Mar 16, 2008

Somewhere Back in Time Concert Review

I caught Maiden at the Meadowlands on Friday, and what can I say? First, it was the third time I've seen them, after the Brave New World tour, their stint on Ozzfest where they played the tightest 1.25 hour set I could imagine from their first four albums, and this one, where they stretched out a bit and celebrated the Live After Death DVD release (finally!) with a throwback to that period. This time out, they promised to play songs from the next few albums, and we were treated to the four songs from Powerslave that people knew, a couple of tracks from Somewhere in Time, and a golden 3 from Seventh Son (as well as a sing-along of "Fear of the Dark," the title track from the album that I've written about earlier).

What can I say? I got into Maiden after a good friend said "you found Guns 'n' Roses? You should listen to this" and handed me Somewhere in Time. So I don't go as far back as many of the other fans who can point to original pressings of Metal for Muthas and whatever, but I ate it up. Maiden was the first band I really obsessed over, and getting to know the back-catalog became a bit of an obsession. I settled on my favorite album (post-D'ianno, of course) to be Seventh Son for a long time, and it remains the one album I know I can put on at any time and just listen to straight through (though "Can I Play With Madness" grates on my nerves, to be honest). Anyway, as I've gone through many phases in music, and even in my interest in much heavier stuff now, Maiden remains for me, as I can imagine for a lot of other people, a touchstone, a reminder of a simpler time, and a consistent favorite.

Going to this show was particularly exciting because the only good live recordings of songs from Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son I had heard were from Maiden England, which I thought was phenomenal. I wished I had known about the band (and been able to get out of the house for concerts) during the Seventh Tour. But even just hearing a few of these songs live for my first time would be a real treat, so I was excited.

I'll just break down my realizations after the show briefly:

1) Large venue shows kind of suck. Too much money for tickets (and Ticketfucker is involved and sucking the marrow out of your bones as you pay), parking and getting out of the clusterfuck parking lot sucks, and you have to walk a long time to get back to your vehicle.

2) Concert shirts are damn expensive. I'm a bit old to still buy t-shirts and wear them (and my walls don't have space for this shit anymore), but come on: $45 for a t-shirt?! Now I see the "strategy" that Metallica is employing, since their shirts are now available at JC Penney (well, I saw a Ride the Lightning shirt there, next to something with Pac-Man on it, I think). My souvenirs from the show? A downgrade in my hearing ability and a postcard announcing new tour dates in June.

3) There are a lot of assholes who come to Maiden shows. They are too accessible, they have been around too long, and they are an easy name to drop to show your "creds." So there are a lot of dicks who comes to these shows. We almost torched some of them when they started tapping our vehicle to talk to us.

4) There aren't really surprises when you come to a Maiden show: the catalog is deep, the B-sides aren't as deep -- with all the coverst they do, you can enjoy the songs when you get them but who cares to hear that shit live -- but they don't really have the space for spontaneity, which is too bad, really. So while there are new songs on this set that we haven't heard live, it's not like they are suddenly pulling back and giving you "Flash of the Blade" or "Big 'Orra" or something. Or even a throwback to the old Smith/Murray dual guitar solo that they did during Somewhere in Time. After seeing some other acts a few times, like Springsteen, who has been around for longer than Maiden, and seeing how he pulls together set lists that are so different each night -- drawing from fan favorites that aren't singles to obscure b-sides, and not really catering to the lowest common denominator each time -- you feel like you can go to one Maiden show, and you know 75% of the songs you're going to get each time (give or take a few tracks from the new album, if there is one). So that was a bit of a downer, though I don't know what I was expecting. I guess I feel like if they have to go back to the first 4 albums for some of the standards, I'd rather hear "Flight of Icarus" or "Still Life" live, which I didn't catch when they did their first revival of the old stuff, than the 1 millionth replay of "Iron Maiden," "The Number of the Beast," or whatever else. Maybe it's just because I can tell that they are on the top of their game as musicians playing the material (they were amazing), and I want to see/hear more.

5) Adrian Smith could be in a harder band. He looks the part. Janick is ridiculous with his onstage presence, but it's endearing now. Dave Murray's leads were on fire. I would have killed for even a short detour on one of the songs though, to let the guitarists breath a little. A tight set is a wonderful thing, but it would have been so worth it to see them let loose a little bit more.

Anyway - I don't want to seem overly critical. It was a Maiden show, it was amazing, and I was so happy I went. I may not get to see them when they return to the area in June, because of the damn bar exam, but I'm glad I saw them here. Hearing "Wasted Years," "Moonchild," "The Clairvoyant," and a few other songs just made the night for me. I think I'll have to pull together my dream set-list for a 2 hour show, just to see how different it would be. Thankfully, they didn't play "Die With Your Boots On," or else those poseurs who got in our way when we were trying to leave might have ended up on the evening news.


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