Tailgunner 

I first saw Iron Maiden 9,698 days ago as a wide eyed sixteen year old. They’d been my favourite band for a number of years, but it took a while until I finally got to see them. My parents wouldn’t let me see them during their Seventh Son tour in 1988 when they played Birmingham’s NEC Arena. 

1990 was the first chance I had to see the band on stage and I grabbed it firmly with both hands. In the intervening twenty six and a half years I will have seen them more than two dozen times with two different vocalists and in six different countries – not huge by some people’s standards, but I’ve seen well over a twelve hundred different bands. 

The October 16th gig was also the last time that they played in the Potteries. When a UK tour was a big deal for bands and they played the length and breadth of the country stopping at places I’d never heard of as a kid. I spent so much time looking in awe on their singles promoting the latest tour when you’d come across the Victoria Hall. How I’d loved to have seen the World Slavery Tour (September 27th 1984) or the Somewhere On Tour jaunt (October 22nd 1986) in that building. In all they played the venue eight times, I’m so glad I got to see them in there once. 

As the current tour is heavily promoting the Book of Souls release there is only limited space for their back catalogue, and Tailgunner unfortunately doesn’t make the cut. Nothing from the 1990 album is in the set list and nothing has been featured since Can I Play With Madness was included during their 2014 tour. None of the other album tracks have even had a look in since the early 90’s. 

I’ve gone for this track as I’d never seen the video before – I’m pretty sure it’s unofficial as it was never a single and there’s no live concert release for this tour. It’s also the very first song that this wide eyed Maiden fan ever experienced. 

Later this month I’m taking my youngest nephew to see Eddie and the boys in Liverpool – his first concert. He’ll be several years younger than I was, but I never had a cool uncle who’d take me to concerts at his age. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s still into live music in a quarter of a century. I have my doubts because he’s currently at that age where he has a seemingly short attention span. The amount of different hobbies and interests he’s had for a thirteen year old is phenomenal. 

Can I Play With Madness

Well heading out to Manchester to catch the brutal death metal double header of Vader and Immolation tonight failed miserably. 

At one point today I was ahead of myself thanks to a distinct lack of parents taking their prima donna kids to the school just around the corner from their house. Shortly after that it took me a good ninety minutes to make four deliveries. That was the point I knew I’d be confined to the house. 

I got home just before 4pm, the gig didn’t start for at least another three hours or so. All fine and dandy if you have gainful employment that starts at a decent time of day. When I’ve already been up for a dozen hours with less than two hours before I had to get a train I had no time for a power nap. Yes, I’m getting old and decrepit! 

I’ve been a bear with a sore head as it is this evening – as my significant other can attest too – with out the added burden of a couple of train trips and some death metal thrown in to the mix. I’d just get frustrated, over tired and wouldn’t enjoy myself. And a knock on effect would be carrying over my dark mood into another day. 

As a consolation prize I’m giving Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album a spin. Today (or probably yesterday by the time anyone reads this) marked the twenty ninth anniversary of one of the band’s finest hours. 

By the time this rolled out in 1988 I’d been listening to them for a little while and already gathered their back catalogue. Seventh Son was the first release that I actually purchased myself as close to its release date as I could. I’m not going to go all egotistical and say I was first in line at Lotus Records, obviously as a fourteen year old I was probably in school on that particular Monday morning. For some reason though I’m thinking it still could have been the Easter holidays. 

I have it secreted I my mind that I snagged my copy of the 12″ picture disc vinyl, with the wall banner, and I can recall opening it and playing it at my grandparents house and they lived a good ten miles away and we always had to travel their on bus. I don’t know why things like that are lodged in my brain, but I have a fair few memories of them both surrounded by some of my musical landmarks. Having to swap buses just over half way in the town where Lotus Records, Mike Lloyds Music and Our Price was on my way there could have been a factor too. 

