London Twickenham Stadium
Saturday 5th July 2008
Saturday, 5th July, in the competition for best day of my life, is definitely in the top ten. Five. Three. Hell, maybe even one.
The only thing is, the letdown afterwards means I am suffering from terrible post-Maiden depression. I want it to be like the film ‘Groundhog Day’ so I wake up every morning to my Dad coming into my room at five o’ clock.
That was the only time I ever felt properly nervous that day. I woke up, wanting to go back to sleep, then realised exactly why I was awake so early. And then, for about five minutes, I sort of wished I wasn’t going. I felt tired and quite nauseous. By the time I got up, washed and dressed, though, I felt quite a bit better.
My lovely ‘Number Of The Beast’ t-shirt hadn’t arrived, which was a shame. Instead, I wore my black Punky Fish t-shirt with all the safety pins, sticking my Iron Maiden badge in with them. I also wore my new (very short) denim shorts, my boxing boots, purple stripy Fat Face socks, a necklace I recently found that could be hematite or plastic, my pink glow in the dark bracelets, my small leather studded wristband, my big leather studded wristband, padded by my pink sweatband because my arms are so skinny. I wore Anna Sui ‘Dolly Girl Bonjour L’Amour!’ perfume, New York Colour ‘Skintight Denim’ nail varnish and black eyeliner. It was warm most of the time but when it wasn’t I wore my leather jacket.
It may also interest you to know that I wore matching underwear. I think that says something about me and my priorities – I wear posh, matching black and red underwear to an Iron Maiden concert, yet not to my prom. Hm.
I gave Splodge, who was awake, a load of grass and a carrot, and Dad and I set off to Middlesbrough at about quarter to six. We had the second disc of ‘A Real Live Dead One’ on in the car, because Dad had been doing some cramming of the last three tracks (‘Heaven Can Wait’, ‘The Clairvoyant’ and ‘Fear Of The Dark’). I discovered I’d forgotten a ring I was planning on wearing – purple and flashing.
It was nice to get to Middlesbrough in just twenty two minutes (probably the third most appropriate number of minutes the journey could have taken, after two and six hundred and sixty six). We parked in a car park quite near to our usual one, because it looked a bit safer, and we’d be leaving the car there for about a day. Pretty much twenty four hours, in fact.
We walked to the bus station (right opposite a closed Kindamagic, which was a shame, as I quite fancied buying those leather studded fingerless gloves like Bruce has in the video for ‘Run To The Hills’.)
The departure lounge was upstairs. We knew we’d come to the right place when we saw several men in Iron Maiden and other band shirts sitting around. There were a few young metalheads, and some older guys who’d probably grown up with the band. I was the only girl, until the last two people arrived – one a young woman in a Mighty Boosh t-shirt with red hair.
The coach pulled up outside shortly after. A couple of people got off and waited for a bit outside, smoking. A woman opened the door and came in to say something like ‘are you getting on, then?’
Yes, indeed. In about a minute’s time we were. Dad and I sat near the back behind one of the younger dudes. He had his lip pierced about three times, a fluffy beard and moustache and really long dark brown hair that was frizzy and greasy at the same time. It was so nice I wanted to brush it.
When we set off, the driver introduced himself, and the woman as his wife. He asked who hadn’t seen Iron Maiden before and I think three people put their hands up – me, Dad and the other woman. The driver then told us a little story about how he’d dragged someone (I think it was a daughter but I wouldn’t bet on it) to see them, and they’d grudgingly admitted afterwards that it was the best concert they’d ever been to. That made me feel better about my situation – not that I felt bad. In fact, it was actually only starting to feel real now that I was on my way with a ton of Maiden fans.
There had been three albums in the window of the coach – ‘Live After Death’, ‘Best Of The Beast’ and ‘Dance Of Death’. The driver said that by the time we got back, we’d be sick of the sight and sound of Iron Maiden. Fat chance. I don’t think there’s such thing.
We started with ‘Live After Death’. Awesome choice, as the tour, ‘Somewhere Back In Time’, was based around that album among others. It had the same opener – Churchill’s speech followed by ‘Aces High’ – that was on the setlist.
I found the ring I thought I’d left. It was in a pocket inside my backpack of sweets, my handbag and other bits and pieces. I remembered that the night before, I’d packed it, knowing I’d probably forget it. I put it on straight away.
There was another stop at Leeds, which filled the coach. I read a few chapters of Slash’s autobiography, but I was getting more interested in the view out of the window, and the fact that I was in the back of a coach on a motorway and not feeling sick.
I can’t remember anything interesting that happened before the service station. The full coach now consisted of mostly men, but a few more women, too – still very much in the minority, though, and I was still the youngest of anyone.
By the time we arrived at the stop in Leicester, we’d finished ‘Live After Death’, the second disc of ‘A Real Live Dead One’ and quite a bit of ‘Best Of The Beast’. There was a big truck when we pulled up with the name ‘John Dickinson’ on the front and a tank on the back. Some of the guys at the back of the coach were saying it was an Iron Maiden truck. At the side of another one was a guy in a Maiden shirt.
It was so funny going into the service station. It was raining, so I held my jacket over my head, only adding to the amusement of a bunch of ordinary, boring businessy people confronted by a big group of metallers. We got stared at a lot and I really felt the part with my hair looking a lot like early 80s Bruce.
Dad bought me the paper and he had a cup of coffee in the café. The service station went across both sides of the motorway, so we crossed to the other side but it came straight out into WH Smith and it looked kind of like we’d stolen the paper.
