Iron Maiden live by John McMurtrieHallowed Be Thy Mane

Iron Maiden at Glen Helen June 19

by Skylaire Alfvegren

Of all the attractions of the British Isles, the city of Birmingham is No. 1 on my list. Yea, verily, we all want to ogle crop circles in Wiltshire, but the metal wrought life-size of Birmingham –– whose pounding steel mills make it more Pittsburgh than anything –– pretty much birthed heavy metal: Plant and Bonham, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and…the mighty Maiden.

Iron Maiden’s last SoCal visit –– to Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre –– was cut seemingly short by the city’s uppity midnight curfew, which prompted absolutely daft front man Bruce Dickenson to sniff, ”We wouldn’t want to wake the fishes.” Thus, it was a comfort to trek to Glen Helen way out on the 15. (I refuse to refer to these venues by their corporate sponsor names; the venue was home to the ‘80s US Festival and the Metal Masters tour two years ago, which featured the last local appearance of one Ronnie James Dio with Heaven and Hell, who whupped the asses of the reformed Black Sabbath at Ozzfest hazy days ago, which also took place at Glen Helen.)

Iron Maiden is the kind of band that makes it unnecessary to seek out the hot new up-and-comers. Leave it to the pros. Apparently, I am not alone in this thought, as the glut of fans was so massive it prompted the band to push their set time back half an hour to accommodate everybody.

The guitar intro of UFO’s “Doctor, Doctor” wailed away, the galloping bass line throwing off the well-behaved crowd. (Maiden has covered the song before, and played their first West Coast gigs, at the Orange Pavilion and the Long Beach Arena respectively, in 1981, with UFO.) Against a black backdrop speckled with red lights and a sci-fi, moon-baselike set, the band tore into “The Wicker Man.” After an appropriately epic chorus, the refrain “Your time will come, your time will come” spoke, as it always does, to my pineal gland. Considering the socio-economic standing of my Maiden brethren, all good people, this writer assures you, I imagine the song is an anthem to them as well.

Dickinson’s mid-air splits and PSYCH WARD T-shirt highlighted “Ghost of the Navigator,” which was followed by a smidge of his great wit. “There’s at least 25,000 people here tonight…You’d think there was an Iron Maiden concert going on!” A cavalcade of career-spanning Eddie backdrops were paraded out as the band galloped through songs from 2006’s A Matter of Life and Death, 2000’s excellent Brave New World, and the title track (and others) from Final Frontier, which drops August 17. Then came Dickinson’s familiar refrain: “Scream for me, California!” (which apparently sounds cooler than “Scream for me, San Bernardino!”), followed by “El Dorado,” another as-yet-unreleased track that unaware Angelenos misheard as “Alvarado. (Overheard: “Maybe they get tacos at El Taurino, homes.”)

Guitarist Janick Yers –– Skwisgaar Skwigelf made flesh –– flitted about as his co-axmen blissed out and bassist Steve Harris, one foot planted on monitor, stood watch. Introducing “Warriors,” Dickinson admonished those who wished to be said warriors: “Whatever kind of warrior you are, you must fight and respect yourself, and you don’t fucking give up –– EVER!”

Then came the Bruce we all know and love. “With all the shit going on in the world,” he proposed a “One Metal Government,” where “there’d be lots of drinking, lots of sex…everybody would be totally deaf…I know we do a lot of songs about death –– but nobody dies!” He next dedicated “Blood Brothers” to a mentor of his. “Ronnie, I’m not fucking worthy, even though I’m three inches taller than you…”  It was noted that something cosmic must be going down that even Maiden was “doing some spacy shit.” The tour shirt featured little green EBEs surrounding Eddie planting a flag on the moon –– a coded message that change is gonna come?

“No More Lies” induced a massive, spontaneous “ooh-way-oh, ooh-way-oh”-along from the audience. Fans howled at “Fear of the Dark” before being reminded that “Iron Maiden can’t be fought, Iron Maiden can’t be sought” as Eddie emerged stage right, as he always does –– stealing Dave Murray’s guitar. The Satanic double team of “Number of the Beast” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name” introduced what I thought was a new gimmick. As if on cue, Dickinson trolled off the last line of the song as a single white bird floated out from behind the stage, like a manifestation of the soul of the condemned man in the song. The bird didn’t flee the bazillion-decibel din, but rather sailed slowly straight over what turned out to be 40,000 heads.

Maiden closed out the show with “Running Free” before Dickinson shot off backstage. He reappeared, jinnlike, explaining he’d gone on a shopping spree at a Dallas army supply store, where he found “an English policeman’s hat!” Which, of course, was on his head. “It was a sign from God. We’re on a mission from God.”

Although I wonder what the bird would have to say about that.

Click here to ind that excellent Iron Maiden cover image you heard so much about.

photo: John McMurtrie