Thursday, July 10, 2014

Gig review - Steve Harris British Lion in Brighton

Just recently I have been concerned that Steve Harris may feel like he is stuck in some kind of Groundhog Day scenario. Having just completed the latest run of the Maiden England tour with Iron Maiden he's gone straight back out on the road with his other project British Lion, playing the Brighton Concorde club last night (Wednesday 9 July). Having said that, any amount of repeat gigs is a better investment of time than making music videos. The British Lion offering is poor.

Which gives me a good excuse to include this:

First indulge me in a brief Iron Maiden observation. We were promised a new album this year; then we were told there would be a brief tour to visit the places missed in 2013. But there would be changes to set list to make up for it, in the end they dropped Afraid to Shoot Strangers and SONG, replacing them with Wrathchild and Revelations, two of the most unimaginative songs they could have picked. There were at least 8 other songs that could have filled the hole, which haven't been played recently. But I'm digressing.

Back to Brighton. The Concorde club is right on the seafront and after a 30 minute stroll downhill from the station we gave our names at the door and in we went. It's the first time I've had to give my name rather than a ticket, it made me feel very exclusive!

The set out of the hall is slightly odd. In the front half a bar, with a screen so you can watch the band (obviously able to hear) and then through a doorway to the section with the stage. About 10 metres across and 40 long, the traffic of people back and forth to the bar and inevitably toilet is brisk. The atmosphere was slightly reduced by the fact that a) it was still light halfway through the set and some of the blackout blinds hadn’t been pulled right down and b) someone had overheated to the point that the door on the side of the building was opened, which led to bemused locals staring in as they walked along the prom.

Support band Raven Age were already on stage when we arrived, which was unfortunate, because it would have been better to miss them. It's a cruel booking for them, giving them hope of kind future in the music business. They could have been virtually any other generic metal band. No fizz, no spark, not great presence. I think this might be the last we hear of them.

Then on to the main event. The immediate difference from last time I saw British Lion in London is the t-shirts. There is a mix of bands, but Maiden still dominates. A couple of British Lion 2013 tour shirts are available to buy from the merchandise table, clearly not selling as well as hoped. Having said that, from the start there is a hard core at the front who are really into the band, not in a way dissimilar to how Maiden fans behave. Whether that’s the British Lion effect or the Steve Harris effect I don’t know. A new addition from last year is a chant of “British Lion ole, ole, ole” to the tune of Yellow Submarine.

The band has only been together for a few days after Maiden finished the latest run of their tour, and it shows. The instrumentals aren’t tight, and during Lost World especially at the start of the show it sounds like passages have been forgotten and are being improvised. There were other moments where especially the blonde guitarist seems to have lost his way slightly. The singers voice was also a concern, as he introduced the band towards the end of the show he is noticeably hoarse, which would be a concern for the following night in Folkestone as well as moving forward on the tour.

It’s hard to gauge the quality of the sounds, because the layout of the room, curved ceilings, pillars and the location of the sound desk mean that it’s never going to be great. Having said that the mix was muddy throughout, it was hard to distinguish between the guitars, and the bass at times was overpowering everything else. There were also real issues with the acoustic guitar, which the singer uses during a couple of songs. Half the time it wasn’t clear that it was actually plugged in!

Having said all this, it was still a good evening. Good songs, played in front of an appreciative audience, with passable acoustics. If the singer can make his voice last and Steve’s fingers don’t fall off from too much plucking off strings, it’ll be another successful tour. And even if they can’t, around 50% of the audience only go so take picture and video of Steve Harris, so I doubt they’d care or even notice.

And anyway, you never want Harris to read a bad review, in case he gets angry!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

World Cup predictions

Everyone knows that predictions are a fools game, but we also know that there is nothing else to do when there isn’t football on that awful day after the group stages. So, just for fun, here is the way I see it going.

Second round

Brazil v Chile
Arguably the tie of the round and as the hosts enter the ‘must win’ territory of the knock0out phase the pressure will grow by the minute. Chile’s best chance is to hold off the early surge from Neymar and others, and try and keep the ball like they did so well in the group stage. If they can get to 60 minutes at 0-0 then the pressure might force Brazil into something silly. I don’t think they will be able to, but I don’t expect Brazil to win by any more than 1 goal.