I got a couple of texts then. Amy (my sister) said; ‘Hiya! How are you and where ru? Ru wetting yourself? Hehe yell hi 2 Nicko! And dad! Luv Mynti! xxx’, and Charlton (my friend) said; ‘Hi sarah how are you doing? Are you having a good time at iron maidon? Hope you having a awsome time and when you see bruce tell him that i am a assasin and that he will be beaten by the charles! :) bye for now’. (He texted me again later confirming that Bruce would be killed by spoon. All spelling mistakes in both messages are deliberate).
Back on the coach, the CDs were switched for DVDs with a mixture of concert footage and extra stuff. I read the paper – yesterday, the Friday, the show had been under ‘Hot Gigs’, but there was no mention. Losers.
The DVDs were great. I even saw the infamous ‘you can’t play heavy metal with synthesisers’ clip. And watching the live stuff ruled. I kept thinking ‘I’ll be watching this for real tonight’.
I ate a sausage sandwich and drank some water, but I only did it because my stomach was hungry. The anticipation was killing my will to eat, really. I was even avoiding the jelly beans, rainbow belts, teeth and lips and two packets of midget gems we’d bought.
The guy in front, who had been joined by a friend, had a really high, funny singing voice. I liked listening to him and his friends messing about. When one of the women from the front came to use the toilet, the recently moved friend shouted ‘are you going for a sh*t? Everybody, she’s going for a sh*t!’ The whole group even invited a lot of the coach to join in their card game, which made me laugh, despite no one actually joining in.
I remember when we were getting nearer, we watched a Monsters of Rock performance – the one where Bruce is wearing three quarter lengths, a string vest and a leather jacket – and I pointed out Nicko to Dad. Bruce did a ‘scream for me’ and one of the guys at the back said ‘we will be later, son!’
They also enjoyed singing along really loudly to ‘The Trooper’ and having a conversation about how watching the DVDs was actually the gig we’d paid to see, only we didn’t know it yet.
It started to get busier the nearer we got, and the DVDs ran out and changed back to an album – I think it was ‘Dance Of Death’, the title track of which I’d only heard twice before. I think it’s so funny. I listened to the words and the part where Bruce said he danced and pranced and sang made me giggle.
London was so different to any places I’m used to. We could see the top of Wembley Stadium for a bit, but it soon vanished behind buildings. We came out of London and into Twickenham, where a yellow sign informed us that there was a risk of congestion on Saturday, 5th July. I wonder why …?
Planes were flying over very frequently. As they were either talking off or landing they were pretty low – we could see all the detail on them. Most of them were BA, but one of the back guys said something like ‘it’s Bruce!’ Someone else had no idea what they were talking about, and so an explanation of ‘Bruce Air’ began. It kind of amazed me that someone on their way to see Iron Maiden didn’t know how they relate to planes.
The stadium approached as we started to see the odd Maiden shirt-clad fan down a road of houses. When we started to see the top, someone said ‘oooh, that place looks good, let’s go there!’
Needless to say, we went there.
The majority of people milling around now were in Maiden shirts. And once we got round the corner, the stadium appeared in full along with crowds of fans and a couple of t-shirt stalls. It was the first time I’d seen so many rockers in one place. Obviously there’d be a lot more inside the stadium by quarter past eight.
The coach dropped us off outside North car park, having been told it couldn’t park inside it due to not having pre-booked. It was half one – six hours and three quarters until Maiden were due on. I crammed my phone, my purse and as many sweets as I could into my pockets, and we set off. Dad asked a parking dude where there was to eat, and we got told there were quite a few places including pubs, Tesco’s café and a Wetherspoons. Ah, well – we had a lot of time to kill.
We set off into Twickenham. I think I was a bit scared then – being from a medium sized, pretty rural town means I’m not used to walking around somewhere like Twickenham. Dad said, when we crossed the first road, ‘keep close to me. We’re not at home any more’.
It was when I was waiting to use the pedestrian crossing that I saw my first – and only – ‘Bruce Air’ t-shirts. Two of them crossed at the same time, from the other side of the road. Another pair of interesting ones I saw quite early on in the day had the classic ‘No! We are not an English rock band! We are albatross salesmen from Montana!’
The parking dude’s mention of Wetherspoons had appealed to Dad, because he knew it well and it had really good value food. We tried to find it, but ended up at a pub (The Barmy Arms, I think?) by the river. We’d passed tons and tons of Maiden fans on the way, including a carful of ‘Wayne’s World’ parodying teenagers headbanging to ‘The Trooper’. The pub was no different, full to the brim of people in their masses obviously having a pre-concert drink. We did the same, looking out at the river. Some canoes went by. Finishing the last few drops at the barbecue, ‘Kashmir’ came on the sound system, making me very happy indeed.
It was so busy we decided to continue our quest for Wetherspoons. We’d already asked one woman, and Dad asked a guy whilst I browsed through a free magazine to see if it mentioned the gig. Being a month out of date, it did not. And being a friendly man, Dad got talking to the other man, who was also friendly. He’d guessed where we were going from my wristband (it was so hot that by this time my jacket was around my waist. Not easy with leather). We got talking about my exams, my birthday, and The Rolling Stones. He’d seen them at Twickenham and his one complaint was that the bass had got to his ribs a lot: a problem solved, he said, by earplugs, as his friend had advised. Eventually, we left with a road name.
This road contained no Wetherspoons that we could find.
(Note: this part of the Wetherspoons hunt could have happened before the drink, but I’m not entirely sure. My memory’s clear for most of the day, just not when it comes to the order in which things happened.)
