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

Tribute to Andy Matthews

It’s been a tough year for the wider Iron Maiden family. Last year we lost former drummer Clive Burr and Steve Gadd of drum tech and tour management fame. Now Andy Matthews, relatively recent addition to the Killer Krew with responsibility for IMTV and recent DVD releases as well as directing the filming of concerts on a nightly basis.

Andy Matthews (centre) died last week
He was diagnosed with lung cancer in September 2013, and though it was thought to be treatable he died last week. He had been planning to take part in the latest charity bike ride of the Heavy Metal Truants in Cambodia.

En Vivo was the third Maiden concert to be officially released since the reformation of the band in 1999 and followed Rock in Rio (2001) and Death on the Road (2003). While both of those shows were good, the hasty editing and jumpy cuts in Death on the Road actually make it quite difficult to watch. While some thought the same about the many and varied split screens employeed in En Vivo, the overall viewing experience is enhanced.

I only ever met him once, at the last night of the most recent Maiden England tour at the O2. I was milling around in the venue waiting for the main doors to open and out of some side door comes Andy with his camera at the ready. “Are you filming for IMTV” I asked, “Sure am” he replied, “Can I be on it, I was here last night as well” as I proudly showed my two wristbands from the weekends gigs. The response, as he continued walking by, laughing “You’ve got more of a face for radio, mate”. I didn’t take it personally, I know of others who he said very similar things to, and I have had many others say similar things to me.

Andy was without doubt an integral part of Maiden shows since 2009. Whenever he came out on stage to film the crowd it signalled the serious build up to maiden coming on, they were never more than 10 minutes behind Andy, and he also did a much better job of whipping the crowd up than any support band I can think of.

Given the unenviable job he had of trying to organise the filming of, and spotlights for, 5 members of Iron Maiden on a nightly basis with an in-house crew who frequently didn’t speak English Andy always maintained his humour and good nature. There’s a great part in the documentary on the En Vivo release where he is trying to explain to a crew about the band members, before resorting to calling them by numbers.

The warmth of feeling from Fan Club members on the message board is testament to how much everyone enjoyed his company and appreciated his work. He was normally to be found in a local bar before (and frequently after) the gig, and always gave the impression that he was just like us, except he got to live our dream, travelling the world watching Maiden every night.

Matthews gave En Vivo something which was missing from previous DVD releases