Columbia v Uruguay
Without the only player who looked like a threat in front of goal (albeit against a schoolboy English defence) the Uruguayans will almost certainly not be strong enough for the all-conquering Columbians. The speed with which they move both the ball and themselves has already left their group opponents mesmerised, and I expect the same here. Comfortable win for the Columbians.

Netherlands v Mexico
Netherlands haven’t really had a tough match yet, other than for about 30 minutes combined they cruised through the group stage. Mexico have already parked the bus effectively against Brazil, and their best chance in this match will be doing the same again. Whether they can resist the temptation to go forward if the Dutch sit deep, inviting the counter, will be interesting to see. Expect the Netherlands to win, but it might not be done in 90 minutes.

Costa Rica v Greece
This could be an interesting game of style over substance, with the Greeks packing the midfield and their well-drilled defence, while the Costa Ricans looked good going forward against poor group opposition without being tested really at the back. This could end up being played mostly in the middle third of the pitch, and watch how soon the Greeks start playing for penalties. It’ll probably come down to a moment of brilliance or an error, and both circumstances favour the Costa Ricans.

France v Nigeria
France made enough changes in their last group game to come back fresh for this, and will the Nigerians have already put in their best performance in the loss to Argentina. I expect them to cause the French some problems, and if they score the first goal they might just cause a big upset. Having said that if France play like they did in the first two games, especially attack like they did against Switzerland it could be a rugby score. France to win, but not without difficulties.

Germany v Algeria
While Algeria might just be happy to be here I fancy them to cause the Germans some real problems, especially on the counter attack. Having said that Germany should have enough to see them off, don’t be surprised though if it’s very tight for the first 70 minutes.

Argentina v Switzerland
Argentina will win this without too many problems. Switzerland will be organised at the back but that won’t stop Messi if he brings anything like his top game. I don’t think the Swiss showed enough against the best team in their group to give an indication that they might even run Argentina close, so I expect this to be fairly comfortable.

Belgium v USA
I’ll start with an old cliché; either of these teams could win this game. The USA managed to get through despite losing to Germany and the Belgians never really got out of third gear in their group, despite winning all three games. If they can move into top gear then they’ll have enough to beat the USA, but they haven’t shown any sign of doing that yet, and a well-drilled USA side should have enough to reach the last 8.

I’ll update the predictions after the next round, but here is the way I see it going, at this stage.

Quarter finals

Brazil v Columbia
France v Germany
Netherlands v Costa Rica
Argentina v USA

Semi finals

Columbia v Germany
Netherlands v Argentina


Columbia v Argentina


Friday, June 27, 2014

World Cup power rankings 16 - 1

After the first half of the power rankings yesterday, it's time for the second half, including the best team from the group stages....

16. Croatia
One of the best teams not to make it through. Should have got at least a point against Brazil in the opening game, and then easily overcame Cameroon. Couldn’t quite hold back a Mexico team that went forward well in the last game, but the defence did basically look solid throughout.

15. Uruguay
A tough choice, given they have essentially been a one-man team, and especially considering who that man is. Offered nothing in the first game, before overcoming an England team that didn’t look like they knew where they were. The win against Italy was overshadowed by the bite from Suarez, and it’s hard to see them going any further without him.

14. Bosnia & Herzegovina
Best team not to qualify, very unlucky in their first trip to the finals. Should have had a draw against Argentina in the opening game but for an own goal in the first five minutes and a moment of Messi brilliance. Lost to Nigeria in a dull game but easily beat Iran. Well organised at the back and Dzeko could have done with a bit more support.

13. Costa Rica
Most people thought the first game against Uruguay was a freak result, but Arsenal player Joel Campbell looked just as dangerous in the shock win over an ordinary Italy side. They were happy to play out a dull 0-0 in the last game against England, but still have more to offer.

12. Algeria
Would have been ranked in the top 15 regardless of qualifying. Unlucky to lose to Belgium owing to a dubious penalty decision before one of the best 20 minutes of attacking football you’ll see to wipe away South Korea. Held on for a gutsy draw against a stoic Russian team to qualify for the first time.

