I’ve been to 185 concerts in my life, and only three of them had been at arenas/amphitheaters with assigned seating. Even at general admission shows that have seating available, I simply can’t enjoy a band’s performance while I’m sitting down. The last assigned-seating concert I went to was Iron Maiden / Dio / Motorhead, nearly five years ago, and I never really expected to go to another. But then this Iron Maiden nostalgia-tour came around, and I was mildly interested in going, due to the setlist and theme. It was at the Allstate Arena, but when I found out that the floor area was general admission, I decided to give it a shot. I figured, “if I don’t enjoy THIS arena-sized concert, then I should be able to confidently swear off all arena shows for the rest of my life”.
I showed up at around 6:30 for the listed 7:00 show. Not being familiar with these arena shows, I didn’t really know how they schedule them, and wanted to make sure I wouldn’t end up standing way at the back of the floor. Less than a quarter of the floor was filled when I arrived, so I killed some time sitting in the upper deck for a while. Eventually I wandered down to the floor, after finding the place to trade in my ticket for a floor-access wristband. I walked up to a spot that was about the same distance from the stage as I recently watched Testament from at the far smaller Pearl Room. The opening band actually started around 7:30, which was about what I was expecting, though there was still plenty of room on the floor then.
So, Lauren Harris, Steve Harris’s daughter. She’s pretty easy on the eyes, which is about the only positive thing I can say. Her singing ranged from pedestrian to cringe-inducing, her band was straight from Spinal Tap, and her songs were pre-fab. She did this strange running around the stage that made it feel like she was always rushing to hit her marks, but maybe that was just because she had no shoes on. Best part of the set was when a big guy near the front got up on someone’s shoulders, and then lifted his shirt to show her his tits. That earned him a hearty round of applause. Oh, and the other good thing was that we got to see at least one Harris still wearing skin-tight pants in 2008.
So then around 8:30, it’s time for Iron Maiden. There were about 4 separate surges as the crowd packed into the front: once when Lauren finished, again when the lights went down for Maiden, again when the flying-on-the-Eddie-plane video started, and last when the fireworks went off and the band launched into ‘Aces High’. A bit more jostling after that, and I ended up about five rows from the front, where I spent most of the night. Despite the large mass of the general admission audience, it was only about half as intense up there as it was seeing Iced Earth (and presumably Testament) last month, at a much smaller place. My guess is that the combination of a somewhat older audience and the more casual music-love of fan at an arena show combined to help keep a lid on things.
So musically, it was pretty good. Even though I was only 8 when they did this concert the first time around, it really hit my nostalgia-bone perfectly. Especially since it also included ‘Somewhere In Time’/’Seventh Son’ songs as well; those and ‘Live After Death’ seem to be the ones that I remember hearing the most when my brother was cultivating his Iron Maiden obsession in the late-80s/early-90s. I think what I appreciated most was all the atmospheric bits that are included in many of those songs…I’d almost forgotten how important a part that was to even “classic” Maiden songs. Thus, ‘Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’ was easily the highlight for me, and the minute or so of music (and then fireworks) when The Mariner’s curse is finally lifted was probably a top-5 concert moment for me. Bruce sounded great, and the band performs just as well as they always did, which is amazing given their continually advancing age.
But it wasn’t all roses. I derive about 80% of my enjoyment at concerts from jammin’ to the grooves, and for some reason, I had a really hard time doing that at this show. My theory is that there was some massive echoing going on in the large space, so from where I stood, it was really hard to find the genuine beat and lock in on it. Perhaps if I would have moved back it would have sounded better, but then I would have lost the intensity from being right up front, so I stayed.
Maybe another reason I should have backed off is because there was this really annoying group of guys who were baked off their asses up front, constantly stumbling and crashing into everyone. One of the guys apparently annoyed someone else even more than he did me, so Mr. Super Annoyed began beating the crap out of him. Twice I broke up the fight (well, it wasn’t a fight, it was one guy whaling on someone who was essentially defenseless), and received a sharp punch to the wrist for my trouble. I don’t really like seeing people get the crap beaten out of them, even if they completely deserve it, but by the third round I said “fuck it”, and just let ’em go. In short order the offender had a mask of blood covering the left side of his face, streaming from a direct blow to his eye. That freaked the shit out of everyone, which made security notice, and drag him out of there. So, problem solved, but not really the method I would have chosen.
That sort of thing might not be solely due to the size and nature of the audience at an arena show, but I’m sure it’s a contributing factor. Add in the $15 parking, the long exit time, and a bunch of other little things, and it becomes something that’s not really worth it for me. Even things that I thought would be benefits, and are impossible at smaller venues, turned out to be non-factors: the massive spectacular stage show was fun and all, but it still seemed a lot less “huge” than my memories of watching the ‘Live After Death’ VHS 15 years ago. And the atmosphere created by ten thousand screaming fans went almost completely unnoticed; from where I was, with everyone unseen behind me, I could have been at the Metro and the show wouldn’t have felt much different.
In summary: good show, and I’m happy I went, but I’m also happy because now I know that I’ll probably never need to attend an arena show again. I won’t completely rule it out, but the only way I could imagine it happening is if Iron Maiden’s next album completely blew me away, and they were going to be playing most/all of it on their next tour. But I don’t really see that happening, and now having seen Iron Maiden 7 times, I won’t be sad if it’s my last. Especially since it probably was my favorite of the 7, and, they even closed with “Hallowed Be Thy Name”; and what better way to go out for a lifetime?
01. Intro – Churchill’s Speech
02. Aces High
03. 2 Minutes to Midnight
05. The Trooper
06. Wasted Years
07. The Number of the Beast
08. Run to the Hills
09. Rime of the Ancient Mariner
11. Heaven Can Wait
12. Can I Play With Madness?
13. Fear of the Dark
14. Iron Maiden
16. The Clairvoyant
17. Hallowed Be Thy Name