As soon as the Book Of Souls tour for 2016 was over, well, a month after to be precise, a second leg for 2017 was announced, with the reversed order this time: Europe first, actually a handful of shows in the continent and a bunch more on the island, making it the first full UK – Irish tour in 6-7 years. And until recently, the band was criss crossing USA and Canada once more for the final stand of the Mayan stage. As much as I tried for the optimal participation in that tour, my personal plan came up with 4 shows to be added to the 6 of the previous leg: Hamburg, Glasgow and the last two nights of the tour in London. It was supposed to be one, then after the immediate sold out another one was added and my friend who called me to verify if we should book for the second one just heard my laughter and hang up the phone. He shouldn’t even have called actually. Only the idea of those particular shows made me shake in excitement, I would finally see the band on their home turf, not very far away from where the basis of their legacy have been built. But first things first, westwards we sail on….
“Seven deadly sins, 7 ways to win…”, Hamburg O2 Arena, 03/05/2017
A briefcase, a car and three people on the edge. In reality it was a bag full of food and the rest, since the usual suspects were in the car from Berlin towards the biggest port of Germany, the pretty city of Hamburg. Of course it was raining all along the Autobahn and we were stuck about an hour in the Stau just a few kilometres away from the venue in the centre of the city, but those usual German habits would not stop us. Lots of beers and a verbal dispute with the security personnel for no real reason after and we were very much on the front getting pumped looking at the stage and all its props. And making friends with a cool old drunken German who was trying to speak Greek to us, while his wife was holding him not to fall down. Yes, there was an opening group and that was Shinedown. Both bands claim that none is charged for the tour, we believe them and everything is fine. There were a couple of their fans who were there mostly for them, a few more got caught up on the way and the band surely seemed to enjoy it. On our part, while they were playing, we were sharing Iron Maiden stories and getting more drunk waiting for the band to come out. Oh, and they did come out with a blast. “Doctor Doctor”, lights out and the new intro video with even more Eddie and great sound effects was shown on the screens. But watching Bruce with his hoodie taking his face out of the oracle steam and the band attacking the stage for “If Eternity Should Fail” once again after so many months is just marvellous. Since it was the first time for this tour leg, I was with appropriate company and very much in the front, I kind of let lose. Which means that I completely lost it during “Powerslave” where a stroke seemed very much possible judging from my heart beat and my blurred vision. Despite the general panic state and the dance moves in the first rows, I still remember vividly the last notes of Murray’s solo in “The Trooper” though when I looked up to see if there is any aeroplane taking off at that moment. There were also two newcomers in the setlist, one is the always welcomed “Wrathchild” and two “The Great Unknown”. It is hard not to jump around to the first one and Bruce is giving a go with the screams there once again, great stuff. The second one is a rather simple song from the new album with a very strong chorus that made an impact. They replaced “Tears Of The Clown” and “Hallowed By Thy Name” respectively. Fine by me for the first, always a shame to miss the second one, but there is this legal thing going on with the guy from Beckett that remember that he got fucked from his bandmate 35 years ago, so probably that was the reason for this huge absence, what can you do.
Before “Children Of The Damned” Bruce played with the crowd, actually the crowd made him play with them, so we didn’t get any age speech, it was good for a change. Before “Blood Brothers” he promised that they won’t go away after the end of the tour and that thankfully Nicko is regressing with his age, proper dotage these lads. At “Wasted Years” Bruce gave the whole first chorus to Adrian’s beautiful voice before he played with his mic as always laughing instead of singing ruining the second one, but at least he made a nice bluesy outro to make up for it. All sweaty and happy and with the bag that before had food and beers now full of merch, we took the way home, which was an easy task given the hypertension we were in. Of course some adventure had to ensue, a flat tyre when I, hmmm, failed to see the pavement for the tram as we already had entered Berlin. Oh well, minor casualties of war, no harm done. Up the Irons.