11. Switzerland
Not inspiring but did more than enough to qualify from their group. Won the only game they needed to despite going behind against Ecuador before running into the irresistible French team who could have scored 10 in their second game. A comfortable win against Honduras including a hat-trick for Shaqiri saw them though.

10. Belgium
Haven’t lived up to expectations or hype just yet, but have efficiently cleaned up in the dullest group by far. Premier League players haven’t quite gelled together but they were caused few problems in their three matches.

9. Mexico
Should have scored more goals than they did, owing to mistakes from the officials in the first game against a lacklustre Cameroon. Executed their game plan against Brazil to perfection before coasting past Croatia. Defence looks just as solid as the forwards.

8. USA
Controversial selection after sneaking past Ghana and losing to Germany, but some of the football they have played merits their place in the top 8. The game against Portugal was played a blistering pace, and even though they lost Altidore in the first half of the opening game.

7. Chile
Probably the most stylish South American team in the competition. Player three very entertaining games in overcoming Australia and Spain before falling to Netherlands. Good players throughout the team, but will need Vidal back if they are to progress.

6. Brazil
Although they have coped well with the pressure and the emotion in the national anthems. Neymar has played well without hitting the heights, and they do look shaky at the back. In the first game against Croatia they should have got a point at best and then failed to break down Mexico, but they still have the ability to turn on the style at any minute.

5. France
The old cliché is you never know which France will turn up. In the first two games it was a flowing, ball moving joy with Benzema on good form. The third game saw changes made and a pretty dull 0-0 with Ecuador but the damage had already been done. They could go far.

4. Germany
Thomas Muller is the leading striker at the tournament but the Germans still haven’t really clicked on all levels. The thrashed a poor Portugal team in the first game and then scrambled a draw against Ghana in an entertaining clash. The last game against the USA was a bit of a washout, but having already secured their place it didn’t really matter.

3. Netherlands
No one expected much from this team, let alone blowing away the world champions effortlessly in the first game. Van Persie and Robben have been a revelation, playing with a pace and vigour that hasn’t been seen from them for a while. Also showed good grit to overcome Australia and then a professional performance against a decent Chile team.

2. Argentina
A tricky pick, because although they haven’t swept teams aside like Columbia or the Netherlands, but they have the outstanding player of the tournament. Messi has almost single-handedly won the game against Bosnia after a shaky start, Iran after a solid defensive showing and then Nigeria in one of the games of the competition. With Messi on the pitch anything is possible.

1. Columbia

Easily the best team in the competition so far, and not just for the dancing after their goals. Free-flowing football from front to back as they won the three group games, putting three past a stingy Greek defence before blowing away Japan in the last game. James Rodriguez looks especially good, scoring three goals already   

Obviously it should be said that three games is a tiny sample size and the quality of opposition faced has ranged wildly from team to team. Also, just because Columbia are top ranked doesn't mean I think they're going to go on and win, but you won't have long to wait as the knock-out phase predictions will be up tomorrow.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

World Cup power rankings 32-17

So the last of the group games has just finished, and there is a much needed day off tomorrow before we get to the business end of the World Cup, starting with Netherlands v Mexico on Saturday afternoon.

I won’t pretend that I’ve seen every kick, but of the 48 group games I’ve managed to see 28 live, another 11 in full recorded, listened to 3 others on the radio and seen highlights of the other 6. So, after the first round of matches, here is my ranking of every team. Obviously the best team might not win and the top 16 won’t be those who went through. This isn’t based on anything beyond the three group games that each team has played in the 2014 World Cup.

The first 16 are below, I’ll post the top 16 tomorrow, along with a prediction of how the knock-out phase will work out.

32. Honduras
When they played the pre-tournament friendly against England everyone thought they were a dirty side, but it turns out they really were going soft on us. Offered nothing in their three games, except cynical fouling and

31. Iran
Played arguably the dullest game of the tournament against Nigeria, unlucky not to get something from Argentina but missed a couple of clear cut chances. Other than that happy to sit back, defend and offer very little going forward. They did manage to provide the Iranian President with a nice photo op though.

30. Cameroon
Had an unlucky draw, but an even worse defence. Conceded 8 goals but should have been into double figures apart from poor decisions. Alex Song summed things up with the most stupid sending off in World Cup history against Croatia.