We ended up with lunch at a café called ‘Le Bon Café’. There’d been a lot more wandering around that it looks like written down, and it was hardly lunchtime any more, so we were desperate to eat or we’d be starving later, and stadium prices are ridiculous. The café was small and sweet, pretty quiet and the one place I’d been in with a serious lack of Iron Maiden fans. Until we found seats around the corner, and there were two at a table there.
Dad ordered an all day breakfast and either tea or coffee, but I just had a cheese and ham Panini.
This is very important. I must say that that Panini was the best Panini I’ve ever had in my entire life. I’m not joking. It was beautiful. I couldn’t eat it all – a mixture of my killed appetite and being generally bad at eating large quantities of sandwich-like foods due to becoming bored wit the samey taste – but I assure you, it was beautiful. Le Bon Café. Remember that name next time you’re in Twickenham.
Why is it that when you buy clothes, they fit you until you go out in them in public? My shorts were slightly too wide, not helped by the leather jacket with full pockets tied around my waist. I should apologise to the residents of Twickenham for showing my knickers a lot.
As far as I can remember, we went to get my t-shirt next. On the way down there, we walked with a crowd and someone was playing ‘Run To The Hills’ on their phone. It was one of the weirdest but best feelings, someone playing a song on their phone that was hardly mainstream or currently in the top ten, but you and everyone else around you, even the strangers, loved it.
We also heard a conversation between a young boy and his parents about a t-shirt he liked depicting Eddie ripping the heart out of the TARDIS. I’d seen people wearing that one and liked it, too, but I never saw it on sale.
Nearer the stadium, other people besides t-shirt sellers had spotted business opportunities. Dad had had to explain to me on arrival that they were trying to make money, not get into the concert. But why the hell would they want money for a ticket when they could just go into the stadium and watch the funking band.
There were also the ones handing out leaflets. I’d kept a Duellist business card, and a rock club type one was forced into my hand by a man who gave me the impression that he was bored with his job. Quite a young, posh voice behind me said ‘cool, free stuff!’
There was a t-shirt stall right outside the stadium, which you had to be inside to get to, so we went to the exact same one that was over the road. I was surprised at the variety – I’d expected to see one tour t-shirt as opposed to about three, amongst other non-toury ones. Dad had promised to buy me one when my ‘Number Of The Beast’ shirt didn’t arrive. I chose the tour one with the ‘Somewhere Back In Time’ art on the front, and the ‘Live After Death’ cover on the back between ‘Somewhere Back In Time World Tour 08’ and all of the countries on the tour. It was either that or the event shirt, that had a picture of a person covered in blood and bandages with the words ‘I tried to tackle Eddie at Twickenham’ on it. This stall had sold out of programs. I hate paying so much for stuff (£20 for my shirt, £10 for a program) but I wanted these so badly. After all, I needed as much memorabilia from my first concert as possible.
As it was warm, and I wasn’t about to change shirts right outside Twickenham stadium, my shirt became a scarf.
According to our tickets, we had to enter through Gate B. We found this gate at the other side of the stadium, then found our pick-up point from there. It was straightforward enough. I really wanted to go into the stadium to see what it was like, but there was no re-admission allowed and it was still a while until Maiden. We’d be bored.
Dad then suggested we have another drink. We asked another official looking guy in a fluorescent vest where the nearest pub was. The ones he mentioned were ones in town we already knew about, we were just coming at them from a different direction. We said thank you and he told us to enjoy ourselves. He laughed when Dad returned this, saying he had four more hours of standing monitoring parking. I think that’s what he was doing.
This different direction involved a footbridge, from which I got a good picture of the top of the stadium. We also passed a rugby game – Harlequins vs. St Helen’s. I nearly wondered why they weren’t at Twickenham. (This is a joke. I know they wouldn’t be anyway, it’s the wrong sort of rugby.)
Tried one pub but it was stuffed to bursting point with Maiden fans. We went to one over the road instead, which was less busy. I got a bottle of water, because I was really thirsty and it was from the fridge. I’d bring it into the stadium. Dad had a pint. There were a couple of men next to us talking about Iron Maiden and t-shirts. It was kind of dark and squashed near the bar, and I couldn’t wait to get out because we had nothing left to do except go to the stadium. But Dad’s pint seemed to be taking him forever.
When we did finally set off, we passed a guy on a bike singing ‘Highway To Hell’. Dad joined in. Loudly.
I got my third and final three leaflet (‘What is cherry hardcore?’) and ushered across several roads as it was getting very busy. I think that was a first – having my pedestrian crossings controlled by traffic wardens.
We sat outside for a while as it was still nice and sunny. We could hear music and deduced, from the voice, that Within Temptation were on. We’d missed Lauren Harris – not that I was bothered.
It was about quarter to six when we went in. Our seats were on the lower tier – block L7, row 38, seats 313 and 314. They were a lot higher up than we’d expected. Kind of annoying, as we’d upgraded from standing and it looked more fun on the pitch.
Anyway, the stadium from the inside was impressive. It wasn’t really full, but there were still a hell of a lot of people. When we’d passed an entrance on arrival, the pitch had still be grass – now it was board. Three seating tiers all round, the third one really high up. A floor half-full of metallers and it was only the second support band.
Overall – the scale of the whole thing was HUGE.
Within Temptation impressed me. I’m not really a fan of theirs, but because they’re not really my thing as opposed to I think they’re no good. The singer has a nice voice that she can pull off live as well, and she was good at working what crowd had arrived and were really into them.
