Iron Maiden? Excellent!

Iron Maiden – – Qudos Bank Arena, 06/05/16

An Iron Maiden concert is a special thing, like a gathering of the clans. Young, old, male, female, it matters not – all are here to worship at the altar of Maiden. There’s a wonderful atmosphere in the air, a lot of love in the venue that those unfamiliar with a heavy metal crowd might not expect.

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The train journey there had a fascinating conversation with a very drunk Chilean man (Also on his way to the show), with such revelations that his first STD was from an Aussie girl (Chlamydia to be exact), that he’s on the lookout for a German girl (Or someone from that general part of the world – he doesn’t discriminate) and how when Chile conquers Australia and appoints him overlord he’ll rollback the lockout laws and make polygamy legal. So, all hail our very drunk Chilean would-be overlord?

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I don’t catch much of support band The Raven Age (Having been stuck in the slowest moving drinks queue EVER), but what I do has me wanting more. Let this be a lesson – SUPPORT YOUR OPENING BANDS PEOPLE. Or at least be more cheerful than the miserable sod next to me, who barely cracked a smile through the show. That ranks up there when I saw Metallica and the person on my right sat down and barely moved during The Four Horsemen.* The more I think on that I’m not sure he wasn’t dead…

The change-over begins, with regular chants of “Maiden!”*clapclapclap* echoing through the room. It’s the strains of UFO’s Doctor Doctor that get’s people really moving as that’s the signal the show’s about to start. After an intro video which had a giant Eddie (The bands mascot) hurling their plane (Ed Force One) into the sky, the show begins…

Steve Harris’ right hand is the most metal thing ever. More metal than a T-800, Robocop and a legion of Cybermen put together. Let’s face it, his little finger is more metal than Mjolnir. Dave Murray, always dependable, grinning away as his fingers fly over the fretboard. Adrian Smith, the epitome of understated cool – how he carry’s off that ensemble I’ll never know, but it’s his look and he rocks it mightily. Janick Gers doesn’t seem to have aged since 1991 (He certainly hasn’t updated his stage clothes), hurling himself about the stage at all speed, flinging his guitar around and regularly soloing with one foot up on the speakers at a near 90 degree angle. Nicko McBrain is his regular octopus like self behind the drums, complete with customary Sooty doll sitting above his bass drum. How he works his way around the kit I’ll never understand, to say nothing of the giant gong behind him. And then there’s Bruce. Hearing Bruce Dickinson in full flight is a special thing to behold. While yes, age (And a recent throat cancer scare) mean his voice isn’t quite the almighty air-raid siren it once was, it’s hardly missed a beat. We get jokes about the youth of parts of the audience, the story of how it was an Australian who shot down the Red Baron and an emotional speech thanking us and reminding us that no matter the colour, gender or religion, all are welcome at a Maiden show.

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Opener If Eternity Should Fail has lyrics that have been begging me to write a game based around them** since I first heard it, Speed of Light is catchier than a cold and while you could probably shave 3-5 minutes of instrumental from The Red and the Black that would mean denying the audience more chances to go “Woah-oh!” and Steve Harris time to do his trademark one foot on the monitors machine gunning the audience pose. Deny them that? I’d rather die. Seeing the backdrop for The Trooper is alone enough to have me grinning from ear to ear and air guitaring as if my life depended on it. Having that followed by Powerslave? *head explodes* The Book of Souls (The title track from the storming new album) gives us an appearance from a giant Mayan themed Eddie who cavorts around the stage before Dickinson gleefully rips his heart out. The set ends with the traditional blast through Iron Maiden, with a giant inflatable Eddie head looming over the band.  There’s cheering, pyro and picks and sticks being thrown into the crowd, before the agonizingly long wait for the encore.

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Darkness. Red lights. A backdrop that looks like flame. Is that a giant inflatable horned demon I see before me? It is! Which can only mean one thing… Woe to you, O Earth and Sea…”  Yep, it’s The Number of the Beast, the song that hooked me on the band *COUGH* years ago. I squeal with joy more than a little. An emotional Dickinson introduces Blood Brothers, speaking about how regardless of difference, we’re all welcome here and we end with Wasted Years, sounding as glorious as ever. More cheers and a sudden realization that it’s going to take a long time to get back to where we’re staying. Stupid reality.

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As roughly 13,000 people exit the venue to the strains of ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’, there’s one thing I know with no doubt in my mind: Iron Maiden never fail to put on a fantastic show and we’re bloody lucky to have them. Hallowed be Thy Name indeed.

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SET LIST:

If Eternity Should Fail

Speed of Light

Children of the Damned

Tears of a Clown

The Red and the Black

The Trooper

Powerslave

Death or Glory

The Book of Souls

Hallowed by Thy Name

Fear of the Dark

Iron Maiden

ENCORE:

Number of the Beast

Blood Brothers

Wasted Years

*Sure, it’s not Creeping Death, but how can you not get up and rock out to it?