29. South Korea
Played out two fairly dull draws and got taken apart by Algeria in the space of 15 minutes. Have fallen a long way since 2002, no real strength in any position. Lack of physical presence in the final third of the pitch.

28. Japan
Really struggled to hit their stride, losing against Ivory Coast after taking the lead and being unable to break down an organised Greek team before being ripped apart by Columbia. Lacked an ability to control the ball and make the final cutting pass.

27. Australia
No quality but plenty of fight and guts in a group that virtually every team would have struggled against. Ran Chile and Netherlands close before folding against Spain, but did score the goal of the tournament through Tim Cahill.

26. England
Low expectations which were far from reached. Sloppy defending in the first two games and a blunt attack apart from two counters which produced the goals. So-called star players came up woefully short and tactically inept decisions from the manager.

25. Spain
Worst ever defending Champions at a World Cup, never recovered from the demolition Netherlands inflicted on them. The two centre backs looked like they had walked into the ground off the street and the attack gave little to lift the spirits.

24. Russia
Typical Fabio Capello team, well organised but lacking inspiration and at times pretty tough to watch. Only goal of the tournament came from some very poor Algerian defending , and spent most of their first two games happy to see time out in midfield, even when losing to Belgium.

23. Ivory Coast
Looked unsettled by the Drogba problem, even when beating Japan in the opening game. Ran Columbia close and unlucky to go out after a last minute Greece penalty. Needed a couple of the Premier League stars to step up and make a contribution.

22. Portugal
Didn’t help themselves by getting torn apart by Germany and having Pepe sent off for a head-butt. Lucky to get a point against the USA before beating a demoralised Ghana team. Always likely to be a one-man team but even Ronaldo couldn’t help them, and his tantrums told the story.

21. Greece
Played exactly how many thought they would, well organised at the back apart from the mauling by Columbia and offering very little going forward. Very fortunate to go through but cool head from Samaras to score the last minute penalty.

20. Ecuador
Nearly caught Switzerland cold in the first game, but lack of ambition against France illustrated by a reluctance to bring a striker off the bench even when needing a win. Struggled without their home altitude to protect them, only just got past a very poor Honduras team.

19. Italy
Clinical finishing to capitalise on two mistakes against England but offered little in the other two games, causing Costa Rica and Uruguay few problems. Pirlo didn’t look as good as we had hoped, and the forward line never really came to the party.

18. Ghana
Unlucky not to have taken more from their first two games. Not especially tight at the back but always looked strong going froward. Unfortunate that the curse of the World Cup team split hit them this year, and couldn’t pull off the miracle they needed against Portugal.

17. Nigeria
Looked well organised and some promising players in midfield. A little blunt going forward but did come alive through Musa against Argentina in the last game. Well organised at the back in front of a solid keepr, only breached by Messi, which is nothing to cry about.

The next batch will be up tomorrow….

Friday, June 13, 2014

Tax justice tour with ActionAid

Do this tour for yourself!!!!

Just before the World Cup fever completely takes over every aspect of life, my wife and I spent a very enjoyable couple of hours walking around Mayfair with some very cool people who are all supporting ActionAid in their campaign for Tax Justice.

Tax evasion and avoidance are issues which affect virtually every country in the world. Even in the UK celebrities like Jimmy Car and Gary Barlow have taken advantage of the myriad of complex schemes available to legally avoid paying the pull tax due. At the same time there are massive cuts to public services going on, people are relying on foodbanks, the NHS is being cut. Can you see the link?

But it’s an even bigger issue elsewhere in the world, where some big companies are taking advantage of tax havens, shell companies and all sorts of other shady dealings to deny some of the poorest countries in the world money which they are owed. It’s money which could transform these societies.

There were around 10 stops on the tour, taking in some of the wealthiest, most lavish (and frankly most repulsive) parts of London. I counted three yacht shops, which shockingly are exactly what you would think, but lost count of the number of Ferraris and Porches in the street (and homeless people for that matter!).

It is possible that people who avoid tax spend money which should be used for societal good at places like this. I wouldn't be seen dead here.
We started at Barclays (BOOO!) who are encouraging companies to take advantage of Mauritius as a tax haven. Interestingly the branch was next door to a Boots, who have had their own issues with tax return forms recently. Interestingly throughout the whole evening we never heard stories of people on the Minimum Wage avoiding tax, but then we are all in this together aren't we.

