I can finally tick one off my ‘bands I really want to see live’ list, having just been up to Birmingham to see Iron Maiden.
Me and three of my oldest friends piled into the car, and after a quick pitstop to grab a case of beer and snacks for the road – not that yours truly saw any of it, thanks to volunteering to drive – we pootled up the A30/M5. I played a bit of catch-up at the bar after a check-in fiasco, which saw me waiting twenty minutes for a member of staff to come and look at our door which wouldn’t open (and for some reason did the first time they tried it…), but made sure I kept a lid on it, this was one gig I didn’t want to forget a minute of.
We found a local ale pub to go for half an hour, not wanting to get there stupidly early, then got a taxi over to the NIA which was rammed. I’ll never forget the moment we went through the wrong door and I found myself stood in the middle of the stands at the back of the arena, looking out over 20,000 people going crazy to the end of Airbourne’s set (the support act we missed most of), it was completely awe-inspiring. We soon got ferried out though and told to go downstairs to the standing area, which again was just full of thousands of people.
Half an hour of waiting and people-watching later and the lights went down and the night began properly. I can’t begin to describe how amazing it was, seeing the band about 60ft away, belting out the better songs from the new album, and so many classics. The guitar – and there’s a lot of it with four guitarists on stage! – was incredible, watching those solos being performed live is enough to make your jaw drop. Bruce was on top form, how he manages to hit and hold those notes now he’s in his 50s, as well as running and jumping all over the stage like a maniac, is beyond me. Ever since I first saw the Rock In Rio concert, I desperately wanted to be one of the people in the crowd shouting ‘Two!’ (miiiiinutes, tooo miiiiidnight), and I finally got to do that.
As well as having an awesome stage presence for the better part of two hours, those of us waiting to see Eddie didn’t go away disappointed either. Eddie at the moment (his appearance changes with every studio album) is a big, green, toothy mother from space, and near the end of the main set he walked out on stage, eight feet tall with red eyes and bad-ass! He had cameras in his eyes too which were being relayed to the massive projector screens, so you could see him messing about with Janick and Adrian from his point of view. The Eddie fun didn’t end there though, no, as the night drew to a close an enormous pair of green hands appeared over the back of the set, followed by an equally massive Eddie head! It moved left and right, the mouth opened and closed as they planned, and the crowd nearly lifted the roof off cheering.
After the set finished, they came out and played an epic three song encore: Number Of The Beast (complete with massive cross-legged devil beast raised on stage, watching the crowd), Hallowed Be Thy Name and finishing with Running Free. An utterly amazing night, finished with the hilarity of us getting lost on the one mile walk back to the hotel, following the worst GPS ever on someone’s iphone, and one I’ll never forget. I’ll be watching them again as soon as I get another chance, it was easily the best performance I’ve ever seen by any band.
And finally, I was over the moon to hear Bruce talking near the end of the night, saying that he’d heard that everyone thought they’d be calling it a day after the end of the Final Frontier tour, and how it was all rubbish. They have no plans to pack it in, and are going to be around for at least another few years .