When they’d finished, Dad had the idea of trying to get onto the pitch. The basis for his idea was ‘once you’re in, you’re in’, so we made our way down and out to find pitch access.
I got my program from a stall on the way out. Right now, I still owe my Dad the £10. (That was the first draft. I don’t any more).
The guy on duty at the side of the pitch was busy. I remember waiting around for a bit while ‘Ace Of Spades’ was on the sound system. And, after that, ‘Runnin’ Wild’. I love both of those songs.
Alas, we were not allowed on the pitch. And we were also not allowed wristbands, the ultimate concert souvenir. I was devastated, but it was worth a try, and the guy was really nice about it.
We went back to our tier, not yet ready to go to our seats because they were pretty restricting. We stood at the bottom at the front, with only a small wall separating us from the pitch.
Pretty soon, we heard the buzz of a monitor, and Avenged Sevenfold were on, accompanied by a huge cheer. I’m not a fan of them either, but this time I genuinely wasn’t impressed. Their singer was too shouty – it was quite funny, me and Dad both jumped when he started. There were quite a few fans, though – one in the stand behind us going insane to every song, headbanging in an Avenged Sevenfold t-shirt and holding up their phone constantly. This was also funny because they were surrounded by seated, pretty much motionless people. Despite all this, I do quite like ‘Beast And The Harlot’.
At the end of the (shortened) set, the singer yelled ‘Iron Maiden are on next!’ and it started to sink in – I was going to see Iron Maiden!
We decided to chance it at the front for a bit longer, until an attendant told us we had to go back to our seats. So we’d be watching Maiden from further away than we’d watched Avenged Sevenfold. Hardly fair – ah well, the view wasn’t bad.
I’d expected to be dead nervous by this point. I always get nervous about stupid things, but then I was just plain excited. A few more songs on the sound system then the headliners would be playing to God knows how many thousands of people.
Stuff was happening on-stage. The monitors and things were replaced with yellow ones, and different lighting effects were tested.
The empty seat next to my Dad was filled by a man who was also a Maiden virgin. Of course, Dad had to explain that I was the massive fan, and he was only there because it was a long way for me to come alone. He was however, looking forward to it then.
‘Breaking The Law’ came on. I usually hate that song but I was so happy that I sang along. To the chorus, anyway. It’s the only part I know. Even so, it was fun.
A big cheer erupted and I realised there’d been a sort of buzzing – it sounded musicish. Everyone was on their feet chanting: ‘Maiden! Maiden! Maiden!’
Of course, we’d know when Maiden would be coming on. We had to wait for ‘Doctor Doctor’. The atmosphere was electric – and then ‘Doctor Doctor’ came on. And played. And ended.
The first thing I heard was the sound of an engine as the lights went down, although it was too bright still for real darkness. My stuff – program, water bottle and shirt – was safe on the floor, and I made sure my jacket was the same on my seat. I wasn’t particularly warm yet, but it wouldn’t be long.
The big screens either side of the stage came on and showed a video montage to ‘Transylvania’. The video was all about Ed Force One, with footage of the band, the crew, and the world’s most rocking pilot. It was interesting – but all I could think of was, over and over again,; ‘they’re coming on in a bit!’
When the video was over, it went as dark as it’s possible to go at quarter past eight in an open air stadium in July. Another engine noise – this time, for real, that Rolls-Royce engine that begins Churchill’s speech.
We didn’t need to be told to scream.
The speech went on to the big-screen video accompaniment, and it had never sounded so inspiring … yet so long …
“We shall never surrender!”
The riff started. More screaming … nobody was on-stage but Nicko, who can’t exactly rush on with his drum kit whenever he feels like it. This didn’t last long though – a smash of the drums, a load of fireworks, and a change in tempo, and the guys ran on. Steve, Dave, Adrian, Janick, then Bruce, in his flappy trousers, khaki shirt and – argh! – that beanie hat! He had a rugby ball (though rumour has it it was an inflated condom) that I think he threw out. He ran up to one of the monitors, leapt off it with what was almost the splits mid-air, and burst into ‘Aces High’.
Before I saw this song live, I’d always thought of it as the perfect opener. Once I’d seen it live, I thought of it as the perfect opener. I’d been a bit worried about Bruce’s vocal range at the chorus – I mean, he’s not twenty six or seven any more – but he left me wondering: ‘is that bloke really fifty next month?’
Fantastic scream to end the song, then little room for chit-chat as the band ploughed pretty much straight on into ‘2 Minutes To Midnight’. You could tell that this song was known to more people – cough, posers, cough – but I wasn’t really that bothered. It was so much fun, probably more so when all those ‘posers’ plus the ones who knew the words to every part of every song thrust two fingers in the air (not that way round) and sang the chorus as one. This song, too, was extremely well done.
When it comes to in-betweeny bits involving Bruce talking, I’m a bit rusty on the order. I remember quite a lot of what he actually said, just not where it came in relation to the setlist.
This is the same with the backdrop changes. The stage set in general was ‘Powerslave’ all over, but the backdrop changed frequently, and there were several: the Eddie with the crystal ball (‘Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son’), The Trooper and, of course, the ‘Powerslave’ kind of thing. I’m pretty sure I mean the album cover here.
There were sweat patches on Bruce’s shirt. He talked to us then, too – general ‘how are you doing, Twickenham?’ sort of stuff that lead, somehow, into a quip about something being a ‘Revelation’. I was actually a little bit slow as to what he meant. Don’t worry – I’m ashamed of myself.
