"I don't want to have as much energy as they do when I am their age. I want to have half as much energy as they do now." -- my husband, David, on Iron Maiden
One of the highlights of our summer vacation was seeing Iron Maiden in New Jersey on July 2. My first encounter with this band was from Matthew Martin, one of my biggest influences as a pre-teen. To me, Matt could do no wrong. He was cute, funny, smart, and above all, cool. If Matt thought it was cool, it was cool. Matt was the guy who got me into heavy metal, and for that, I will be eternally grateful. His room was covered in posters from heavy metal bands, and I eagerly drank their music in: Motley Crue, Kiss, and many others, except one: Maiden scared me because of Eddie, their mascot. He is drawn for teenage boys, not teenage girls, and Eddie grossed me out. So, I dismissed Iron Maiden as "too hard" for me. Cue that wonderful invention of the 90s, Napster: I decided to download a couple of IM songs, cuz what do you have to lose when they're free, right? I got "The Wicker Man" and "Run To The Hills" (note to IM if you are reading this: I promise, I have since purchased them). The melodic sounds of the former and the catchy riff of the latter appealed to me, but I was still totally into glam rock, and I assumed those two songs were aberrations and not indicative of Maiden.
What ignited my love of this band was the release of their single "El Dorado" off "The Final Frontier," their 2010 studio album. Eddie Trunk played it on his show and I was blown away, like mouth-hanging-open blown away. The song rocks. I was amazed by Bruce Dickinson's character vocals: "El Dorado" is about a hustler/huckster and Bruce nails that character. I could envision such a character on a Broadway stage. I was also blown away that a 30 year-old band was still kicking so much ass. This led me to investigate more IM, and the rest is history. The only benefit of not having discovered them earlier is that now I get to spend some time delving into their amazing catalog. Their melodic music, thoughtful lyrics and song themes really speak to me. Steve Harris writes about epic, mythic topics, and the band is quite literary. If my English teachers had played IM's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" I would have paid more attention to that book. I also appreciate IM's thoughtful treatment of spiritual matters, such as in "Infinite Dreams." Years of listening to Rush, with Neil Peart's unending disparagement of religion, have made me a little sheepish about being a believer and a rock fan.
IM doesn't tour in the United States often, so we were bummed that they were playing the D.C. area on Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath, when we are unable to travel to a show, listen to music, or engage in the commercial activities that entail going to a concert. Undeterred, we scored tickets to the show in NJ. I had heard often that IM puts on an energetic show, and they didn't disappoint us. I was glad to hear some old favorites like "Phantom of the Opera," "Can I Play With Madness?" and "The Trooper," and learn some new ones, like "Afraid To Shoot Strangers." I enjoyed Bruce's bantering with the audience, like getting the crowd totally worked up about Independence Day and then saying, "Doesn't mean a thing to me. I'm British!"
The stage was just impressive. Eddies abounded. Oh, how they abounded: massive animatronic Eddies, Eddies as backdrops, huge puppet Eddies, and even air-inflatable Eddies. They didn't turn off the explosion machines, to paraphrase Butthead, and they had these fire-shooting pillars that were so hot, you could feel them from very far back. The band played for two solid hours. It would be unfair to not give a shout-out to Alice Cooper, the opening act. He put on a great show, as he has since the 1960s. He's still being resurrected after every "killing" on stage, too. Impressive! Alice and his touring band were energetic, and just on. I enjoyed hits from way back in the catalog, like "School's Out," as well as 80s resurgence songs like "Poison" and "Feed My Frankenstein." I thought he was a good warmup for IM.
Since buying an IM t-shirt and cloth tote bag at the show, I've noticed an interesting cultural phenomenon. IM fans compliment me in public. There aren't that many of them where I hang out in D.C., but when they're around, they say something. Today, a guy flirted with me outside the Rockville Metro station after eying my shirt, and a clerk at The Container Store complimented my tote. David has gotten the same treatment when he wears his IM shirt.