Can I Play With Madness was the debut single from the album and reached number three in the UK charts. When this came out you knew it wouldn’t be long until the album was in your sweaty palms. The video to this was filmed on location at Tintern Abbey on the Welsh side of the River Wye. It also features Monty Python man Graham Chapman as the unlucky teacher in what was to be one of his last TV appearances (he passed away in 1989). 

I don’t think the band ever went on chart flagship programme Top of the Pops to promote it and I distinctly remember the video being show, mainly because they cut a fair chunk off the end of it. It’s always the small things!

The glorious Derek Riggs single artwork was also the design on my very first Iron Maiden shirt. I might have it tucked away somewhere, but now it is more holes in ratio to material. 

Roll on May for some live Maiden worship. 

The Number Of The Beast

March 12th is a somewhat bittersweet day in the annals of the Iron Maiden family. 

Back on this day 1956 Stephen Percy Harris was born. If things had been different Steve Harris may well have been a professional footballer for his beloved West Ham United. The rock and roll lifestyle was more alluring and he taught himself the bass guitar and joined Gypsy’s Kiss less than a year later. 

On Christmas Day 1975 the initial seeds for the unstoppable juggernaut of Iron Maiden were sown, and as they say, the rest is history. Forty plus years further on down the line he is still the main driving force behind the band. 

Four years ago though in 2013 Clive Burr passed away in his sleep due to complications from multiple sclerosis aged 56. He was the band’s fourth drummer, replacing Doug Sampson and featured on the band’s first three albums. 

He is considered to be a very smooth and ultimately influential drummer amongst the metal fraternity, but Burr eventually embraced the darker side of the rock and roll life style and many poor performances were allegedly put during the North American leg of the Beast on the Road tour in 1982. During the same tour his father passed away and he flew back to England to support his family. 

At the end of the tour he was unceremoniously dumped from the band and his stand in during his fortnight away, Nicko McBrain, has been there ever since. 

What seemed to be an acrimonious split was healed when his illness was diagnosed in the mid 90’s, and the band played several shows to support spiralling medical bills. I had chance to attend one of the shows at the Hammersmith Odeon in 2005, but for whatever reason I couldn’t make it and it’s a slight regret all this time later. 

Taken from the bands ground breaking album of the same name, The Number of the Beast gave them their debut number one album and the lead off single from the album – Run to the Hills – was the first single to crack the top ten singles chart in 1982.  

Heaven Can Wait

  

A quick post and a “happy birthday” to my favourite Iron Maiden album Somewhere in Time released 30 years ago today – 29th September 1986. 

It’s one of the first Maiden albums I heard and has stuck with me through thick and thin for nearly three decades. The artwork and general packaging is glorious – Derek Riggs’ finest hour? I spent many an hour drooling over the artwork searching for the references and in jokes. The songs are an added bonus. The accompanying tour is one I would dearly wanted to have been able to attend, but I was only 12 when it hit the Victoria Hall and I’d never heard of Iron Maiden in 1986! It’s such a travesty that after the gigantic World Slavery tour the band didn’t record a full show for a future live release. 
  

I gushed a bit about this album in the second or third post on this blog nearly a year ago – go and have a search for Stranger in a Strange Land. It’s not really irony, but almost, that this week has been quite an Iron Maiden themed seven days. 

Last week their first arena tour on home turf for six years was announced for 2017. Tickets go on sale tomorrow, but I already have tickets in the bag for four of their thirteen British and Irish dates thanks to being a member of their fan club, the second time fan club exclusivity has aided me in three days. Even before tickets have reached general sale a second London show has been added due to “phenomenal demand”. 

This live version of the Somewhere in Time album track Heaven Can Wait is taken from the Flight 666 DVD and recorded during their Somewhere Back In Time tour of 2008 and 2009. 
  

Live Arena 2016.20

Well the weekend just gone was another bust for the proposed gigs I was considering going to. I have actual tickets for things for this upcoming week so after what seems like an eternity I should get to see some on stage action this week. 

Wednesday – Buckely, The Tivoli

I have no ticket for this, so I may or may not be in North Wales on Wednesday evening. LA Guns are doing a handful of UK shows over the week, but nothing closer to me than this that I can attend. Watch this space. 
  