I was surprised, then not surprised, to see that Bruce wasn’t playing guitar in this song. Now Maiden have Janick, he’s not really needed on guitar. And he might risk splitting his head open again, and we wouldn’t want that, would we? Poor Bruce.
At the breaks before the music sped up, when Bruce would have thrust his guitar in the air, we got to yell anyway, so it was all good. It was one of the numbers in the show I’d consider ‘nice’ – you know, it’s quite a nice song. And it was great to see live, as it rarely happens compared to regulars such as ‘2 Minutes To Midnight’. Mind you, I could say that for a lot of the setlist.
During solos, Bruce seemed to disappear a lot. This always lead me to wondering where he had gone, what he was doing, and when he would be back, kind of distracting me a bit. Oh well, that’s not a band issue – that’s more of an obsessive Bruce fan issue.
‘The Trooper’ came next. And Bruce, being a real trooper, put on his red jacket and flew the Union Flag. Is ‘oooooooooooooooooooooooooh’ the best lyric ever written? If it gets the entire crowd singing as one it is. Iron Maiden know this better than most other bands. There’s probably at least one big ‘woah’ part per album.
I think there must have been more than one flag, because towards the end of the song Bruce chucked the one he was holding away and picked up another one.
There was a bit of talking after this song. Apparently, so far on the tour, this was the most people Iron Maiden had played to. Bruce acknowledged everyone at the back, which is always nice, because they can often feel left out. The usual ‘Maiden are bigger now than they ever have been’ thing came up, too, with the added ‘even tough we’ve never been on reality TV’. I cheered. Bruce is so right, and I’ll always be behind him on the ‘Sharon Osbourne thing’.
It’s a crazy world – but the last twenty five years were definitely not ‘Wasted Years’.
This was the song I knew least. ‘Somewhere In Time’ is the only ‘80s-Bruce’ album I don’t yet own. I do have ‘Somewhere Back In Time’, but as that was their most recent release I’d only had it about a month. I knew every song on the setlist except that one before I’d bought that album, so it was always going to be the one I was least familiar with despite getting to know it pretty well. I did enjoy it being played, and for once, I believed in it, if you understand me. After all – any year in which I see Maiden live is a golden year.
The next song introduced itself.
‘Woe to you, O Earth and sea…’
The crowd went crazy. A setlist essential like this always prompts such a reaction – but this intro is hardly your average intro, and everyone ended up chanting along. Including – and especially – me.
The riff started, and everyone knew the words, because ‘The Number Of The Beast’ is one of those songs you can’t go to see Iron Maiden without knowing by heart. No worries for me, then, it being the first Maiden album I ever bought.
I’m going to end up writing similar things for every song if I’m not careful. It was done brilliantly, I was really pleased with my favourite part, the scream, and I enjoyed the whole thing overall as a song. It’s such a crowd-pleaser that it built up an amazing atmosphere, even in our seated area. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of yelling ‘six six six’ with thousands of other people.
There then followed one of their most famous songs, also from that album. Dad had said beforehand that he’d been looking forward to this song. Out of all the material I’d given him to listen to in the car, he’d singled this out as his favourite, saying ‘I think it’s brilliant’. He liked how it starts, then how it gets going properly. He admitted that he’d heard the song a million times, yet had never really listened to it, and never realised just how brilliant it was.
It had been a slight worry for me, because of the extremely high-pitched chorus. However, that worry was blown away when the mighty Mr Dickinson shrieked out the first ‘run for your lives’ of the song. That man is amazing. How on Earth can he hit notes at forty nine that he couldn’t twenty three years previously?
Of course, everyone got involved in this song as well, keeping that amazing atmosphere alive. It was even better remembering that this was the first Maiden song I ever listened to properly (as in, on purpose instead of just catching it on Kerrang!) and it’ll always be a special one for me. Back then, I would never have imagined that I’d be seeing this new band live in the fairly near future. (I’m still a relatively new fan compared to most people).
Bruce spoke for quite a while next. He mentioned the famous Longbeach Arena gigs, and asked who had been there. Quite a few people cheered and raised their arms, to which Bruce replied, ‘you’re all a bunch of lying b*st*rds!’
He also talked about bats. I’m not quite sure why, as I didn’t hear how it started, but he then moved on to albatrosses (is that the plural of albatross? I think so). He asked us; ‘when was the last time you saw an albatross in West London?’. A dude near me yelled ‘yesterday!’ and inspired me to yell something similar. I’d only been in Twickenham for the one day, so I shouted ‘this morning!’ and got a few laughs. They didn’t have to know I’d arrived at half one in the afternoon …
Someone got sick of Bruce’s speech. I don’t know how that’s possible, as Bruce is a funny and interesting person, but I heard a ‘get on with the song!’ from somewhere to my right.
Bruce moved on to talk about Samuel Taylor Coleridge (‘Go Sam!’ someone whooped) and how he’d written the song they were about to play. ‘Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’ apparently has this moral: if you d*ck around with nature, nature will d*ck around with you. That is not, according to Bruce, what he said back at Longbeach. I’m sure on the ‘Live After Death’ DVD he talked a lot about hemp, but he seemed to think otherwise, because what he said he said was ‘this is what not to do if a bird sh*ts on you’.
What a song ‘Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’ is. It should be up there with ‘Stairway To Heaven’ and ‘Free Bird’ – any band who can keep a live audience interested in the same song for nearly fifteen minutes can be nothing short of legendary. Bruce disappeared at the beginning of the song and returned in a big, black, swishy cloak as the Mariner.
The slow part – oooh, I got cold shiver. The stage went mostly dark with a bit of spooky lighting, and it filled with dry ice as the sound effects of the ship creaking and the poem were played. If only it had been later at night, and the whole stadium could’ve gone really dark and added to it enormously.