I won’t give too much away on the rest of the tour, because you should on it yourself! But I will say that I was shocked how much tax is being avoided, how many of the FTSE 100 companies are at it and what lengths they will go to in order to dodge the tax that rightfully belongs to citizens around the world. We heard about Ghana and Zambia where ActionAid and their friends are doing great work, but many other countries are entangled.

While there wasn’t any suggestion that anyone is doing anything illegal, that doesn’t mean that tax avoidance isn’t pretty ugly and those who are doing it are morally bankrupt (if financially boosted!). As for those mercenaries who work for companies helping all of this happen, I wonder how they sleep at night.

It wasn’t all downbeat, by the end we were hearing of real progress being made by ActionAid. It just goes to show that when god people come together they can triumph over the collective evil which the world throws at them. If you haven’t ever been to Mayfair before, or even if you have but didn’t know that some of the people who operate there have pretty loose morals, then this is a tour you can’t afford to miss.

This issue really is a no-brainer. You don't have to be a socialist to think it's wrong, you just have to have a heart and think that every country should get the tax it is due from companies and individuals. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Iron Maiden, fans and the ‘Luxembourg Issue’

Iron Maiden have undoubtedly one of the most hard-core fan bases of any band in the world. Fans routinely travel across Europe and even further to see them play, and at the last gig they performed in the UK, at the O2 last August, I met three guys who had flown over from Australia for the two nights, at one month notice.

Since they reformed in 1999 shows in small venues have been at a premium, during the summer even more so as they opt to play to maximum numbers in fewest shows by doing the festival circuit around Europe with a few stadium shows thrown in for good measure. So imagine the excitement when on February 12 it was announced that they would be playing the Rockhal in Luxembourg. The capacity for the Rockhal is just over 6,500, which would be the smallest gig of the tour, and one of the smallest (at least by venue size) since the band got back together.

The FanClub message board buzzed for a couple of days. The announcement hadn’t originally said that much about the venue, except it being the first gig in Luxembourg since 1983. So the following day when the FanClub members had first chance to buy tickets, many did. The day after they went on general sale and shifted within a couple of hours. As you would expect, from the band that sold out the O2 in 45 minutes and the Friends Arena in Sweden (60,000) in under an hour.

The intimate 6,000 capacity Rockhal in Luxembourg
So far so good then, everyone who got a ticket is happy, and of the 20 gigs announced for 2014Luxembourg is set to be the fifth and final indoor one (at the time of selling out, only three indoor shows had been announced, the other two in Hungary and Bulgaria).

Fast forward two weeks to this Monday just gone, when the following announcement appeared on the Maiden website:

Due to overwhelming demand, the Iron Maiden tour date in Luxembourg on July 1st will now be held at the 12,000 capacity main field at the Rock-A-Field Festival Ground, Roeser after the original location at Rockhal sold out within two hours, the fastest ever sell-out time at this indoor venue. Swedish heavy rock phenomenon, Ghost will be special guests at this show.

A generic field somewhere in Luxembourg
I didn’t even have time to log on to the FanClub boards before they were ablaze with people ripping into the band’s management for this decision. I can only add my voice to theirs; this seems such a cynical play for a band who repeatedly tells us that the fans are their number one concern. We knew deep down it was never true, but to have to displayed so openly was still a shock.
I’ll just summarise the points as to why this decision is one of the worst Maiden have ever made

  • The fans who brought the tickets were promised an indoor gig, not an outdoor one
  • The lights, sounds, atmosphere are all vastly superior indoors
  • They were also promised the smallest gig of the tour, not 12,000 capacity
  • The new venue is over 15 miles away from the original and public transport is a nightmare, by all accounts
  • They could have booked the Rockhal for another night, which would have given more capacity than one night in Roeser

This isn’t just a one-off though, it’s the culmination of a relationship between the management and fans which has been going slowly bad for a while. I am one of the most evangelical Iron Maiden fans you could ever wish to (or not to, as the case may be) meet, but these are the current facts for the band.

