Thursday, August 7, 2003 @ 11:41 AM
Massey Reviews the 'Give Me Ed
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It used to be, I wasn’t a big fan of Iron Maiden. I couldn’t sit through long songs like “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” without getting bored, and Bruce Dickinson got on my nerves with his operatic vocals. But then, slowly but surely, I began to come around. I can’t pinpoint when the change occurred, but it may have had something to do with my getting a hold of a bunch of Maiden CD’s for cheap. And the more I listened, the more I thought, “Hey, this is pretty cool!” And so it was that by the time the ‘Give Me Ed ‘Til I’m Dead’ tour dates were announced, with Motorhead and Dio in tow, I knew this was something I must experience for myself.
And so it was that on this cloudy Wednesday afternoon, I found myself hiking across a field toward the entrance of the Tweeter Center, feeling as though something important were about to happen. With me were two non-metalhead accomplices I’d managed to coerce into going along, just because one had reliable wheels, and because she didn’t want to drive that far (100 miles and change) by herself. I guess I didn’t count. I was pretty sure they wouldn’t like the show very much, but in the end, I managed to stuff my guilt at being a pain in the ass into a small box in the back corner of my mind. Hey, they might hate it, but I was damned if I’d let it spoil MY fun!
We missed the beginning of Motorhead’s set due to a helpful security person telling us, “Hey, you can’t bring those lawn chairs in here.” I gave my accomplices a knowing look. I hadn’t thought we’d be able to. So we had to carry them all the way back to the car. By the time we got back and attended to the necessary purchasing of T-shirts and beverages and found a spot on the lawn, Motorhead were already a couple or three songs into the set. It had been three years since I’d been to a concert and I had to let my ears adjust to the noise before I could pick out what song they were playing. In any case, Motorhead put on a lively, stripped-down set of 35 minutes, which was pretty skimpy I thought. I would’ve liked to have heard more from them, as they barely seemed to have time to play all the expected hits. Standouts in the set were “Orgasmatron,” “Metropolis” (with a great drum solo from Mikkey Dee that even my accomplices liked), “Dr. Rock” (a bit of a surprise, and with Lemmy’s wonderfully snide lyrics), “Killed By Death,” and of course “Ace of Spades,” and a thundering version of “Overkill” to round out the set with a big, loud ending that seemed to go on for two minutes. The songs were played slightly faster than on record, and Lemmy’s voice is every bit as gruff as you would expect, and I personally couldn’t make out a lot of what he said between songs, except something about “fucking nineteen years.” They really weren’t as loud as I had expected, and I could only feel the concussion of the snare drum in my chest, but that may have been owing more to our perch near the top of the hill than to the actual sound. I thought the guitar tone was a bit tinny as well and it was rather hard to make out some songs at the beginning.
After a break of about half an hour, Dio came out, and to be honest, this was the band I had been looking least forward to seeing and knew the least songs from, but even I was impressed with Dio’s utter professionalism. Instead of having to pick the very best material for a short set and risk leaving some fans disappointed, Ronnie James Munchkin has decided to play shorter versions of songs and make medleys of two or three at a time, so as to squeeze in as many songs as possible. Again, I’m not the words biggest Dio fan, but I did recognize and appreciate the expected highlights like “The Last In Line,” “Stand Up and Shout,” Holy Diver,” and “Heaven and Hell.” Also present in the set were “Killing Dragon” (from last years album of the same name), “Dream Evil,” and of course “Rainbow in the Dark.” Craig Goldy had a much better guitar tone than did his predecessor in Motorhead, and he seemed to know it, because he soloed all over the place and added in lots of little squealy licks. A true talent there. Speaking of talent, drummer Simon Wright was wasting his with AC/DC. About mid-set, accompanying the William Tell Overture, Wright played a monstrous solo, lasting about five minutes that boggled the minds of one and all. As for the Man Himself, Dio seemed low-key, but in high spirits and full voice, and hardly sixty-one years old.
So then we waited. Somebody played a variety of different metal tunes of the P.A. whilst the darkness gathered and we waited for Maiden to come out. Arch Enemy’s “Heart of Darkness” figured prominently in the mix, I noted. And we waited some more. Somebody broke out some weed nearby, but didn’t offer to share it. I swear, some people’s mamas didn’t learn them any manners! The breeze picked up and I wished I’d brought my jacket, the denim one with the big Maiden patch on the back. What the hell was I thinking turning up for a metal concert wearing a goddamn Hawaiian shirt? Some guys started fighting down closer to the seats. Up on stage, something started to happen. A lone snare drum banged repeatedly for almost five minutes. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang-bang! Bang! A few guitar strings twanged tunelessly. And we kept waiting.
