Iron Maiden is the standard by which all metal should be judged. This has been my summary judgement over the years, and nothing has changed. UP THE IRONS!
Four years ago? Has it really been that long since I’ve written for the Permanent Record? And that was for Cattle Decapitation. Somewhere On Tour in 2008... the concerts to end all concerts -- at least for me -- remain unwritten. Those dates in California resonate in my metal consciousness more so than any other, including those that provided the inspiration for METALSETLISTS in our early years. I attended a few non-Maiden shows in 2008 and 2009 and passed on the 2010 Final Frontier entirely. Collectively, the volume on new concerts has barely registered with me. Metal simply hasn’t been the same since, almost less important.
Heavy metal can only be ignored for so long. Musician or fan, it doesn’t matter; we all bring an incredible passion to this music. Years can pass, but the mere mention of your favorite band draws out a smiling sneer. A favorite song can cause a fist to morph into the horns. The metal returns; it’s not something you easily lose.
July 2012 and thee weeks before Iron Maiden plays Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, CA: “Fuck it. I’m going”. Fateful words spoken again, no different than those before the Brave New World
tour, my very first Maiden and metal show. I was just as full of bravado and just as ticketless. Ebay didn’t help this time around, the source of almost every other premium Maiden ticket I’ve purchased. Stubhub was now my savior, and I found a single ticket in a lower section(101) about twenty rows up at a little more than face value. The second night in Irvine in 2008, I sat with the Iron Maiden Fan Club way up the in the middle of the venue. It was a pleasant change not arriving so many hours early to secure front and center pit. Being away and alone on this adventure, it was good enough for me. Never fear about going to a concert alone. I know it’s possible to be alone in sea of 25,000 people but you’ll be fine.
Three weeks passed, and concert day was upon me. Yes, I looked up the set list in advance but didn’t obsess over it much. Like I didn’t already know the music but there was a much more important factor. The number of unwritten shows in the Permanent Record far outweighs those that I’ve written up; there was a point that concerts became about the business than the music and fun. Notebook in hand, I spent more than my share of shows taking notes than consuming the energy of it all around me. Not this time around.
Final Frontier was my soundtrack for the drive into Mountain View around 6PM. Traffic wasn’t bad during the tail end of a Friday commute into Silicon Valley. It gave me time to ponder Bruce’s aging voice so evident on Final Frontier and how that might affect tonight’s performance. Those unfamiliar with our geography, Mountain View lies between San Jose and San Francisco on the southern tip of the bay. It’s a smidge south of Palo Alto and Stanford. The Googleplex is literally next door to the venue. Clouds were spilling over the top of the hills to the west from the Pacific. Grey cold skies in California during the summer. Whatever. My armor would deny the cold: black cashmere sweater on top of 2008’s yellow soccer tour jersey on top of 2008’s navy blue powerslave tour shirt. Road signs to premium parking detoured me around Google but I managed parking by 6:30 PM. Twenty dollars bought a two minute walk to the venue and a likely five minute exit afterwards.
Throughout the years, I have been accused of taking more time to depart the car than females take in their mysterious sojourns to restrooms. There used to be a lot to prepare: tickets, contacts / glasses, notebooks, pencils, ear plugs, etc -- all packed on person to facilitate security checks while minimizing bulk. My accusers know who they are, and I say this: five minutes this time and fuck you. Security didn’t even bother with me (sigh), leaving me about 45 minutes to kill before the opener.
Shoreline hasn’t changed much throughout the years except for the concession prices. Seriously, $10 beers. $8.50 hot dogs that have probably already crapped on themselves. A lot of vendors were hocking the same familiar kitsch. Maiden’s merchandise stalls were unexceptional and unimpressive to my eyes; nothing commanded a purchase. The designs weren’t bad but it was hard to spend simply to add shirts to my piles of shirts at home. The 2008 shirts have held up but memories linger of the 2005 Early Days Tour shirt I picked up in Denver that was obliterated after a single wash. The booths for the A Matter of Life and Death tour offered stickers, and that’s what I really was after this time around. No stickers? Bye.