“8 and forty souls who came to die in….” Glasgow, SS Hydro, 16/05/2017
I still remember that bloody September morning when my credit card got stuck and the arena tickets for the Glasgow gig were flying away while I was waiting hopeless to reach the customer service. The result was that only at the very last moment did I manage to get some seating tickets high up and opposite to the stage and being in the UK, I didn’t expect to move a bit from there. Apart from that drawback, a nice trip to Scotland was arranged around the concert, I almost made it to the Newcastle show as well two nights before, but that didn’t work out at the last moment, so I didn’t move from the beautiful city of Edinburgh which was my base. But the gig was in Glasgow and the train there in the early afternoon had enough Iron Maiden t shirts, even whole families with those, and about 4 cans of beer per t shirt, which is a good ratio for a 60 minute trip I would say. As I was waiting from my company from Perth to arrive I went to Hard Rock Café to buy a certain book from a certain person who was having a signing session there. Mr. Steve “Loopy” Newhouse, a name that along with that of Dave Lights, Dickie Bell and a few others that I got to know as well as the band members’ themselves while reading the early records’ credits. They were the Killer Krew, Iron Maiden’s trustworthy road warriors, the unknown heroes. A handshake and a signature on the book from the man was important to me in ways that I could never describe to him, especially under the loud music of a band that was playing in the premises at the moment, so off I went to another pub to fill up my belly with alcohol. Then a nice walk along the river under the famous Scottish sun and soon we arrived to the venue and took our place in the long queues. Thankfully, the paperless system was working fast, although it didn’t leave you with something to remember. We were soon up to our places and there eventually I realised in horror that I was about to watch Iron Maiden seated. As I was glancing at the nice round arena getting filled with fans, about 12.000 in total, I felt a bit trapped, but what the hell, I’ve tried it all with Maiden, why not that for once. Still I managed to headbang and sweat, getting on my feet when I couldn’t restrain myself, many others did that as well – the vodka we had smuggled in the venue, didn’t help much towards self-control anyway- and thus enjoyed another brilliant concert. When you see them from that high and far, you can immediately tell two things. First, their light show is immense and to the point, a very much integral part of their show as it leads the mood changes from song to song. Secondly, the band moves on stage like a well practiced team, they are heavy metal ballerinas. Their aim is to captivate the fan and they achieve it by running around in choreographed manner. Bruce is leading the way with his endless energy and Mr. Gers is the most gracious of all of course. The energy they show on stage should be enough to light up a city for a day. And the Scottish crowd was a tad more expressive than the German one, you could see them going at it in the front, which made my seat look even more miserable. Despite the huge queue in the underground we managed to grab the last train to Edinburgh few seconds before the doors closed, had a great laugh with all the drunken and sweaty Maiden fans on the way, had even more beers and crashed for a few hours to take the early flight home. At least the Uk tour shirt was with me and the best was yet to come.
“It made her feel like she’s on cloud 9…”, London, O2 Arena, 27/05/2017
Arriving in London in an indescribable state after several long nights of partying and with the summer finally hitting the metropolis, I rushed my way to avoid the boiling sun into the hospitable room that would be our basis for the weekend and waited for my friend to arrive from Greece while getting my pieces together. I had warned the idiot that he was taking a late flight and when I saw in the news that there was a huge breakdown in the IT system of London airports causing endless delays and flight cancellations I was having visions of begging people outside of the venue to let me in since the fucker had booked the tickets and had to present his credit card in person in order to get in. Eventually, he appeared with only a two hour delay just in time to have a Guinness or two and take the short road to O2 Arena. The event t shirt we immediately purchased was just epic, the security control was strict but fast and pretty soon we were in the already filled arena since Shinedown had already finished and the usual pre-gig playlist was well in its way. That didn’t leave us much time to rise to the circumstances, but what followed surely did. The venue might be a basketball stadium, but it looked ideal for a concert with 18.000 people having their eyes wide open for the last weekend of European shows for that tour. We were in bloody London to watch Iron Maiden and the excitement was overwhelming. What happened the next two hours is something that I will remember for the whole of my life. I ‘ve read