  • We haven’t had a new album since 2010, and only two in the last 11 years
  • Since Dance of Death was released in 2003, Maiden have toured every year with no full years off, yet of those tours eight have been Best Of/ Greatest Hits line-ups, only two showcasing new material
  • The 2014 Maiden England tour will be the third year running that this tour has been on the road. We understand that the band (especially Nicko) can’t do long tours anymore, but that doesn’t mean that we have to have this tour going round Europe for the second year running, playing only a few countries that haven’t already seen it, does it?
  • Bruce finds the time to appear on BBC Breakfast talking about planes and Steve and Adrian have both done solo projects, since the last album was released.

Add on to all of this the way which gigs are announced these days and it’s easy to see why fans get so worked up. There aren’t many fans, admittedly, who go around Europe,  but you would think that while there were any then steps should be taken to ensure they have access to all information. I’ll just give two examples, last year the drip-feeding of dates led to the Friends Arena gig being announced and going on sale within 48 hours. The choice of gigs on offer at the time was scant, so I got my tickets, despite it being expensive, having doubts over the sound and being a swine to get to. Two weeks later, a gig at Bercy in Paris is announced, cheap, easy to get to and great sound.

Fast forward then to mid-June, when Bruce announces a gig at the O2 (later to become two) on 3 August, it’s a pain because people have booked summer holidays, travelled to Europe after being told there would be no UK gig other than Download festival. People still buy tickets though; the last night of the tour is always special. So what do Maiden do? Add a second night, the next day, 4 August, so now you’re no longer seeing the final night unless you buy another ticket.

Oh year, ticket prices have also gone up £15-20 each in the last couple of years, but that’s another blog post….

Monday, January 20, 2014

Gig review: Iron Maiden in London (O2 4/8/13)

[Note: For some reason this didn't publish at the time, so enjoy now!]

My review of the first night at the O2 is here

It's been almost two years to the day since I last did two Maiden gigs in two days, so I wasn't really surprised when I awoke on the morning of the second slightly stiff and hoarse. However like the soldier I am the show must go on, so back to the O2, this time without the family in tow. Entering the arena at 6:15, again with no problem at all from the ticketless process other than a comment from one of those manning the bag search area asking if I was here last night too. He seemed surprised that this was the case, clearly knowing very little about Iron Maiden fans.

I was faced with the dilemma of whether to simply enjoy the gig in the relative safety of the sound desk and try to take everything in for the last time, or to go completely nuts and try to get as close to the front as I could. It wasn't ever a serious choice, my legs taking me naturally as close to the front as possible, where I settled in for the 90 minute wait for the support band.

While waiting I got chatting to a couple of young lads, one attending his first Maiden gig, the other his second. Neither of them knew anything about the show or the set list they should be expecting, so not wanting to ruin the surprise I didn't say anything, simply asked each of them what their favourite Maiden album is. The first replied "A Matter of Life and Death, but I don't really know anything from before Brave New World" and the second, "I only really like The Final Frontier". At that point I decided to leave those guys to it. However, shortly after that I got talking to a couple, the man of which described himself to me as "a massive Maiden fan, since the 80's" and he then went on to tell me how sad he was this was their last ever gig. I pointed out not only the new album coming but even the America and South America tour in a few weeks, but it didn't seem to register. Thus the difference between casual fan and Maiden fan is well illustrated, and I still think £60 is a fair amount to pay to see a band when you only like one album (no offence to fans of Mumford and Sons).

The first things I noticed looking around the venue is that the top portion of seating is curtained off from 4 o'clock round to 8 o'clock (if you imagine the stage is 12 o'clock in the arena. This probably amounts to around 1,500 seats I would guess but shows that the demand for this show couldn't live up to either the previous night or the advertised hype (this was also latterly advertised as sold out).
You can just about make out the curtained off area at the top of the picture above
Lights go down and on come Zico Chain. I have written extensively about their music before here  so won't go into detail. I'll just say that they played for longer, and didn't quite live up to those dizzy heights this time round. Let me say this about the crowd during the support, most of them behaved exactly how they should, standing disengaged with arms crossed. But the idiots who tried to get futher forward by pretending to mosh and windmill are not cool. The big guy with grey hair who told them to stop (that was the gist of it) was!

