At the Pacific Coliseum on Tuesday, June 3
Last week, I wrote a fun little piece in the Straight about how the members of Iron Maiden are more on the ball than your average headbangers, but I didn’t realize they were absolute geniuses until I saw that they were selling T-shirts outside the Coliseum. I’ve never seen that before, but it makes total sense. The $40 souvenirs were available not only to concertgoers, but to the hordes of metalheads who couldn’t get tickets to the sold-out show, who just came down to hang around, maybe to check out the scalper action. All hard-core Maiden fans know that you can hear the concerts just fine from outside, anyway.
Business was also brisk at the merch tables inside, which led to the longest lines I’ve ever seen at the old hockey rink’s ATMs. The intelligence of the Iron Maiden organization clearly trickles all the way down to merchandising, because all of the shirts on sale—except for the yellow soccer jerseys going for $125—were black and emblazoned with the grimacing visage of the group’s horror-film-inspired mascot, Eddie. There was a redcoat Eddie on the battlefield, clutching a bloody sword and a Union Jack, as well as Eddie piloting a World War II fighter plane. And for the patriotic Canuck, there he was in a Team Canada jersey, brandishing a hockey stick like the Grim Reaper would his scythe. Eddie was clearly the most popular dude in the building—at least until vocalist Bruce Dickinson showed up to bellow, “Scream for me, Vancouver!”
And they did, just like they had back in 1984, when Maiden played the same venue, with the same Egyptian-themed stage and basically the same set list—as heard on the classic Live After Death double LP of ’85. The only differences this time around were that Dickinson had short hair, the band had three guitarists instead of just two, black jeans had replaced spandex, and we didn’t have to watch Twisted Sister open up.
Musically, nothing much has changed—the band still brings the dynamite in both hands. Dickinson’s powerful pipes are in fine working order, and the skilled instrumentalists showed yet again why British metal is so highly prized.
After the introductory excerpts from Winston Churchill’s historical speech about defending Britain against Nazi aggression, “whatever the cost may be”, the group tore into “Aces High”, the best metal song ever written about Second World War dogfights. Dickinson raced and leaped about the stunning stage, which resembled the interior of King Tut’s tomb, with hieroglyphs, mummies, and jackals everywhere.
As on Live After Death, “2 Minutes to Midnight”—the raging ode to death and destruction—came next, followed by “Revelations” and “The Trooper”, which Dickinson performed while doing an Eddie impression in a red soldier’s coat, waving a Union Jack around. “You’ll take my life, but I’ll take yours too,” he hollered in the opening verse, “You’ll fire your musket, but I’ll run you through.” Expert fencer that he is, the muscular singer probably could skewer somebody with a cocktail sword if he so desired. At any rate, the combination of violent imagery and the song’s mind-numbing raunch worked to churn the rowdy floor crowd into a whirlpool of moshing flesh.
“One of these days, a big albatross is going to come and shit on you,” warned Dickinson, after scolding a couple of female fans for scrapping. That was his unsubtle way of introducing “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, bassist and main songwriter Steve Harris’s epic adaptation of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 18th-century poem. It was mighty impressive how the entire lighting rig—a massive structure dangling above the stage—was made to bend in unison with the creaking noises of a floundering wooden ship.
The only special effect to top that one was the 20-foot Eddie mummy that jiggled and swayed behind Nicko McBrain’s drum kit during the set-closing “Iron Maiden”. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take another 24 years for that half-decomposed relic—and its ear-busting handlers—to show up in these parts again.