Thursday, June 05, 2008

Pilgrimage to Iron Maiden

On May 21, 2008, I dragged my family to San Antonio for an event I have been waiting for for many a year. Iron Maiden, the greatest metal band in history, was in town kickng off the North American leg of their Somewhere Back in Time Tour.

The concert was held at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Selma, just north of Loop 1604. When we arrived the tail gaiting was well under way. Beer flowed a plenty in the parking lot and when we got inside, I realized why. $8 for a 16 ounce beer. Are you kidding me? $4 for a 20 ounce Coke or a bottle of water. Excuse me? This wasn't stopping anyone and judging by the turnout and robust sales, I think the economy's in pretty good shape.

We took our seats in section 101, just left of the stage. Being about an hour early, we sat and chatted with the fans around us and waited.

The opening act was Lauren Harris, daughter of Iron Maiden bassist, Steve Harris. She and her band put on a decent show and entertained us until near dark.

As the stage grew dark, the Maiden instrumental "Transylvania" played in the background, riling the crowd to its feet. The song stopped abruptly and the house lights went out. The crowd began to scream and faintly under that scream could be heard the voice of Sir Winston Churchill giving his, "we shall never surrender." speech, which is the lead in to the song "Aces High."

From the first note of the song, the band ripped through their set with an intensity and enthusiasm that is rivaled by few bands, most of whose members more than twenty years younger then their Maiden counterparts.
Seeing as how it was the Somewhere Back in Time Tour, all of the songs were from the Somewhere in Time, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son albums or albums prior to that, with the exception of the song "Fear of the Dark."
I was lucky enough to be selected to accompany Iron Maiden on stage to sing along with the band and fifteen or so other fans during the "Heaven Can Wait" interlude. It was unreal and will be an experience I will take with me forever.
The show ended with my personal favorite "Hallowed be Thy Name", which I have been assured by friends and family will be played at my funeral at the appropriate volume for Iron Maiden music. Mom, I'll put it in my will if I have to.
My fancy for Iron Maiden came when I was a teenager back when The Number of the Beast album was released. Up until then I wasn't a metalhead or as we used to call them, "the freaks." I was drawn in by the music and precision in which it was produced and the stories the songs told. Since those days I have been a fan and I own every album and know the words to almost every song.
I remember my disappointment when guitarist Adrian Smith left the band and nearly cried when singer Bruce Dickinson up and quit amid a personality conflict. I thought for sure the band was done.
Iron Maiden regrouped and hired Blaze Bayley to replace Bruce. I saw them with Blaze in those hard times when they came to the Valley in 1998. The stage was smaller and the singer unknown, but the core of the band, Harris, guitarist Dave Murray, drummer Nicko McBrain, and Adrian's replacement, Janick Gers played as if they were at a rock festival in front of half a million fans.
A few years ago when it was rumored that Bruce and Adrian were coming back, I was elated and when it was announced, swore to myself that I had to see them at least once more. Work and obligations being what they are, it took me almost eight years to get there, but I did.
Iron Maiden has been there for me through some very tough times in my life. No matter what was going on, I could always turn to them as a momentary escape from reality. I honor those gentlemen for their showmanship, professionalism, and artistry, and wish them many years of continued success. And I will be there, just as I have been for 25 years, every step of the way.