Finally, just after 10:00, a song playing on the P.A. (it sounded like Maiden, but I couldn’t recognize it) suddenly stopped, and the crowd started to mutter among themselves. And then came the voice of Vincent Price, intoning the words of doom that would introduce the set. Here’s the set list:
1. “Number of the Beast”: Immediately after ol’ Vincent growls the sacred number, the crowd went absolutely apeshit, so much so that it was hard to hear the song over all the screaming. You could feel it all the way up on the hill, even: There they are! Maiden! Whoooooooooooo!
2. “The Trooper”: The crowd knows every word of this song, it seems. Sounded a lot like the version you hear on Live After Death.
3. “Die With Your Boots On”: Blistering solo in this one.
4. “Revelations”: Excellent and very bottom-heavy and nice time changes throughout. Nobody hollered “Motherfucker!” at the end, that I heard.
5. “Hallowed Be Thy Name”: One of my all-time favorite Maiden songs. Played a bit faster than on the CD, once the song kicks in. Big long ending to it with wailing feedback before the final pummeling.
6. “Wildest Dreams”: This is a new one, to be the first track on the new album Dance of Death, which, Bruce reminded us once already, will be coming out in September. (The ninth is the exact date for U.S. release, I believe.) Bruce also asked if anybody had “any recording devices smuggled in under your jacket,” and told us to go ahead and tape away and send it to all our friends so long as we all bought the album, and then something about sucking Lars’s (or Metallica’s) dick, which of course loosed a rousing cheer from the crowd. It must hurt Metallica, having been such Maiden fans in their younger days, for their heroes to be publicly blasting them. As for the song itself, it was good and had a galloping beat, but I’d be hard pressed to remember much about it. I’d need to hear it again, and damn me, I lost my tape recorder some months back. Whoever’s got it, I want it back.
7. “The Wicker Man”: Another highlight of the show, great crowd singalong on the “your time will come” chorus and also the “Whoooooa-OH!” part at the end.
8. “The Clansman”: Before this one, Bruce goes into a speech about freedom, which degenerates into a tirade against all that’s wrong in the world of music. “Let’s hear it,” he hollered at one point, “for a bunch of people who know how to play their fucking instruments!” And hear it we did. This song, one from the Blaze Bayley years, seemed to drag on far too long, although it did boast a fun singalong chorus.
9. “The Clairvoyant”: Not one of my favorite Maiden songs, but I had to admire the way the band expertly held together while navigating the many abrupt tempo shifts in this one.
10. “Fear of the Dark”: Another song that went on just a bit too long, but got the head moving during the faster parts. Bruce murmuring the verses into the New Jersey night in that spooky way of his was a real treat, I confess.
11. “Iron Maiden”: Sadly, this was the only song from the Di’Anno years to make an appearance tonight. Luckily though, it was preformed splendidly, and there’s nothing quite like hearing a few thousand metalheads bellowing “Iron Mai-den!” in unison. Love that rollicking bass part in the middle of the song. Long, drawn-out ending as well.
12. “2 Minutes to Midnight”: I had heard this song had been dropped from the set on other dates of the tour, replaced with “Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter.” Lucky us! I was hoping for one from Powerslave an album I’m glad I allowed to grow on me. This one was performed pretty much exactly like the CD, but who can fault that?
13. “Run to the Hills”: Of course, they couldn’t do a show without this one, could they? I notice Bruce takes the highest notes on the chorus and the crowd provides the harmony. We also got to sing the “We gave him hell!” line.
And then we staggered out into the night as Monty Python tooted along behind us with “Always Look On the Bright Side of Life of Life.” Maiden played for just under an hour and a half, rather than the two hours they had been playing the other two dates of the tour. I believe there was some kind of ordinance on noise or some such piddling thing. Even still it was ninety minutes of nonstop Maiden, and even I, the come-lately fan, couldn’t fault that. I would’ve liked a few more shorter songs in place of some of the longer ones though. All in all though, the band played flawlessly, and it was quite impressive to hear the interplay between the three guitarists. Of special note, but not exactly surprising, was that unlike the other two bands, you could actually hear Steve Harris’s bass as well as any of the other guitars.
And we mustn’t forget Eddie, now rechristened Edward the Great, who tottered onstage decked out in royal garb befitting his kingly status. I’m told the entire stage turns into a giant picture gallery at the end of the show, with just about every likeness of Eddie ever taken, but up on the hill, it wasn’t as big a deal.
Even my two country-loving companions had to admit that it had been pretty cool, or at least “not that bad,” which alone offers as big an endorsement as I’ve just tried to give in this whole review. Go see this tour!