TWICKENHAM – JULY 5th 2008
Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris
You have to admire the geezer who placed Avenged Sevenfold on the Twickers bill with headlining brit-rock gods Iron Maiden. For a start you have got the whole book of Revelations thing going on… “The Number of the Beast” versus “The Beast and the Harlot”. Then you have got the twin-lead guitar sounds of Gates/Vengeance versus Smith/Murray. Finally you get the blatant hero worship of Shadows & co for Dickenson & co that warms the very cockles of your sad old heart. “Maiden are by far the best live band in the world and their music is timeless” says Shadows, as A7X prepares to cover the song ‘Flash of the Blade’ for Kerrang’s “Maiden Heaven” as a free tribute album [available Kerrang! Issue 1219]. Butf you think the similarities end there then just give the track ‘M.I.A’ off of the City of Evil album a woosh. Yes, the track has a bit of Wishbone Ash about it [is that why they played the Wishbone track Warrior off Argus on the tape during the interval at Twickenham?] and even a bit of Pink Floyd about it… but M.I.A. is, in essence, a very nicely turned piece of homage artwork dedicated by those skull-winged songsters to their favourite sounds i.e. the sounds of Maiden. Just listen to those Nicko McBrain tom-toms thumping – oops – no it was the Rev.
And so onto Maiden who (almost) filled the Twickenham RFU stadium [capacity 82,000] and admitted, on stage, that they were playing to the biggest crowd (in the UK) that they ever have. In fact, the East London Boys (OK, I know Bruce is from Nottingham) were keen to underline that 2008 is the biggest year for Iron Maiden yet. Yes, they have been ‘on the road’ for 25 years but they have now reached stellar proportions (although they promise they have not reached their zenith) claiming to be not only the biggest ‘metal’ band in the world but to be actually the biggest band in the world. And how many, in this millenium, can claim to travel to their venues in their own custom Boeing 757 ‘ed force one’ and play such grand stadiums? I would still like to say, on record, that Led Zep are probably still the worlds biggest band- but I have to admit that Maiden are more flamboyant and certainly more energetic. I cannot imagine Robert Plant jumping, running and wisecracking his way through a 69 date tour (Twickers was the 49th night of the tour and the Maiden boys were as fresh and presumptious as pair of Daisy Dukes box-fresh knickers ). Sorry Rob.
Lauren Harris band- old gent on left
Well what did you get for your fifty pounds sterling? (By the way, I met several fans who had travelled for 5 or more hours to get to the Maiden concert and the general feeling was that you needed to spend about £230 per head to enjoy the day).Well the concert started nicely with the Lauren Harris band -Lauren is the daughter of Iron Maiden bassist and founder Steve Harris. I saw Lauren Harris on a smaller stage at last years Hard Rock Hell (Minehead) and I was quite impressed. Her band has toured with the Led Zep-esque Ulster group ‘The Answer’ and also with the Dutch goth-rockers ‘Within Temptation’ (about whom I shall come onto in a moment) and the band comes across as a gutsy and polished pub rock outfit. At Hard Rock Hell I was kinda surprised at how old Lauern’s team-mates were and especially Mr Tom McWilliams, the drummer, who has played with ‘Glorious’ Estafan back in the ‘90’s and is a multi-grammy winner in his own right. These ‘old geezers’ could certainly knock ‘em out and gave the band a slightly more experienced persona than they might otherwise have managed to achieve if they were a bunch of student musos. My only general moan, at the Iron Maiden show, was the tight-fisted attitude of the Twickenham promoter who decided that the support acts couldn’t have the use of the stage-side TV monitor screens. Now I know that Maiden deserved to have the biggest soundz, the biggest lightz and the biggest buzz but who decided that the punters in the 82,000 seater only need to see ant-size musicians on the stage prior to the big act? In a sports stadium, when the football is being played, all the spectators have an equal chance of catching some action close up because they are all equi-distant from the pitch-side action. But when the stadium is turned into an event arena and the stage is up one end, almost every one of the spectators ‘misses out’ on the intricate moments. That is why they invented big TV screens. So we, the lowly punters, can kind of match up the ant-antics onstage with the human drama via the telly-viewer. And with a group like Lauren Harris who, to be honest, are more-or-less a fancy pub-rock outfit, it was always going to be that they seemed lost in that size arena without the use of the screens. It was a shame. And it was a tight-fisted oversight.
Sharon den Adel- Within Temptation
And so onto Within Temptation. These are a dutch symphonic rock group who share a similar sound to Evenescence or Nightwish. Sharon den Adel – Vocals- is amply supported by experienced rock guitarist Ruud Jolie (who admits that Iron Maiden is his main influence- and thus the connection) and her long-time boyf, Robert Westerholt. The groups harmonies and symphonic mastery were not helped by the stadium acoustics which were, to say the least, sporadically awful. There was a nasty wind blowing into the East Stand and this helped to give the aural illusion that the spectators were a few crucial seconds behind the events on stage. This is the kind of problem you always get with any out-door event. My tip is to see Within Temptation in a purpose built venue with proper acoustics to get the real sound. But all-in-all Within Temptation were a triumph especially because the mezzo-soprano skills of Sharon den Adel managed to cut through the air and the blacker more gothier riffs were picked up by the crowd who clapped and thumped along with vigour. And it was genuinely nice to see so many younger. delicate and more indie-emo orientated fans, who had only come to see their heroes Within Temptation, mixing it large with the big, burly hell-raising bruisers who make up the majority of the Maiden fan-base.
The Somewhere Back In Time set itself was a satisfying confection of everything we love and admire about Maiden. The event is nicely packaged to include the best of years 1980-1989 (Aces High, The Trooper, The Number of the Beast, Run to the Hills, Can I Play With Madness) but there were also some moments of sheer brilliance and exhilaration and, for me, the high point both visually and musically was the Steve Harris penned number “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (with words by Samuel Taylor Coleridge) from the fifth Maiden album ‘Powerslave’. This was sumptuously staged and was an emotionally powerful piece of music. Obviously, we had the big screens running for the big band. The whole stage was used, with various backdrops and crowd-pleasing animatronics, lots of lights, fog, banner waving and all manner of fizzes, whooshes and bangs. It was hard rock luxury.
Pompous? Yes. Overplayed? Yes. Majestic? Yes.
But what the hell, that is what stadium rock is all about.
Avenged Sevenfold’s M Shadows
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