I saw Maiden in Auckland a few weekends ago. They’re one of the big metal bands I still haven’t seen so I thought I’d put on a black t-shirt and head along. I’ve never been a huge fan of them; they’re a little too much in the realm of puberty and double-denim for me. They did put on a good show though.
Maiden were always a source of ridicule when I was growing up because they were the only band that would actually wear their own band t-shirts on stage. I think it’s pretty sweet for bands to wear other bands’ t-shirts when they’re on stage, you know, as a sign of respect; but to wear your own band’s t-shirt just reeks of narcissism. Surely they wouldn’t still be doing this, I thought as I headed to the arena; but sure enough there was Janick Gers strutting around the stage in a dirty, black Iron Maiden t-shirt. Just him though; damn, I was hoping for a higher score than one out of six. One of the other guitarists Dave Murray usually wears them too, but not on this night.
The other ridiculous thing about the band, and their contemporaries, is the name of their sub-genre of heavy metal – N.W.O.B.H.M. A ridiculous acronym, standing for New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, this was coined by Sounds journalist Geoff Barton to describe the punkier, more uptempo metal bands that rose to prominence as the ‘70s turned into the ‘80s.
I didn’t really know what to expect from their set-list, but I hardly knew any of the songs – and that’s even with listening to the Best Of The Beast compilation once a year or so since it was released. They rolled out The Trooper, Number Of The Beast and Fear Of The Dark, but there was no Run To The Hills, no Two Minutes To Midnight and no Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter, their only number one single. Maybe they’re just one of those bands who don’t like to play their hits.
Fear Of The Dark is a great song though – my favourite Maiden song by a mile, ever since I saw a video of them paying the sing at Donington in 1992. I was pleased to hear the audience sing along to all the instrumental parts too, just like on the Donington video.
They’re a funny-looking bunch of blokes though, aren’t they? First you have Bruce Dickinson, the literal pilot of the band and recent cancer survivor. The rest of the band weren’t really aware that the ‘80s had ended, all dressed up in their skin-tight studded leather trousers and sneakers, but Bruce was there in cargo pants and a hoodie. Then there’s Steve Harris, the metaphorical pilot of the band, in his long shorts pogoing up and down on the bass.
The band have three lead guitarists – Dave Murray, Janick Gers and Adrian Smith – a bit of a cheat, I think, when most bands of their ilk can get by fine with just two. Murray looks like a melted version of Joni Mitchell, Gers just looks happy to be there, playing the guitar in his Iron Maiden t-shirt, and Smith is really the only one who looks to be dressed in a decade other than the ‘80s, wearing a fashion scarf around his neck, and a bandana around his forehead. Okay, the bandana is very ‘80s, but somehow it made him look a hell of a lot more modern than the rest of the band.
Rounding out the sextext is drummer Nicko McBrain, a man so frightening he looks like he could share the dressing room with Eddie, the band’s ghoulish mascot. Check out his name – McBrain! Crikey – I would not want to run into him in a dark alley.
Killers was album number two for Maiden, and their last with original vocalist Paul Di’Anno. The band don’t sound complete without Bruce Dickinson’s high-pitched wail and the record sounds strange as a result. Dickinson’s vocals were a point of difference for the band after this album, and Di’Anno’s vocals – in the same register as a lot of other metal singers – just don’t have that same sort of appeal.
I did like the years in the ‘90s between Bruce Dickinson leaving and re-joining the band. They got Wolfsbane singer Blaze Bayley in on vocals. Now if you’ve heard that thing about your porn name being the name of your first pet and your Mother’s maiden name, then Blaze Bayley – albeit with a difference in spelling – is mine. Wow – a porn career, and a bit of moonlighting singing for Iron Maiden too!
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