Friday – London, The Black Heart

My rota week off starts Saturday, so pretty much straight from work I’m on a train down to London for an evening of mainly thrash metal. I think it’s the first time over here for the three international bands on the bill, but I’m not 100% if Solstice ever made it over first time around. My train gets me home at 1:30am, so glad I booked Saturday as a holiday. 
  

Saturday – Bromsgrove, Stoke Prior Sports Club

I managed to snag one of the last tickets for this three day event. I’m not overly fussed by the majority of the line up, bands I’ve seen loads or no interest in at all. My main draw is for German Teutonic thrashers Godslave playing just after 7pm. This is now their second UK show after they added a late show in London on the Friday. 
  

Saturday – Hanley, The Underground

As I should be away from there early enough I’m hoping to catch the EP launch by local band Fallen. Fingers crossed for no delays on the 67 mile drive back home. 
  

Sunday – Munich, Olympic Stadium

With a week to go this is still up in the air for me. A few friends are going over for the day to celebrate a birthday, but when I was originally asked I declined. Now one has dropped out, so there’s a ticket and a seat on a plane going to waste. How can I say no to Iron Maiden, Slayer and Anthrax all on the same day? Failing that I’ll be back in Bromsgrove. 
   

  

Powerslave

This one is a bit of a cheat as the first song played through the iPod today, but what the hell. Today’s “random” track is Powerslave by the one and only Iron Maiden. I was part way through a Maiden playlist and this is where I left off last night.

As Metallica appear to be entrenched in the States and only playing odd stadium shows here and there, it appears seeing them live this year is uneconomical for me. Therefore 2016 has been christened the year of Maiden!

I can’t recall too many times in recent years where both bands have played close together in Europe. Maybe the last time was the last edition of the UK version of Sonisphere? I can’t recall both bands appearing at the same festival over here during the same weekend, besides the worst kept secret of the weekend when Metallica played a shortened “secret” set at Download 2003. Thankfully it means I can direct my time and effort at one major band a year. Hopefully 2017 will be the year of Metallica?

I get to see Maiden again twice this summer which pleases me, but I keep looking at the tour dates and think can I do any more? I did look into the Madrid date earlier today, but so far all its involved has been looking. It doesn’t feel like almost two months since we were in the snow and ice of Ontario.

As mentioned in the ramblings about Toronto, the new stuff worked really well in the set, but as someone with a penchant for the last three 80’s releases, Powerslave – the song – was the pinnacle of the set. It didn’t get any better than this. Close, but no cigar.

This live version is, I think (embarrassingly it’s been that long since I sat down and watched it) is from the Live After Death video, a bygone era when the band had more hair and a love for spandex, but three decades later they still bound around the stage with almost the same youthful exuberance. When the World Slavery tour passed through Stoke-on-Trent on September 26th 1984 I was only 11, needless to say I never saw them on this cycle. Actually it’d be another couple of years before I’d even know who Iron Maiden were.

I played the double vinyl to death and wore out the VHS cassette when I first had them. It’s a good job that CDs and DVDs are much more robust. The album only spanned five releases, but to me it was like a greatest hits release.

Iron Maiden – Toronto, Air Canada Centre – 3.4.16

  
The crux of my trip across the Atlantic Ocean to a frozen five days in Ontario was for one reason only and that was to catch Iron Maiden on their worldwide Book of Souls tour. 

Why travel for 3,428 miles one way to see a band who I’ve seen in excess of 20 times and are playing literally on my doorstep in June?  

To begin with, because it’s Iron Maiden. Shows aren’t exclusive to citizens of that city, country or even continent. Heavy metal is a global family. The three of us in attendance were most definitely not the only ones from the UK there, and out of the 14,000 inside the Air Canada Centre on Sunday evening I’d hazard a guess of a sizeable contingent of people there representing multiple pages from an atlas. 