Inside the seating area, I recognized some of the staff working the rows down close to the front stage from prior years. Typically, my seats for a show like this are in the 102CC area -- like 3-5th center row depending on the configuration. I was already missing my old neighborhood, but the view from my seat wasn’t awful in row V of 101 and the price was right. I kept that telling myself that the whole night. The blue canopy over the stage was covered in 20 years of bird shit. Queue memories of what not to do when a bird shits on you. A $10 beer should come with less bird shit.
The lower amphitheater filled very slowly for the openers, Coheed and Cambria. I wondered who was buying the cotton candy from the barker making his rounds. Wait... cotton candy at a metal concert? WTF?!?! I could only fathom: “Bruce is going to pissed. Northern California is getting a lecture tonight about this.” Reference past diatribes on Americans and Hot Dogs. Asshole.
Bored, hungry, and inspired at thought of past slights, I decided upon nachos and a soda. $8.50 Nachos. $4.50 for a soda. $13 confirms my status as a total sucker. A satisfying dinner, the nachos were at least fairly fresh with generous portions of cheese, salsa, and jalopenos . The soda was only 16 ounces. I immediately contemplated vows of drinking my own piss rather than pay this venue for any beverage ever again.
Coheed and Cambria took the stage as I worked down my nachos. About ten seconds into their performance, I reached for my ear plugs. No way I was losing any hearing for this crap. My first exposure to this band was actually Rock Band’s inclusion of Welcome Home. I hated playing that track. Besides, there is a little town called Cambria down the coast from me. A bit further south in Santa Maria was a miniature golf course. In my head, Cambria is associated that miniature course for some reason.
Their music wasn’t awful but I would probably enjoyed it more in a different venue and NOT before a Maiden concert. I probably wasn’t alone in that feeling. Except for like five guys who took turns standing and cheering the band between pounding beers, the crowd didn’t react to the band until they played a cover of Heaven And Hell -- even then went back to sleep until Welcome Home. The crowd was clearly waiting for Maiden.
Coheed and Cambria’s minimal light show would have looked better if there had been actual darkness for their illumination. Pointless. And this is California. I’m surprised someone wasn’t complaining about the carbon footprint of such a wasted display. The backdrop for their set was a little creepy... reminded me of anonymous people trapped under a bed sheet trying to escape the torment of bed bugs.
Their vocalist / guitarist was the only one on stage with charisma. He looked like a rock star, his bandmates less so. They need to work on faking more sincerity into their stagecraft. Their bass player needs to scuff himself up a bit more to look less like he just came from music lessons after school. It would have probably have better to simply close my eyes and search for what special in their music. They are not bad musicians, and I have no doubt a lot of care has gone into their music. Instead, I let my predetermined desire to not like the band to get in the way of their performance. Mission accomplished.
I can not be positive about their set list but it’s my best guess it was the same as in prior shows. Correct me if I’m wrong and I’ll adjust it.
1. No World for Tomorrow
2. Gravemakers and Gunslingers
3. Delirium Trigger
4. Here We Are Juggernaut
5. The Running Free
6. Heaven and Hell
7. In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3
8. Welcome Home
Darkness was beginning to fall now. For a few minutes, I watched the tear down and set up on stage from a vantage point I don’t see very often. The atmosphere of the crowd, the anticipation of the show.. it’s hard not to smile like anticipating a visit from Santa. A guy in the row in front of me was in full Trooper costume taking pictures with whoever asked. The half dozen people to his left all were beaming the omfg-it’s-about-to-start-MAAAIIDDEEENNN!!!! shit grin. My own row wasn’t quite as electric. The butch middle-aged lesbians a couple seats away seemed to be emotionlessly waiting for Paul Simon. The engineers to my immediate left, wearing pressed cotton collared shirts, worked on staying as still as possible the entire night. To my right, a guy in a Motorhead shirt was lighting up and offering to share with those around him. The clock raced straight through it all to Doctor, Doctor.