For such a long song, it went pretty quickly. Not to worry: the next one was one of my personal favourites.
Again, needing no introduction, sound effects played building up to that creepy, low laugh. Nicko came in first, and ‘Powerslave’ started. Bruce came back on in a big, feathery mask (not the same one from the shop of ‘homoerotic paraphernalia’!)
It was really heavy compared to the album version, making that Egyptian feel it has much more intense.
I remember during that first guitar break before the chorus, Bruce did the infamous ‘scream for me, Twickenham … SCREAM FOR ME TWICKENHAM!’. It was neither his first or his last; unfortunately, I can’t remember when any of the other ones were right now, which is a shame because there were a whole load, and every single one made me so happy. Actually screaming for Bruce instead of feeling jealous of the people on the album has to be one of the best feelings in the world.
The pyrotechnics at the chorus were incredible. You could even feel the heat off them all the way back where we were.
I’d thought to myself beforehand that I might do an Egyptian dance during this song, but I knew then I would have felt stupid. If my sister had been there I might’ve considered it.
I think it was during this song that Bruce did this call-and-response ‘hey hey hey hey!’ thing, but I’m remembering the concert as a whole generally so it could have been somewhere else.
I’m pretty sure I gave this song one of my loudest cheers, though.
Another song with no introduction – and one I had mixed feelings about. A few weeks previously, I’d told one of my friends that this was the reason I wanted to see Maiden live, but as the concert had drawn closer I’d started to worry about two things. The first: getting over-emotional and crying at the big ‘woah’ part. The second: feeling jealous of the lucky people who got to be on-stage at the big ‘woah’ part. When the song started, growing gradually louder, I knew neither of these things would happen. I was just enjoying myself too much.
‘Heaven Can Wait’ was immense. It was awkward when it came to the chorus – used to Bruce kind of just singing ‘Heaven can …?’, I sort of did that instead of singing it properly, but in the end I gave up and just went ‘waa-aa-ait!’
The ‘woah’ part only got me with its awesomeness. I was a tiny bit annoyed at how quite a few of the on-stage fans looked like they didn’t belong there at all, but I hardly cared. Did it really matter? I was seeing Iron Maiden. Nothing mattered except that!
Again, this song had that atmosphere to it that you just can’t experience on a live album.
‘Can I Play With Madness?’ came next. It’s not one of my favourites – it’s a bit too much of a ‘single’ really. You could argue that ‘Run To The Hills’ is the same, but that song is a masterpiece.
Anyway, being a ‘single’ has its advantages: everyone knew it really well. And I loved the start. Bruce counted it in, and I knew it was coming because he does the same on ‘A Real Live Dead One’. Only this time, he messed the count-in up somehow, and started it again. He’s a silly sausage.
‘Fear Of The Dark’ is similar to ‘Heaven Can Wait’ in some ways; if you’ve seen them both live you’ll know what I mean. Singing along to the guitars with ‘woah’s always gives me a powerful sensation, but live, with the entire stadium? WOW. Had I cried at any point during the concert, it probably would have been then.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t yet dark. Ah, well. The red stage lighting looked pretty damn good.
I did feel a little bit sad when the next song began. The typical finisher – ‘Iron Maiden’. I knew, though, that they wouldn’t leave without an encore. This relaxed me enough to properly enjoy the only Di’Anno song of the setlist.
When Bruce said he wanted us to sing two words for him, I said ‘Iron Maiden’ under my breath. And you know what? I was right!
Out of the whole night, this was the only song that disappointed me. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the song itself, it was brilliantly done. The thing that annoyed me was the most famous ‘scream for me’. It simply wasn’t there where it should have been.
Eddie reduced my disappointment massively, though. The stage backdrop behind Nicko opened, and out sprung the gigantic, mummy Eddie. Dude, that thing is scary in the best way possible. I mean, if he’d fallen … man. I was awed.
At the end, though, Bruce said goodnight. Nicko chucked out drumsticks; wristbands and a Frisbee went out too. And they left.
I was shocked to see some people actually leave as well. Dude! Of course they were coming back on! There’d been no ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ yet! Nicko had even been quoted in the program: ‘if there’s no Hallowed then there’s no Nicko!’. And there had been Nicko …
Sure enough, after several minutes of ‘Maiden! Maiden! Maiden!’ they returned.
Bruce looked so pleased with himself that I actually laughed. He stood for a bit listening to everyone with this massive grin on his face like a cat that had got the cream. He made a huge speech, too, that went sort of like this.
Standing there made him want to be a rugby player … no, he’d rather be in Iron Maiden (how lucky is that?). What an amazing place, and what an amazing gig. It had been one of the best he’d ever done in his life, in fact. That got us all going again.
He didn’t know what he was going to do with us, but he expected we’d want a bit more music (of course!). He hoped we didn’t have any plans, because they weren’t going anywhere soon.
He announced that a new album and tour were in the pipeline! I’m not a massive fan of Maiden’s newer work, but it does grow on me so that I don’t dislike it, and I screamed with everyone else. However, Bruce and the boys needed to finish this one first, with our kind permission.
Recently, when he had been asked why Maiden are as big, or bigger, than ever, Bruce had been stuck for words (doesn’t happen very often, does it??). But he did tell those who asked him to “Come to f*cking Twickenham and take a look around you!”
*Cue for Twickenham to go crazy*
Of course, we are the reason Maiden rule – they can rule alone, but they need us, their loyal fans. And I honestly thought, during that speech, that Bruce was trying not to cry. I don’t know if he was or not, it just seemed like it. A bit.
