on stage. The show started with a band as usual, with explosions left and right and the band just going crazy, and the audience following suit. The first four songs were just a blur of energy, with neither band nor audience taking a breath until afterward. Bruce did is intraductory rant, taking a shot at the audience as this was just about the only show on the entire tour that wasn't sold out. "Wasted Years" was just brilliant as I expect it to be, and it was just breathtaking for me, getting to see Adrian playing that amazing solo merely feet away from me. Speaking of Adrian, after Wasted Years, my night, well, year rather, was made when he actually looked to me, smiled, and threw me a guitar pick. I was absolutely ecstatic.
I've never usually looked forward to seeing the generic "hits" live, but I have to admit, "Number of the Beast" really is fucking great as a live track, especially with the nice staging they've been giving it lately, complete with devil in the corner of the stage and more pyro than I've ever seen. "Can I Play With Madness" was good fun, the live excitement detracting from the complacency of the track. Now it was time for the holy grail of the show, "Rime of the Ancient Mariner". In March I enjoyed the hell out of it, but found the fog during the quiet bit to be a tad dissapointing. This couldn't have been more corrected this time, with so much fog that you could barely even seen the band, from front row. It really helped to build the atmosphere, as did the superb lighting during the pickup and the absolutely amazing fireworks display in the solo section, which is quite possibly the best 2-3-odd minutes of live show I've ever experienced. The best part is that after Rime, there was "Powerslave", an equally amazing song, complete with more pyro and more explosions, not to mention the godlike solo section and whatnot. "Heaven Can Wait" was fun as usual, though around this point I began to notice just how much my feet hurt from the day. Then we had "Run to the Hills", which is fun but more or less unremarkable, and then "Fear of the Dark" which though not belonging in the tour theme, is just amazing live. Around this time the crowd became really restless, elevating to the level of movement and tightness I expected the whole show. Now it was time for the "Iron Maiden", and the massive mummy eddie to bring the show to an amazing "close". This of course doesn't mention the absolutely brilliant encore of "Moonchild", "The Clairvoyant" and possibly the ultimate Maiden track, "Hallowed Be Thy Name". Eddie came out to visit during "The Clairvoyant", and as usual, "Hallowed" pretty much brought me to the peak of the emotional experience, mixing the amazingness of the track along with realizing that this was "the end", of the show, and of the tour... for me anyway.
So, the show lasted just about 2 hours from start to finish, which is somewhat long by Maiden's standards, especially compared to what they were playing about 4 or 5 years back. We were exhausted, but about as happy as you can get. The four of us were pretty much in agreement that it was likely the best show any of us had ever seen, and that's saying something for me, as though I'm only young, I've been averaging 10-15 shows ever year since 2004. The sound mix was as good as you can hope it to be when you're right up front, the band played as good as you could imagine, actually many of the members (Dave in particular) gave a performance far more accurate than I had anticipated. There's almost nothing else I've ever experienced that really measures up to the sheer euphoria of seeing an act like Maiden live, from the front row, and actually being so close that Steve's actually shooting YOU, you can feel the heat of the pyro on your face, you can smell the sulfur from the explosions, and you actually feel like for a blessed two hours, you are interacting with one of the greatest bands of all time. It was truely incredible, a night I will never forget.
Iron Maiden Set List:
2.2 Minutes to Midnight
6.The Number of the Beast
7.Can I Play With Madness
8.Rime of the Ancient Mariner
10.Heaven Can Wait
11.Run to the Hills
12.Fear of the Dark
16.Hallowed Be Thy Name