** In particular the chorus:
Reef in a sail at the edge of the world, if eternity should fail.

Waiting in line for the ending of time, if eternity should fail
I’m thinking something in the Doctor Who universe, possibly based around the Time War. But it’s not like I’m not already booked up running games til 2019, or so my wife (correctly) claims…

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MAXIMUM ROCK AND SOUL

The BellRays / Dallas Frasca / Band from Texas

Sunday August 9, 2015, Newtown Social Club

There’s more than a few ways you could describe the BellRays. The first that comes to mind is Tina Turner fronting the MC5, but kids these days have no idea who I’m talking about. Hmmm. Beyonce fronting… what’s a cool garage rock band the kids enjoy? Do they still exist?

A more appropriate term would be criminally under-recognised. They’ve been wowing audiences with their blend of rock and soul for over 20 years and really deserve more. It’s paradoxical – this is a band that clearly should be playing to larger audiences, but that would rob them of the intimacy of smaller venues. As wonderful as it can be to see stadium gigs, there’s nothing to match being 3 feet away from the band. Some of the greatest musical experiences of my life have been in beer soaked hovels – the Datsun’s epic 15 minute blast through Freeze Sucker at the Metro or Radio Birdman blowing the roof off the Gaelic Club by opening with Do the Pop come to mind. But I digress…

The BellRays are rock and roll, in the most elemental sense. They’re the sort of band that should be huge, that make me want to stand on street corners handing out albums like a deranged preacher. Obviously, they aren’t going to be to everyone’s tastes and I accept that, but I’m not going to call those people tone deaf idiots. No, I will not be insulting them at all, mainly because I’m sure my parents are on that list. (I was raised on Slim Dusty and Johnny Cash, which may be why Iron Maiden’s Number of the Beast made such an impact on my life)

It’s a revival meeting feel to the show, with the tiny venue only amplifying things. True, sound issues plague the set (Though some of those could be down to the earplugs I was wearing), along with the occasional blackout of the stage lights, but they push past it. Drummer Stefan Litrownik has a magnificent knack for glam rock stick twirling, while Bob Vennum (Guitar) and Justin Andres (Bass) do their thing with magnificent skill, albeit leaving the front rows having to dodge guitar headstocks being swung out near them.

And then there’s the singer. Lisa Kekaula is a massively afroed FORCE OF NATURE, whether marching into the crowd 3 songs to ask, nay DEMAND whether the audience are ready for the show, laying down on stage when we aren’t loud enough, exhorting us to believe that this is our second Saturday night or telling us they’re about to play a quieter number so the front rows shouldn’t use this as an opportunity to start talking, as she can FUCKING HEAR YOU. That sort of thing may sound corny now, but when you’re 3 feet away from it, you OBEY. Besides, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that the audience match the band’s levels of energy?

We got most of the Black Lightning album and a smattering of older songs, the highlights being the title track and Everybody Get Up, and a storming mid set cover of Whole Lotta Love, which if you didn’t get caught up in, well, you might be dead. (Have you checked your pulse recently?) We ended with an encore of Revolution Get Down and a thundering Blues for Godzilla, with some thank you’s and a warning that if the merch stand closes early as it did last show, there’ll be blood. All that followed was the trip home, which featured an interesting conversation with a guy who’d had to leave halfway through (Owing to his mate getting fucked up and needing help). Normally I only meet those people on trains…

The BellRays. They have the songs. They have the talent. Now can the rest of the world please discover them?

PS: Many apologies to the support bands who I missed. In my defense, I was ill enough I probably shouldn’t have gone to the show in the first place. Based on the merch sales, they seemed to go over quite well.

SOUNDWAVE 2014 – AN UNBIASED LOOK BACK

And so it was that I journeyed to Perth for the final Soundwave festival of 2014 and possibly the final Soundwave in Perth ever. Here follows a review of sorts of the day.

First off, heavy metal fans are lovely. Seriously, they may not look it, but I’ve not met a friendlier bunch. Happy to spend time in food queues chatting, several were very complimentary towards my kilt and I wasn’t the only one wearing one! Sadly I didn’t think to get a photo with him, nor of the woman with the Game of Thrones/Ramones mash-up shirt.  One bone to pick though, many attendees seemed to think that taking rubbish to bins was as exhausting as climbing Everest, given the vast amounts of garbage strewn about the venue. Whoever was set up to clean the venue afterwards, you have my sympathies and respect. You deserved to be paid far more than whatever you got.

Secondly, as comfortable as a kilt is, a sporran isn’t exactly made for moshing. It holds a wallet and keys securely, but it’s about crotch height and bounces about a bit, so yeah… Not painful, but definitely noticeable. That and the tassels on mine sounded like a bad horse trotting sound effect. It was like doing a radio play, but instead of a pair of coconut halves all they had was a Scotsman. Moving on…

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The writer post show.

There was also one mother of a line to get in, which stretched for at least a kilometre around the venue. So, while it took almost half an hour to get in, I did get to hear snippets of Amon Amarth and the Porkers’ sets while slowly winding my way around the block. After an amusing moment when security started to ask to check my pockets and discovered I didn’t have any, I headed straight for the Porkers. Sadly (or thankfully) they were minus their infamous mascot the Porkman, best known for drenching himself in VB and going crowd surfing. Still, for first cab off the rank (A bloody horrible position for any band to be in), they did well.

