Monday, 15 September 2014

4/8/2013 Iron Maiden @ The O2 Arena

Amazing though it may seem - I have never seen Iron Maiden. I don't even claim to be a particular fan, but they've got some classic songs that I like. They have a reputation for having amazing stage sets and putting on a great show. Also, they have been hinting that they are thinking of packing it in before too long - so I thought it was about time I saw what all the fuss was about while I still had a chance. I wasn't that keen on going to the giant indoor space that is the O2 Arena to see them, but being lucky enough to get a standing ticket made all the difference - on my previous visit to the venue we were 'up in the gods' to see AC/DC. That was an amazing show in spite of being so far away from the band and about a mile high. I was pleasantly surprised by how good the sound was up there too - they have obviously spent a huge amount of money to make the former Millennium Dome into a world class concert venue, but I have to admit it works. Obviously being at ground level and much closer to the band makes a huge difference to the experience, so I was interested to see what it would be like. Actually getting to the venue by tube is quite easy for me, although it takes over an hour door to door. It's takes a while to actually get into the venue and find the right entrance simply because of the massive size of the place. I didn't get there in time to have a drink at one of the many bars surrounding the arena before going in, and once I found out that inside they were charging £5 a pint I found it easy to go without - for a pint of weak beer in a floppy plastic glass I'd have told them to stick it even if it was a quid cheaper! Anyway, after finding a decent place to stand it was better to stay there rather than to keep having to fight my way to the bar and back.

To be honest I wasn't really in the mood before the show started and it took me a while to get into it - nothing wrong with the gig at all, it was just me. So what was the show actually like then? It was damn good!
It goes without saying that the standard of musicianship was extremely high, and of course Iron Maiden have no shortage of classic songs. Although I wasn't in a particularly happy state of mind at the beginning of the show, after a few songs the band brought me up. Which of course is exactly what a good rock show should do - total escapism!
Maiden sets tend to have different themes for each tour - maybe promoting the latest album, or emphasising a particular stage of the band's long career. This time round the focus was on the earlier part of the band's life and the first few albums.
I didn't make a great effort to get that close to the front, but managed to get close enough to the stage to get an excellent view while not getting crushed up against sweaty bodies or having to fend off the idiots.
The sound quality was quite good where I was standing, although not as good as when I was up in the gods. The show was spectacular!
A great deal of effort obviously went into providing an amazing show and giving value for the high ticket price. I lost count of how many times the massive backdrops changed - they seemed to change for almost every song. There were also countless changes of the many many stage props - even without the music you couldn't get bored! Although the prog leanings of 'Seventh Son...' did start to drag a bit after a while and I found myself wishing they would move onto the next song.
Overall, I thought the setlist was well chosen and contained most of my favourites. OK, some of them were a bit obvious, but as I hadn't seen the band before I'd never seen them played live so I wasn't complaining. Like Motörhead have to play 'Ace Of Spades' and 'Overkill' however fed up Lemmy is of playing them, Iron Maiden have to play 'Number Of The Beast' and 'Run To The Hills', but as it may be the only time I see the band I'd be disappointed not to hear them. The same goes for 'Bring Your Daughter...' and 'Running Free' - and of course 'The Trooper' etc. In fact, along with 'The Prisoner' I think most the classic 'Number Of The Beast' album got played. I loved it all!
The energy level put out by the band was astounding! Not just one or two, but three lead guitarists, either playing together in harmony, swapping leads or stepping back for a minute to allow someone else to shine makes for a dynamic and exciting show. There is always so much happening on stage - and of course in Bruce Dickinson they have one of the best frontmen in the business. On his own he had more energy than most the current crop of metal bands, and he has quite a set of pipes on him too - not for nothing is he known as 'The air raid siren'. And on the aviation theme (as you probably know Bruce is a fully qualified commercial airline pilot and regularly works as one) in some between song banter he refers to the band's recent Donington festival performance that included a flypast by what one of the tabloids referred to as 'a replica World War 2 Spitfire jet'. It's astounding how people so ignorant and ill educated can land jobs as 'professional' journalists! A Spitfire is of course from before the age of jets, and it was a genuine WW2 vintage Spitfire that flew over at Download - it's pilot is at tonight's show. Which of course neatly bring us to a song I had been looking forward to - 'Aces High'!
In spite of not being in the right frame of mind at the beginning of the show, I ended up thoroughly enjoying it! I thought the £60 price for a standing ticket was a bit steep compared to shows I've seen from Alice Cooper and Kiss - the only other time I've paid that sort of money to see a single artist was to see Chuck Berry at a small club in Camden (he was worth it!) but to be fair Iron Maiden had obviously spent a great deal of money to put on a big production. Apart from the lighting and pyro, the massive stage sets and props must have cost a huge amount to produce and ship around. Maiden's reputation for putting on a great show is fully justified! And although the ticket was very expensive, with the money I saved by not drinking the outrageously priced beer it wasn't such an expensive night overall.

Iron Maiden have a career that spans over three decades, but tonight they proved they can still show today's young bands how it's done! The energy, sheer enthusiasm and obvious love for playing that Maiden showed tonight puts modern metal bands to shame! They band played for just under two highly enjoyable hours so I don't regret lashing out on the ticket, but I was a bit surprised there was no encore?

Visiting the O2 venue itself wasn't the ordeal I was expecting it to be - normally the bigger a venue is the less I like it. This certainly wasn't the ordeal I was expecting - apart from all the walking round to get in it was easier to get in than many much smaller venues, there were no queues for the toilets, and if I had been prepared to pay £5 for a pint I could have got a drink quickly as well. After the band finished I was out of the venue in only 7 minutes - and that included using the toilet on the way out! Getting into the tube station took a bit longer though, but with 15,000 (I think) leaving the venue at once and most of them probably going home on the tube it's not surprising really. Even that wasn't too bad though and once in the station I was on a train and moving very quickly. A well worthwhile night out and a very memorable show!

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