Carrying on …
The residents of Twickenham would probably like to get to sleep – ‘F*CK ‘EM! BOOO! SCREW ‘EM! BOOO!’
It was OK – Bruce knew that we didn’t want sleep. The only crucial thing was that they finished when the pubs were still open – the most important song of the night.
Then came the routine introduction: Janick, Steve, Adrian, Dave and “every home should have one, the lunatic in the corner who gets paid for hitting things, Mr Nicko McBrain!”. Of course, Nicko got the loudest cheer.
They thought they’d do something off an album called ‘Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son’.
Bruce went over to Dave, who had strapped on an acoustic guitar, and they, painfully slowly to annoy us on purpose I think, began ‘Moonchild’.
I don’t know why, but I always think this song’s a strange live number. It’s not that I dislike it in any way – I think it’s amazing how the intro gradually builds up and sounds almost magical. And live, the amazingness was still there.
The highlight of the song, however, is one that is still fixed very firmly in my head. Right at the end, there is a scream followed by manic laughter. Bruce just concentrated on the scream, and what a scream. I can still see his face like it’s a photo, all contorted, eyes shut, mouth wide open, giving him an almost insane look. Funking wicked.
I knew what song was next. I know it’s a crime to ask someone what their favourite Maiden song is, but if someone held a gun to my head and said ‘give me your favourite Iron Maiden song or you die!’ I’d have to say this one.
‘The Clairvoyant’ actually contains my favourite line of any song in the world. ‘Is it me or is it shadows that are dancing on the walls?’. The combination of everything in that line – the tune, the music and, of course, the words themselves – sends a shiver down my spine. Every time. I rang home at this point, hoping to catch it on the answer phone. Sadly, it didn’t come on quickly enough and all I got was ‘normality I see before my eyes’. That message is still on my answer phone. I rang my sister’s mobile for ‘but I’m scared I won’t be able to control it any more’.
Eddie number two came on here. Twice as tall as anyone in the band, if I’d been on-stage I would’ve wet myself. As usual, the band fought him, despite the fact that it was the ‘Somewhere In Time’ Eddie – with a GUN. Easily as awesome, if not more so, than Eddie number one.
The song’s too short. I sang along so loudly my throat hurt, then it was finished.
I knew the next song really would be the last. It was ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’. I thought beforehand that I’d end up crying at this song. But when I heard the intro, I just got excited again. It may have been the last song of the night, but it wasn’t over yet, and it’s a brilliant song no matter where it comes in the set. I forgot all about the fact that as soon as the song finished, my night would be over.
Epic. Awesome. Just two of the words I could use to describe ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’. It’s a little bit sad to hear Bruce singing about how he’s waiting to die, but so atmospheric to sing along with him and everyone else. The solo of this song was probably one of my favourites of the night. Bruce was doing some crowd working so that I didn’t notice it approaching the end. But end it did, and we finally made it to:
‘Yeah, yeah, yeah
Hallowed be thy name,
Yeah, yeah, yeah,
Hallowed be thy name.
The ending was extended. But when Nicko smashed his drums twice in quick succession, I heard the last notes, and I knew the concert was finished.
I wasn’t even sad. I was ecstatic. I watched the band have their photo taken, throw out some more bits and pieces, then leave. Nicko returned briefly, but when he vanished again that was it. I sort of hoped they’d come back even though I knew they wouldn’t. I was right – the lights all came back on and over the sound system ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’ played. Even though everyone was leaving, they all whistled along. I would’ve done too if my whistling had been up to scratch.
I really was surprised that my throat didn’t hurt. After all the singing, screaming for Bruce and battling it out for volume against the other side of the stadium I’d done, my voice wasn’t even hoarse.
What I did have were a few pictures taken during ‘The Trooper’, ‘Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’, ‘Iron Maiden’ and ‘The Clairvoyant’, and video clips from ‘The Trooper’, ‘The Number Of The Beast’, ‘Powerslave’ and ‘Run To The Hills’. None of them were good quality, as I was too far away and missing my broken camera.
People were talking about how great a time they’d had (“That mummy and that cyborg were mental!” was one I overheard). I saw another funky t-shirt – a Nicko-esque ‘Iron What?’.
In all the rush, Dad said to me: ‘this is Bruce’s life’. That got me thinking: what a life.
We managed to get to the other side of the stadium before we realised we’d gone way past the coach pick-up point. We’d tested the route from the entrance before we’d actually gone in, so we’d got messed up. But once we’d got on our way, it was so busy we ended up on the road, beside a line of red London buses. I heard a drunk dude singing ‘Infinite Dreams’ and saw several other guys selling shirts for a tenner.
We made it to the coach, where someone had nicked our seats. Taking our stuff, we moved to the front. The coach was the quietest place I’d been yet, and my ears were barely ringing. Yet another thing that amazed me.
We had to move whilst waiting for a couple of stragglers. I found out a week and a day later that the driver had to park so far away that he’d missed the concert. I felt so awful, but it was too late to do anything by then really.
The stragglers eventually arrived, and we set off. Away from the metallers, into the traffic. It was quite a while, though, before the Maiden shirts vanished altogether.
There were no CDs or DVDs on now. It stayed quiet so people could go to sleep.
Dad and I didn’t talk to each other much at first. I was thinking and texting people I said I’d text. My sister, for example, got sent: ‘Just got on the coach and getting ready to set off home, maiden were EFFING FANTASTIC! Only problem was boring crowd. Oh, and I got called a lying beep. Oh well.’ I saw Dad’s screen too – whoever he was texting, he’d written ‘bloody good concert’. That made me smile.