Fun Fact: I touched the Porkman once during a crowd surf many years ago. I washed my hand.

They were just as I remember them, playing songs about beer, psychotic girlfriends, beer, going out and drinking and beer. There may also have been a song about beer… Full points for keeping the crowd going, given though, as singer Pete Porker mock complained, most of them were waiting for the following band. They ended with an announcement that as their festival was over, they’d be sidestage if anyone wanted to sell them drugs. C’mon guys, it wasn’t even noon.

Then it was time for more water before Nancy Vandal, who were as gloriously stupid as I remember. Highlights included the debut of the bonerphone, a combination dildo and musical instrument and singer Fox Trotsky’s observation that “Every time I yell thankyou the audience feels it needs to clap, good work.” The set featured such NV ‘classics’ as There’s no I in Rock, Piss on my Weetbix (Introduced as ‘another of their food songs’), Frenzal Rhomb were better when Ben was in the band, Death Metal Song (aka SATAN IS TOPS!) and When I Squeeze my Nose I sound like Axl Rose, which prompted Trotsky to bring out some ”stadium rock pyrotechnics straight from Paul Stanley’s collection”, which turned out to be 3 sparklers duct taped to his guitar and which proved almost impossible to light. They ended with ‘Move Over Satan’ and brought a much needed sense of humour to the day.

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Stadium rock silliness at it’s finest

After a bit of wandering through the merch stands (Which had not a single Skindred shirt to be found, a point I’ll come to), it was time for Testament, who didn’t disappoint at all. Chuck Billy’s roaring announced their arrival and the band was in fine form. It doesn’t get much better than seeing Into the Pit live, does it? Their set culminated with Billy urging the crowd into a Wall of Death, which is basically splitting the audience down the middle and having them smash into at each other full speed, like two very hairy phalanxes. I have this little thing called ‘low tolerance for pain’, so I was happy to escape it. Even more so, when waiting in the food queue afterwards I was told a guy had fallen out of it and immediately vomited. Charming.

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Alex Skolnick and Chuck Billy trading riffs

The break between the bands was spent in the food queue, then it was time for GWAR, whose set was interrupted by the arrival of PM Tony Abbott demanding it be shut down. I don’t know how many in the crowd got singer Oderus Unrungus’ roar of ‘You’re nothing without Costello’ before Abbott was decapitated, but I did. Sadly I was well up the back and really, without being able to see them there’s not much point of seeing them live, which also meant I missed them mutilate Queen Elizabeth. They hadn’t run out of stage blood though, drenching the first several rows, which made it very obvious those who’d been in the crowd and I’m sure caused a lot of confusion for the first aid crew.

More wandering resulted in catching the last chunk of Filter’s set and I was lucky enough to hear all 3 of their songs that I know (Trip like I Do, Take a Picture and Hey Man, Nice Shot). So, yay me! I also hadn’t planned on catching the last chunk of Pennywise, but what I did get was a few songs and a meandering discussion of some cops the band they been drinking with (And who apparently do cocaine, though that was quickly denied).The older I get the funnier I find ‘society is trying to bring us down’ songs, but I can’t deny the emotion behind Bro Hymn, dedicated to several late friends of the band.

I was feeling kind of rubbish at this point, which could be been the heat, or the thing I’d eaten that sort of resembled a hot dog. Skindred fixed all that, with an explosive and downright awesome set. Hitting the stage to a funked up Imperial March, they proceeded be the band of the day. Singer Benji Webbe, of the ever changing sunglasses, was in fine form encouraging, nay DEMANDING, that the crowd get up and dance. Yes, at times it was more abusive than encouraging (He really didn’t like the left section of the audience), but it got a response, so who am I to argue? We also got a plea to support live music and buy a t-shirt, which I would have done had any been available. Their set ended with the now traditional ‘Newport Helicopter’, which had everyone in the crowd removing a piece of clothing and swinging it about like loons. Oh, and there was a cheeky burst of Carly Simon’s Nobody Does it Better as they left the stage. Gotta love a healthy ego.

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Benji says jump, YOU JUMP.

Rocket from the Crypt were next door and while I hadn’t planned on watching them, I’m a sucker for a band in matching stage gear. They did their thing with class, their singer remarking that “It’s an honour to play so close to the toilets” and that he didn’t know any of the other guys names, as they’d answered his Craiglist ad. Good fun.

The it was time for the mass exodus to see Rob Zombie, who’s stage was decorated with massive posters of vintage horror films, a huge King Kong looming over it. A hint Rob: don’t start bitching that your hotel room was bigger than the stage space after your first song. A couple more songs of his and that was it for me, as I wanted to beat the crowds leaving. Yes, I’m old and have a low tolerance for crowds of drunks.

In round up, I present the following:

Was it a good day? Hell yes.

Should I get a better camera? Most certainly.

Do I still prefer smaller gigs? Very much so.

Would I recommend it?  Yep, it was a great experience. I’m not in a rush to go back, but I still had a lot of fun.