The set list from Maiden England 2012 is a celebration of the Maiden England video shot during the 7th Tour of a 7th Tour in 1988. That’s about the time I first started to listening to Maiden. I remember the release of Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and buying it on cassette at a local Tower Records. Live After Death was still new for me, and Seventh Son stood in contrast to it because of the synthesizers. It wasn’t long before it became special on its own right but I still remember the emotional impact of the difference. Concerts were not remotely on my radar in college, so my focus was on the music itself and the running order of the albums. In the grand scheme of things, my celebration of the 7th Son album would have been: 7th Son album in running order + 5 songs + Iron Maiden with a 3 song encore. I’ll throw out both the actual set list and my dream list for the tour.
The Set List As Played On Maiden England 2012
2. Can I Play With Madness
3. The Prisoner
4. 2 Minutes to Midnight
5. Afraid to Shoot Strangers
6. The Trooper
7. The Number of the Beast
8. Phantom of the Opera
9. Run to the Hills
10. Wasted Years
11. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
12. The Clairvoyant
13. Fear of the Dark
14. Iron Maiden
15. Aces High
16. The Evil That Men Do
17. Running Free
Hot Turkey Ed’s Dream Set List for 2012
2. Infinite Dreams
3. Can I Play With Madness
4. The Evil The Men Do
5. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
6. The Prophecy
7. The Clairvoyant
8. Only The Good Die Young
9. The Trooper
10. 2 Minutes To Midnight
11. The Prisoner
12. Wasted Years
13. Fear Of The Dark
14. Iron Maiden
15. The Number Of The Beast
16. Children Of The Damned
17. Run To The Hills
Bruce was light on rants and used a lot of the same material you’ve read in other reviews. He apologized that elements of the show were missing because of the size of the stage. The older folks down front yet again met with his disapproval, advocating an under 25 approach to the front of the house. In 2008, the over 30 crowd dealt with young pups appropriately in the pit shows. Whatever Bruce, Have a hot dog on me. After all the years of performing at this venue, he still doesn’t understand the South Bay and the difference between San Jose and San Francisco. Scream for me, uh, where are we? Reflecting on the value of a good toilet, he did comment on his own age which makes me wonder a little about his mindset at 54. Granted the size of their stage set could be a factor, but I noticed a tad less bounce in his step. Bruce still performs better than practically everyone half his age, but it is obvious when superstars begin to slow and falter a bit. It’s ok, Bruce. We’re getting older. How about a hot dog?
The Prisoner, Afraid To Shoot Strangers, Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son.. all songs I’ve never seen Maiden perform live. Of the three, the crowd didn’t seem to know quite what to do with Afraid To Shoot Strangers, a six minute song that doesn’t deliver its kick until like 4 minutes. I was surprised how many people knew the words to the Prisoner. The song is great live, and seeded ideas that maybe I should go up to Marysville the next day for another show. And Seventh Son.. it doesn’t hold the magic that hearing Rime did at Somewhere On Tour but it is definitely a Maiden moment not to be missed. Who knows whether we’ll ever hear this song again live.
Comfortable favorites littered the remainder of their set. Phantom Of The Opera has never failed to create a sense of personal exhaustion; it’s a good thing I have a technique of propping myself up at Shoreline to head-bang harder or the dizziness from overexertion would be put me down. Wasted Years has a message that is valuable for anyone of any age, and as it did on Somewhere on Tour, it warmed my heart again. I’m thrilled Hallowed is resting this tour, although Running Free as a replacement? Not a favorite. Go away.
Our show ended at 10:40 PM, leaving twenty minutes before the local curfew. The stage lights remained off feeding our irrational hopes of one more but the lights came on with the advice for us to always look on the bright side of life. One perk of sitting back in the rows was a speedy exit up the steps onto the plaza. I gave the merchandise booth one last scowl for their absence of stickers. It took me a couple of minutes to walk back to the car, another couple out of the venue and back on the highway without any fuss. Ears ringing a little already and in a very contemplative mood, I threw on the X-Factor and Virtual IX for the ride home. Breaking tradition, I replaced a double animal at In N out with a 4x2.
Anything Iron Maiden does now is pure gravy. If they were to announce retirement tomorrow, my first response would be “Thank you for everything.” I doubt this is the last time we’ll see Iron Maiden with a new album or on tour. If we are fortunate enough for another tour, it will more 2008 than 2012 for me. God damn, I can’t wait.