Secondly, it’s indoors. I go to quite a few festivals, but as mentioned before, I’m not overly keen on the giant events like where their only UK date is scheduled for in June at the Download Festival with another 90,000 people in attendance. With my advancing years I prefer the more intimate surroundings with marginally better creature comforts and actually being able to hear the acts regardless of where you are situated, without the wind swirling the sound around and making your vantage point pot luck as to whether you hear all or some of the sound emanating from the stage that could be a quarter of a mile away. 

  

Gig day should have been a full on, wall to wall Maiden fest. It should of kicked off around noon with the Trooper pre party held in the Tilted Kilt bar directly across the road from the hotel, but due to me being ill I didn’t make an appearance there till 4pm, just as it was time to head off on the short walk in the snow to the Air Canada Centre. 

  

One of our travelling party booked us in for the Trooper VIP party at the arena. On arrival we saw a merchandise stall in the concourse and proceeded to snag our Canadian specific event shirts. When we signed in for the VIP we were handed out Trooper branded goodie bags and another shirt of the same design that we’d just paid $50 for. Schoolboy error! We were able to swap them, but if we weren’t I’m sure there would have been takers on eBay. 

  

We were herded through the doors at 5:30 and taken into the bowels of the arena to the Platinum Club for more free Trooper and bar snacks. As to not risk missing the main event I declined everything put out in front if me. Sixty minutes later we headed into the main bowl to check out The Raven Age. 

  
Bounding on stage with all their youthful exuberance the London five piece ploughed through their short set of modern metal with a very eager parent watching on from the mixing desk. To our left was Steve Harris, who’s son George is the guitarist in The Raven Age. They appeared to go down well with the Canadian metal heads in attendance and made some new friends. 

As UFO’s Doctor Doctor rumbles through the PA those in the know are whipped into a frenzy as we know what is imminent. The lights go down, the video intro rolls on the large screens either side of the stage and the road crew unveil the Mayan stage set in the darkness. The almost spoken intro to If Eternity Should Fail sees Bruce Dickinson alone on top of the stage in front of a smoking urn before the band kicks in and the breaks are let off the roller coaster. 

  
Seamlessly new song Speed of Light follows and sounds better live than on album. Delving back into the 80’s, Children of the Dammed gets a slot in the set for the first time in seven years and splits up a run of four new songs from the current album. A song most Maiden diehards want to see live since the albums release is The Red and the Black, which rounds out the first five songs, and goes down really well, even with its long instrumental ending. 

The Trooper, a stalwart of a Maiden live show, sees Bruce resplendent in his red tunic and waving the Union flag high above his head. It is followed by the epic Powerslave before another pair of new songs. As with all Maiden shows there is that element of pantomime and theatrics involved. Whether it’s the afore mentioned Powerslave sung with a Mexican wrestling mask on, Hallowed be Thy Name accompanied with a hang mans noose or the giant axe wielding savage Eddie that struts on stage during The Book of Souls and ends up having his heart ripped out and sacrificed to the Mayan gods. 

  
A trio of classics closes out the main body of the set and the now standard huge Eddie head rises at the back of the stage during Iron Maiden. Not the most technical looking of props that have been seen, but it is easily one of the best looking heads as it looks so much bigger and textured than most seen before. 

  
The encore opens up with Number of the Beast with another huge inflatable appearing on stage in the form of the devil with his arms crossed overseeing proceedings. Possibly the curve balls of the evening are the last two tracks. Blood Brothers hasn’t seen the light of day since 2011’s Final Frontier tour and the set closed with Wasted Years, which has been pretty regular but never closing the set. 

With a career spanning four decades and a limited amount of stage time there are always going to be songs people want to see that have been left out, but it is refreshing not to hear certain songs tour after tour after tour. 

  
No doubt I’ll see them again in Europe later this year and probably at their spiritual home of Donington, but fingers crossed they’ll announce an arena tour of the UK later on as standing in a field with 90,000 people won’t get anywhere near as good as the evening spent with mainly 14,000 Canadians.