Another 40 minutes to kill and soon people who have clearly just entered try to barge past with friends/beer. Then there were the two shirtless guys who were singing variably about hating Palace, loving Sussex and then trying to get Doctor Doctor going about 20 minutes before the start of Maiden. Still they were harmless enough. Until, I could feel some flecks of water on my shins, I was tapping my feet at the time so guessed it must have been spilt beer, then the smell hit me. Yes, one of our shirtless Palace haters was openly urinating onto the floor. Rock and roll. Don't get me wrong I'm not complaining, you go to a gig you take the rough with the smooth and the beer with the urine, but just trying to give a flavour of the night.

So for the last time the lights go down and Doctor Doctor gives way the the video screens with the ice falling and flyover shots of what looks a little like the North Pole. As hands go into the air I notice there are a lot of people wearing only one wristband, the green one for the Sunday night, there are hardly any pink ones from Saturday. Either people are not as concerned about showing their dedication as I am or people haven't done both gigs.

The set list is the same as last night, the same band members come out onto the stage and play, but it is a totally different gig. The start is the same explosion of hype and energy which lasts through Moonchild, but it's when the first chords of Can I Play With Madness kick in that the change is noticeable. I'm about 6 rows from the front standing at this point and I'm carried forward by the surge of the crowd, turning round it's not a surge at all but a clearing for a massive circle pit which has developed. It goes on, and on, and on for much of the show, even the slows parts of the melodic songs.

The start of Running Free, the final song for the final time and the crowd are doing their best to ensure they are completely spent by the end. By this time I'm pretty much standing directly in front of Dave Murray's monitor, having been shoved leftwards during the show by the pit. But wait, Janick Gers has suddenly come over to this side of the stage for the last song, leaning against the stage like he owns the place (and playing his guitar in much the same way)

After the final pyro has cracked and the sweatbands and drum sticks have been thrown into the crowd the band seem as reluctant to leave the stage as the crowd are to see them go. Bruce holds the microphone saying a very fond farewell before passing it on to Dave Murray, who says a simple "Thanks" but gets the loudest cheer of the night. The loudest cheer that is until the mic gets passed to Adrian, who looks as if he has just been handed a ticking bomb, he holds it up, the crowd waits with breath held for the pearl of wisdom, which is "Oh, f**king hell, cheers then" the place literally erupts. I was genuinely concerned the roof would fly off, just like in the t-shirts.

I cheered so loudly I closed my eyes, open them just in time to see Nicko throwing his drum risers into the crowd and turning to jog off the stage, one gangling leg after the other. And that was it, they were gone. The crowd stood, patiently, waiting for the next installment. Everyone knew they weren't coming back, but that didn't stop the chants of "We want more" and "Maiden, Maiden, Maiden"

Monty Python takes over, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life is whistled by a content 13,000 odd punters. I try to take a quick route to the mixing desk to find my mate who I'm meeting for a pint, but can't move. It's not just sticky floor but the fact hits me that I'll never see some of these songs again live. The moments from this tour, which I have been waiting for more than half my life, are gone. Stored in the same part of the brain which hold the most precious memories of my life, but I'll never hear Afraid to Shoot Strangers again. It feels stupid to be upset about it, because the gigs on this tour have been a complete bonus but I can't help but wipe the tears from my face with my sweat soaked t-shirt.

The pint in the pub afterwards (lemonade for me) soothes the vocal chords but not the impending feeling of emptiness that there are no more gigs left. Leaving the others behind making my way back to Stratford people are talking on the tube which keeps the feeling alive for a few more precious minutes, but going my own way I'm on my own. I meet someone on the way home who asks what I've been doing this evening. I don't question his stupidity that I'm wearing ripped cut off jeans and an Iron Maiden t-shirt which says exactly where I've been, but instead resign myself to the fact that the question means that the moment has gone, and normal life has returned.

Full set list:

Can I play With Madness
The Prisoner
2 Minutes to Midnight
Afraid to Shoot Strangers
The Trooper
The Number of the Beast
Phantom of the Opera
Run to the Hills
Wasted Years
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
The Clairvoyant
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden
Churchill's Speech
Aces High
The Evil That Men Do
Running Free