Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Rime of the Aging Metalhead: A review of Iron Maiden in East Rutherford, 3/14/08

(Photo caption: From left to right, Dan, 29, Scott, 36, and 34-year-old me flash devil horns and metal faces while carrying home-baked muffins, cookies, and ear plugs).

An alternative name for my March 14, 2008 review of Iron Maiden at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, NJ might as well be called "Confessions of an Aging Heavy Metal Fan."

This was the seventh time I've seen the Gods of Metal and the two guys with whom I attended the show were both Maiden virgins (readers of The Silver Key will recognize Scott from "Scott's thoughts,", a post which landed him instant celebrity in his own mind). I'm proud to say I was with them as they broke their Maiden cherry. The photo I've embedded here is of the three of us before we headed out the door with metal in our hearts and baked goods in our hands.

While I'm not that old (34, to be exact) we had a good laugh that night at how much the concert experience has changed over the years. At past metal shows my friends and I have been known to pick up a 30-pack of beer beforehand and pound 6-8 beers in the parking lot. The object of course is to get buzzed, act a bit stupid, and save a few bucks on the ridiculously overpriced beer in the arena.

But times have changed. At my request, I brought my first pair of earplugs to the show courtesy of Scott. I've never worn hearing protection to a concert, but after my last show (Queensryche at the Hampton Beach Ballroom Casino, a small and very loud club) I had trouble hearing for four days afterwards, which left me a bit nervous that the ringing would continue forever. I've put my ears under a lot of duress over the years at many heavy metal shows and this time I decided to take appropriate countermeasures.

In and of themselves the earplugs weren't that bad, but combined with the next item--a batch of home-baked chocolate chip cookies in a ziplock bag, lovingly packed by Scott's wife--we had officially crossed the line from uncool to completely lame. The three of us joked about trying to smuggle the cookies into the show and getting busted by security ("Sir, you'll have to check those at the door. Cookies of any sort are not allowed in the Izod Center") but we opted for discretion over valor and left them in the car. You can see the offending cookies in the picture above, as well as my blue earplugs. Ah well. On to the review.

To begin with, I was shocked to see that Izod was sold out. Reportedly this place seats 20,000, and while some seats are blocked out for concerts, it was, in fact, sold out. We had nosebleed seats and a fine view of the whole arena, and there were no empty seats. Not a bad turnout for a heavy metal band with roughly 30 years under its belt. It's another testament to the enduring legacy of Iron Maiden and heavy metal as a genre of music, critics be damned.

Iron Maiden is, in my humble opinion, the greatest heavy metal band of all time and this show again reaffirmed why. This tour showcased three of Maiden's best and most popular albums from their "golden" period (Powerslave, Somewhere in Time, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son), which made up the bulk of the setlist and the backdrops/props on the stage. The setlist was as follows:

Introduction (Transylvania/Churchill's speech)
Aces High
2 Minutes to Midnight
The Trooper
Wasted Years
The Number of the Beast
Run to the Hills
Rime of the Ancient Mariner
Heaven Can Wait
Can I Play With Madness?
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden

The Clairvoyant
Hallowed Be Thy Name

Overall, its a great setlist and one for which I have only minor complaints. I would have much preferred another song or two off Somewhere in Time, an album that always seems to get the short-shrift by Maiden. Stranger in a Strange Land, Sea of Madness, or Alexander the Great would have been appreciated. Also, Can I Play With Madness, a good, catchy song on CD, simply does not come across well in concert and it again garnered little fan reaction. I would have preferred my favorite track from Seventh Son, The Evil that Men Do, in its place, but Maiden has played the heck out of that song in concert so I can't complain too much.

Maiden sounded awesome (no surprise there), the stage looked great, and Bruce was again in top form, both vocally and physically. Bruce is just about to hit 50 and yet he flies around like a man half his age. He was also having a great time and had no angry rants or disparaging remarks as he's occasionally want to do in concert. He commented that the band was here back in 1985 playing to a sold-out crowd, and here it was, 23-odd years later, with another sold-out show. Again, amazing.

Highlights for me included the following:

The Introduction. Transylvania really gets the heart pounding, and nothing beats hearing 20,000 or so fans in speaking along in unison with Winston Churchill during his famous Battle of Britain speech. The place exploded when Maiden ripped into Aces High.

Moonchild. Dave Murray brought out his acoustic guitar for the "Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Ways to Win," lead-in, and he and Bruce hammed it up a bit. Very nice touch, and the rest of the song kicked ass as well.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Hearing this live was worth the price of admission alone. Maiden broke out the smoke effects and lowered the lights circa Live After Death for a great visual look. Bruce lurked about the stage in some sort of a black cloak and really nailed this one vocally, Steve shined on bass, and the band positively exploded with force after the slow, melodic break in the middle of the song. I had chills after this one.

Powerslave. Another song that was great live, Dave ripped through a great solo in the middle, and best of all Bruce broke out the Horus "owl" mask circa Live After Death. An amusing and fun old-school touch.

The Trooper. Bruce wearing the British cavalryman's coat and waiving the union jack will never get old.

Some other funny tidbits from the show:

Fathers and sons (and daughters). Maiden has now been around long enough that longtime fans (myself included) have settled down with families and children. I saw at least 8-10 dads with youngsters as we walked into the show and more inside, some as young as 7-8 years of age. A bit young in my opinion to bring to a loud metal show and I hope these dads were packing ear protection for their kids. Bruce commented about seeing generations of fans in the audience and it certainly was true.

Guy with mullet and leather pants. Crowd watching is always a fun part of attending metal shows, and the best/oddest sight was a guy in his late 4os/early 50's with a full-blown greying mullet and leather pants. He looked like he stepped out of a Whitesnake video and into the New Jersey night.

Guy with Manowar backpatch. In a night with many denim jackets with backpatches and buttons, this was the best of the lot. I give the guy credit for having the balls to wear this, but the question I continue to ponder is: Do these people wear this stuff outside of metal concerts, or do they keep the acid-washed jeans and black leather vests in mothballs until metal shows roll through? Half of me wanted to high-five the guy for sticking to his guns and wearing a rhinestone-studded Manowar back-patch in public, but the other half of me felt like telling him that 1985 was a long, long time ago.

In the end I managed to somewhat shake the old fogey image, buying two beers (at $7.25 each) and leaving the earplugs in my pocket. I didn't wind up needing them as it wasn't that loud. But don't tell my wife, she'll kill me.

And I'll be damned if those cookies didn't taste like manna from heaven on the way home. The only thing missing was the milk.


Anonymous said...

Dude, you forgot about the magical and jaw dropping opening act!

Falze said...

quite the impressive array of metal tees there, too!

Brian Murphy said...

I know, pretty lame t-shirts. I was going to buy a Somewhere Back in Time t-shirt until I saw the $40 price tag.

My old Maiden t-shirt mysteriously disappeared during a recent move. I wonder how that (cough-cough Sue) happened.