We talked about how much we’d enjoyed ourselves and what we’d thought more when the coach got going properly. He’d been impressed by Bruce, the guitarists (I could see Janick in my head jumping up and down, swirling his guitar around his neck and throwing it in the air during ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’). Actually, he said, they were all good.
Course they were. The whole concert had been as perfect as a concert can possibly be – because a concert that’s perfect is called an album. Or a miming prat. Which Bruce certainly is not. One thing that had caught my eye – or ear – about his performance was a line he didn’t quite reach in the last song, but that could just as easily have been a problem with the audio, it was hard to tell.
There was another thing I’d noticed about Bruce’s singing. It wasn’t a problem or mistake at all, it just made me laugh a bit. One line of a song, I can’t remember which, he’d obviously decided was going to be too high for him. He lowered it an octave instead of foolishly attempting it anyway – good man. But then it went too low, and he had to bring it all the way back up again.
Another thing that came up (thanks to me) was the fact that Bruce was so little. I knew he was, but you could really tell when you saw him on-stage. My RE teacher was right – for such a small guy he was a hell of a showman with a GIGANTIC voice.
We also talked about Bruce’s costume changes. And that’s about all I can remember.
I was sort of tired, yet trying not to go to sleep in case it erased my memories faster. Most others, though, had not thought of this, and were out of it.
I had a mixture of two songs in my head. ‘Die With Your Boots On’ and the slow part of ‘Rime Of The Ancient Mariner’, the latter being so clear I could have had headphones in.
Then I fell asleep. And woke up. This happened a few times, because I tried to stop myself. The feeling of waking up on a motorway is not pleasant. During this stage, I half-though, half-dreamt a storyline about a rock star, inspired by what the stadium might look like empty, which I decided to start writing as soon as I had time.
I accidentally fell asleep for real, and for a while, until just before we arrived at Leicester. And the weirdest thing happened. The two songs I’d had in my head had vanished, and had been replaced with ‘Afraid To Shoot Strangers’. Not a really familiar song for me at the time – I knew it a bit, and it had been played on the coach on the way there, but the one part in my head was the two title lines just before the fast part, on repeat.
I hadn’t been sad at all until that point. But then, it was Sunday early morning, I was sleepy, wandering round a near-empty, oddly quiet service station, a long way from both home and Twickenham, with a miserable song in my head, just beginning to miss Iron Maiden.
The song’s not miserable. It’s beautiful. It was more that association with the exciting journey there that was now over, made worse when I found an issue of Kerrang! Magazine in WH Smith with Steve on the front. ‘Iron Maiden play Twickenham Stadium on Saturday, 5th July’ the article inside informed me.
We crossed over to the other side – the side we’d arrived at on the way down. I felt worse still.
I fell asleep again until Leeds, then again until we got back To Middlesbrough. As we pulled into the bus station, another really weird thing happened. I’d never understood how peoples’ whole lives ‘flashed before their eyes’ before, until a really fast video montage sped through my head. From arriving at the bus station on foot to the journey, the day in Twickenham, the concert, al the way to the ride home and that present moment. It was strange – and incredibly depressing.
We got off the coach, said goodbye to the driver, and walked in the cold morning air to the car. My mouth tasted of old, sticky sweets, having eaten quite a few in my waking moments. It was disgusting. I was tired and sad and it was so quiet, combining to make an indescribable feeling. The car journey was the same. I didn’t say much. Dad stopped at a garage for petrol and I turned on the CD player to listen to the live version of ‘Afraid To Shoot Strangers’. I’d forgotten what most of the song sounded like. Hearing it made me feel weirder. I can’t tell even now if I felt better or worse for hearing it.
We got home at about twenty five to seven, and the best twenty four hours (pretty much) of my life were over.
I said goodnight to Dad and went to bed. I wrote in both of my diaries:
Iron Maiden play Twickenham! Fantastic show, fantastic Bruce, best f*cking day of my entire life.
IRON MAIDEN! WHOO! Twickenham was lovely and sunny and the stadium was huge and the gig was awesome. Absolute beast of a day.
I didn’t think I’d sleep.
The next thing I knew, Dad was waking me up. But it wasn’t like ‘Groundhog Day’. It wasn’t Saturday, 5th July. It was half past nine on Sunday, 6th July, and in an hour my friend was picking me up to go on holiday.
That’s right. No time to mourn my loss, no time to miss Maiden.
I did feel rather upset saying bye to Dad, and the first time I was on my own on the holiday (when I went for a shower) I looked at my sad face in the mirror, got Avril Lavigne’s ‘When You’re Gone’ in my head (I don’t like it, just so you know!), and just wanted to cry. Generally, though, I was too busy. And no one I was on holiday with really cared about Iron Maiden.
Now it’s a week and three days (second draft a week and four days, third draft a week and five days) since the gig and I still miss it badly. In fact, I actually did cry about it a couple of days ago, so I should be feeling better soon now that it’s out of my system. Yeah – I’m a loser. I cried about a band. But you’ve got to understand this feeling. It’s like ‘post-Potter depression’ (I used to get that bad when I was a nerd) only worse, because Iron Maiden are real, dude,
And despite all this post-concert depression, I’ve come to terms with ‘Afraid To Shoot Strangers’. I still put my arms in the air whenever I hear a rockin’ tune.
And Iron Maiden rocked Twickenham.
Hell – Iron Maiden rock.