Iron Maiden::First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre::07/18/10
It took me a long time to get in to metal. I’m still exploring. No one in my house listened to it growing up, so the only exposure I had was through MTV. Hair metal was all over the latter half of the 80′s, which was OK if you were a pre-teen. I really couldn’t identify with smoking and drinking and going to strip clubs though, so it didn’t have too much appeal. When the 90s (and teen angst) hit there was more raw stuff out there. I was all about the punk and industrial. Metal was not really on my radar, save a few bands: Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera, and Faith No More (who I loved back then and still do to this day) for example. I got the appeal. It was fast and aggressive and I liked some of it. I also had many friends that were in to underground (primarily death) metal. They also were in to the “classics” – Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Motörhead. I never understood as I didn’t have any older brothers or sisters to play them, and I was headstrong and stubborn in my tastes.
I started appreciating the history of metal in my twenties. Industrial and metal were merging and I started following that branch backwards as I listened to the new stuff. I also had to understand where my band mates were coming from. They were heavily influenced by early thrash and punk, the latter of which had more of an influence on the former than I had ever suspected when I was younger.
I started to dig in to the roots of where this music came from. From my tastes, I went backward…skipping the hair metal of course. I still don’t give it too much credit. I started to pay attention to the third generation bands – Slayer, Megadeth, early Metallica, Anthrax, Testament. Then I started to listen to the roots: early influences like Deep Purple, The Kinks, Mountain, Black Sabbath. Motörhead was all over the bars I was hanging out in. The last holdouts to study were Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.
I remember being in the House of Blues here in Chicago and interviewing Anthrax right as they had reformed the Among the Living line-up. I remember one part from the interview particularly well. Frank Bello (bassist) said that they started by writing music they thought was the logical continuation of what Iron Maiden had done up to that point. That piqued my curiosity.
I first caught Iron Maiden on their Ozzfest 2005 slot. They were energetic and tight. But they were limited in their presentation as all the acts were. I personally like seeing what some acts can pull off with those limitations. But the word was that in order to get the full impression I should see Maiden on their own.
On a Saturday night in July I got to see their full production. I was fresh off the shift of my volunteer work and made my way down to Tinley Park. Prior to getting to the venue I stopped to grab some dinner in the neighborhood. There were quite a few Maiden fans at the restaurant. I was just stepping up to order when I realized that they were all young. I got my food to go and drove to the venue.
I pulled in to my spot and set about devouring my dinner. The windows were down and cars everywhere were blaring Maiden songs as the tailgaters got psyched for the show. I made my way to the will call window to claim my passes.
I ran backstage for a bit to see if I could connect with my contact on the stage. While back there I ran in to Charlie Benante, who was back in town from the Big Four tour in Europe. We caught up for a bit, then I was able to check in with one of Maiden’s techs, Sean. Iron Maiden have a huge and elaborate set and they rely on Shure UHF-R wireless systems for vocals and most of the instruments (I think it’s Adrian Smith who has always preferred to use a cable with his guitar) to use all the space allotted to them. Sean had a few flattering things to say about the performance of their wireless systems before he had to get working on the set change. He excused himself to get to work and I went out front to the box they had graciously put me in.
There were certainly people that grew up with Iron Maiden in the crowd, but at one point Bruce Dickinson used an intermission to ask the audience how many people were there seeing Maiden for the first time. If I had to guess, I’d say that about 80% of the audience threw their hands in the air and screamed. “Yeah, right,” I thought.
He paused and said, “No, seriously, I only want to see who is here seeing Maiden for the first time.” This time I’d say about 70% of the audience roared. I looked around to see who these people were. I was shocked to see that those with their hands in the air were so young. It appears they’ll appeal to youth today just as they did to many in my generation and the generation before me.
As I had mentioned, they used all the space they could on the stage. There were constant background changes and the stage resembled a moon base, complete with rocket ship. I have to say, I see a lot of shows and sometimes it’s just nice to see the spectacle come back in rock. It’s also very worth a mention to say that at one point Bruce Dickinson used an intermission to pay respect to someone who influenced Maiden as they influenced their acolytes. The salute given by Maiden and the audience to the memory of Ronnie James Dio sent shivers down my spine. They played “Blood Brothers” in dedication to him.