interviews from the band saying that they always give 100% on stage – which is true – but they were claiming that there are certain situations where the conditions are ideal and they are capable of going beyond that. I have never seen the band so happy, so much enjoying themselves on stage and having fun with each other. It was the pinnacle of a band that each day proves mostly to themselves and subsequently to their fans that they are capable of conquering the world with every album and every tour they make, even at that age. Only the sight of it was so beautiful I had watered eyes for the most part of it. Not to mention the sound, which was certainly one of the best I‘ve ever heard Maiden having. Sheer power and clarity. Standing in awe we were pinching ourselves on the greatness that was unfolding in front of our eyes. The unspeakable way Bruce finished “Powerslave” after an hour of running around the stage like a maniac, the little blues jam the band did at the end of “The Great Unknown” with Bruce prolonging it as much as he could, a fierce “The Red And The Black” with Bruce nailing every single note and line, Smith’s solo in “Wasted Years”, actually every solo in that gig, I hope I can relive these moments in my memory and get a glimpse of that night’s satisfaction every now and then. And since Iron Maiden is all about being goofy and not sexy, while Nicko was waving to us stepping backwards got caught in the cable of Gers’s guitar that was still lying on stage after being flown around for some time in the encore and fell on his face creating waves of laughter.
“Four leagues and 10 and we hit storms again…” London, O2 Arena, 28/05/2017
For good things in life two times is always better than one, simple mathematics. I wouldn’t mind watching Iron Maiden once a week and I bet I am not the only one. It’s a collective phenomenon, almost the equivalent of an orgy, how much libido is invested in that relationship between the band and their fans? Anyway, after an appropriately huge meal which could also be called meat massacre we went for the happiest déjà vu of our lives. Still hypnotized from what happened the previous night we arrived at the O2 and since we didn’t have to queue for the merch this time, we were earlier in and more to the front than the other day. This time we decided to go a bit to the right, just to see things from the opposite angle. We met a group of young Swedes and started sharing stories and opinions. What Bruce says each night is absolutely true, this is indeed a safe zone, where you forget all the other identities that characterize you as a person and you just release the Eddie that hides somewhere inside you. The question remained: How could an Iron Maiden concert in London be topped up? The answer was simple, with a second Iron Maiden concert in London. And the band was even better than Saturday, if that’s possible. Sure, Bruce said that he hated himself waking that morning from what he had consumed the night before and you might think that he is exaggerating, but there were times when Murray was waiting impatiently to grab the beer a roadie was handing him when the lights were going out for the change of the setting. The boys were back in town and wanted to have a party, give them a break. The sound was improved, the night before Nicko’s toms were sounding like war tambourines, it was cool in “The Trooper” for example, because it added to the galloping pace, but it sounded kind of misplaced in slower tunes. That night everything was perfect, my hands barely left the air and my feet barely touched the ground. It was such a great night, such an amazing show that many people stayed to cheer the band long after it went off stage and making a huge circle to dance to “Always Look At The Bright Side Of Life”. And actually singing the whole song since it is part of their cultural heritage and they know the lyrics. There was nothing in that show that wasn’t special and in many ways it made me feel complete as an Iron Maiden fan.
The final chapter of the book of souls
A two-year tour circle for the band was completed and it must be one of the most satisfying accomplishment the band has ever done if you count in Bruce’s cancer, Nicko’s age and the enormous numbers of that tour, not to mention the even bigger aircraft they are flying around the world in. The numbers are astonishing, a total of 117 concerts in 36 countries making it the longest tour they have ever done with Bruce since “Somewhere On Tour 1986-7”. And now everybody is waiting to see their next step, with rumours spreading already. Will it be another album, another classics tour before that, or something completely different? At least they unanimously want to continue, they are simply having too much fun to drop it and they are still fit enough to do it. It has been an amazing two-year run for me also, following Iron Maiden for 10 shows, getting to see new places and meeting new people, an experience connected with and based around a band that has saved my sould, changed my life and still continues to shape it in beautiful ways that only me and them understand. Here’s to many Eddies to come.