Iron Maiden

Brixton Academy. March 20th & 21st 2002

Ahhhhhh, Maiden. There's something about them for me. Very few bands are having the effect of making me want to get up off my fat lazy arse and actually go and see them these days, but when these gigs were announced, well, safe to say I was one of those attempting to order tickets at 9am the day they went on sale. I almost decided to go to all 3, but in the end just settled for 2. There's just nothing quite like a Maiden gig. Well, if you're a fan that is.

So this is kind of an amalgamation of both nights. The quick summary is, Wednesday, yeah, ok. Thursday, incendiary, onfire, tearing all the current crop of bands a new arsehole, 'kin awesome, there's going to have to be something absolutely special to top it as gig of the year already for me.

So waddya know, both night I managed to arrive only shortly before Krusher finished his DJ slot. To me, this late arrival was "a good thing". There may have been legitimate reasons for there being no support band, that's fair enough, but Krusher? Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

Still, he's cleared off, the stage is readied. You look around. Packed and rafters. And thoughts, senses. People talk about community, a sense of belonging, scenes to be a part of in music. And they're normally quite "underground" in their outlook. But you know what, I don't think I've ever felt more a part of anything in music than at a Maiden gig. I don't really know anyone here, but I feel comfortable, a lot more comfortable than I do at many other gigs. And it's not just old farts with long hair and tight jeans like me here. There are young people too. It just feels good, like it ought to be, like people kind of idealise a lot of the time.

And there's few gigs I see these days where the chants of the band name rise ever upwards and onwards on such a constant regular basis. To sum it up, Maiden are revered. They are just about the coolest band on the planet. Why? Because they are considered so uncool by people. Even when they were fucking huge, and I mean fucking huge, (the current crop of upstarts have about 25 consecutive Top 20 singles and 10 top ten albums, including a couple of number 1's, to go before they begin to approach how huge Maiden were and are), but even at their biggest, Donington '88, 108,000 people, they were considered uncool. Yet look around, watch the band. Steve Harris IS the bass god. Playing it as it should be, like he means it, with unflinching joy and energy, even after 25 years. There's no going through the motions. It always looks like it's a pleasure and a joy for them to be up there. The outside world doesn't really matter. It's right here, right now, a bunch of songs and a good old sing along. They are fucking legends even if the credibility crew that run the music industry don't want to and would hate to have to admit it.

So the lights dip, the classical intro starts, and out saunters Adrian Smith, cranking the riff to The Wicker Man, swiftly followed from the other wing by the running Harris and Janick Gers, and the still today, even with his hair in a bob, cool as fuck Dave Murray. Oh, and Bruce Dickinson takes his first run and jump up onto and off the monitors. Ayeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. We're off.

What follows is pretty much the same set as the played on the Brave New World Tour. Dickinson explains that as Harris was working on the Rock In Rio DVD, they'd only had the opportunity to have about 3 rehersals, hence the old familiar set. Sure, it would be 'kin fantastic to hear some other stuff. But, so what, we're only going to sing along every word to those songs instead of singing along every word to these songs. Get the idea, the songs can change, but the overall effect and impact won't really.

And so on, through the Ghost of The Navigator, into a Brave New World, surrounded by Blood Brothers. It's into the jurassic age for Wrathchild. Around the Academy flags are waved. From Sweden. Poland. America. Brazil. It seems that people from all over the world have descended on this part of London. Some people complain that Maiden songs sound similar, that they've not changed enough. Maybe, maybe not. But those guitar lines, the harmonies, and the bass runs that permeate through everything are sublime. Sod change. Change and experimentation are only worthwhile when they're done well. There's no point being different for the sake of being different if you've not got anything worth shit to back you up.

The Clansman is introduced explaining that it's caused some problems in America, being mistaken for being about the Klu Klux Klan. Don't know if that's the case or not, but if it is, well, take a look at the backdrop, with it's Scottish facepaint, the lyrics about the Highlands and bairns. It's not really going to take much to work out what it's about. And it sounds awesome to be fair. We also get The Mercenary, even if Dickinson does introduce it on the Wednesday as The Evil That Men Do. Fear not, we get that as well, with Janick fighting Eddie and running through this legs, and talking of fear, there's the good old Fear of the Dark.

Another thought enters the head. Some people love certain styles of music because "you get to sing with the band on stage". Cool. You don't do that here. But you do get to sing along with the band. Not just one person. 5000. How fucking hardcore is that? Huh? Very fucking hardcore. And Dickinson revels in it, turning things over to us at every opportunity. And even if there isn't one, we'll sing along anyone. Fuckin metaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllllllllll.

Ah, chance for the naysayers to ridicule now. Which is exactly the point about this being the coolest band on the planet. Of course, The Iron Maiden finishes it, Whicker Eddie surveying Brixton.

The band return, as if they'd do anything different. Bruce again explains the reason for being here. He also mentions that on the first night alone, 33,000 was raised in Merchandise sales alone for Clive Burr's MS fund. A record for Brixton. And Clive Burr is the reason we're here. It's a strange and hard time at the moment. Schuldiner and Baloff have passed on. Chuck Billy is ill. Just after this Randy Castillo died. Clive Burr is in one respect lucky that although he left the band nearly 20 years ago, as soon as they found out about his condition, these gigs were sorted. With everyone giving up their expenses. Run To The Hills has hit the charts at No. 9, with all proceeds going to his fund. Schuldiner and Baloff weren't so fortunate. It adds a sense of perspective to proceedings.

The encore, well, it's what we've come to expect and then some. Number of the Beast, Hallowed Be Thy Name, Children of the Damned and Run to the Hills. Virtually half the Number of the Beast album rattled off just like that. How many bands can finish with such a strong line-up as that. Pretty much none. 2 hours passing in a flash. No fucking around. No solos. Just energy and songs and a fantastic atmosphere, from start to finish. But that's because Maiden are legends. Or did I forget to mention that.

The last word is to Clive Burr. Twirling and throwing drum sticks into the crowd, protective arms around him from all the band. One big family.

Last modified: Tue Apr 9 16:06:38 BST 2002