The Acer Arena, Sydney; 9th February 2008
"…and that`s how we never made it to the gig" - a cliché comment resulting from a car breakdown earlier. Well, not so much a breakdown, more battery trouble. That aside, we ditched the car and travelled back via Taxi to Sydney CBD where another car was waiting (from a heavy night of drinking previous).
After a not-so-short drive, we finally made it to Homebush Bay, the home to our venue - Acer Arena, arriving at half past eight which was an hour and a bit late missing out on the first couple of bands. Romeo our designated driver had managed to find a killer parking spot right in front of the venue, a surprise location considering how late we`ve arrived. We quickly rushed over to the local pub to meet up with the rest of our group who were eagerly awaiting our arrival. The place was packed with Maiden fanatics while in the background the classic tunes where cranked up. After taking a few camera snaps with bunch of old mates we`ve started our move toward the venue.
A reserved seating meant our places were guaranteed so we took time to check out merch tables. Prices for shirts were insane $50 each - too rich for our blood considering they were simple and common album artwork t-shirts. After a short walk we entered the main arena and patiently waited for Iron Maiden to hit the stage for the first time in more than fifteen years (1992).
Oliver and I have often joked about seeing Iron Maiden in Australia and what the possibilities of that tour were. Well, not only have they returned, they`ve come out to play all the classics and none of the new material, hence title "Somewhere Back in Time Tour".
Winston Churchill`s Speech "We shall fight them on the beaches" were the opening sounds as the band finally hit the stage. A video of Iron Maiden`s Ed Force One (Boeing 757) landing to the country were shown on the large screens before the energetic opener "Aces High" followed by pyrotechnic explosions ripped through the stage in grand fashion. "2 Minutes to Midnight" was quickly introduced by Bruce as the trademark riffs took centre stage. I was going ballistic, like a crazy kid headbanging together with Gavin and Oliver who were doing the same and encouraging others. Lot`s of fans were singing with the band and everyone was fully into it enjoying every minute.
A quick background change from the "Powerslave" theme to the Eddie holding the English flag and everyone knew what was coming next. Steve Harris`s THE TROOPER and "Revelations". A brilliant riff-fest. During "The Trooper" Bruce Dickinson was waving a Union Jack flag and running from left to right on stage while wearing the red uniform, one of many clothes he wore on the night. For a person who is nearly 50 years of age (born August 1958) he certainly ran as much as Andrew Symonds would at the crease and we`re talking kilometres. One of our mates, Romeo told us that back in 19th century any soldier or person who mistreated the flag like Bruce did (threw and dropped it everywhere) would be severely punished and worse. Well, for mine Dickinson certainly made it very entertaining to watch as the pommy flag did the rounds on the floor.
Another background changeover and theme this time was The Beast! It was introduced the same way it is on the record and crowds positively responded. With each new song the backgrounds changed and so did the colour of the lights. "The Number Of The Beast" had dark red, the colour of blood directly coming from the background and made it one hell of a evil look. Explosions again lit up the stage and band was in the overdrive. Every now and then Bruce would go SCREAM FOR ME SYDNEY which Gavin found quite funny due to Bruce`s incompetent pronunciation of our city.
As far as the stage goes, it was decorated to suite the Powerslave era. The walls surrounding were made out of yellow bricks with symbols covering every inch to suit the pyramid looks. McBrain`s area was in between the walls with stairs leading up to his drum kit. Instead of having Iron Maiden logos his snare drum was also covered in what looked to be the Eye of Ra symbol. Even the stage floor had the very same ancient symbol painted on, something crowds upfront in the gold area weren`t able to observe. What they were able to see, and see well, were the two vertically standing Pharaoh sarcophaguses with red glowing demon eyes which looked very cool. Of course the Maiden stage wouldn`t be complete without the two larger speakers up front from which Bruce could jump on and off of in his trademark fashion.
The classic "Run To The Hills" was up next and it gave the crowds more chance to sing along. The galloping sound just before RUN TO THE HILLSSS, RUN FOR YOUR LIVES was one of the most memorable moments of the night. For me however the next couple of songs were what I waited - for oh so long. Starting with "Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" the lights dimmed as the background again changed themes. The stage was much darker and the red eyes on sarcophagus statutes looked mad, but the best moment was just about to come. As the music quietened down the cigarette lighters were out as the mist started to cover the stage with the ambience music playing in the background by all the guitarists. Soon after Dickinson screamed aloud (who once again had on some awesome wear), as headbanging frenzy begun… Oliver and I must have obliterated everyone around us as we`ve never gone as insane as on that occasion. All other mates including my brother and Romeo also got into it - two old school Maiden fans.
A few moments later "Powerslave" was announced and Oliver screamed out loud YEEEEAAAAAAAAA! His favourite track as he went totally ballistic on us. The riffs and solos by Adrian Smith and Dave Murray were incredibly precise and played with such amazing emotion and energy. All the guitarists would raise the guitars up as they played their bits and it looked amazing. Janick Gers took the liberty to even spin his Marshall guitar (by holding only the cable) on numerous occasions - looked dangerous. "Heaven Can Wait" was next and it gave us a chance to rest after 20 minutes of intense headbanging. The song also gave a chance to fans closest to the right of the front of standing area to come on stage for a short moment to chant with Maiden and take a few photos. Later we found out that whoever made it to stage had their photo taken and featured on the IronMaiden.Com - where they have a collection of photos from every city the band played at so far on tour. I am sure this will continue so plan for it if you want to become famous. For us, we can just slap on HailMetal.com watermark and make ourselves famous. The URL is even shorter. :-D
"And the hellfires raged in his eyes, your souls gonna burn in a lake of fire" - Can I Play With Madness? A great song just before another classic - "Fear Of The Dark". That intro gives me chills every time. Bruce`s vocals were fantastic, for an old man. Truly melodic and his high pitched vocals were something I haven`t heard yet by anyone half his age. SCREAM FOR ME SYDNEY, SCREAM FOR ME SYDNEEEEEEEY!!!!! Iron Maiden are here to get you, all of you! A big freaky figure of Eddie enters the stage at this point and walks around holding a gun ("Somewhere In Time" theme) and shoots at people. It even got into a fight (nothing new - see Rock In Rio DVDs) but it tried to play the guitar which looked fucken brilliant! Eddie was easily 3 meters tall and I am sure wasn`t an easy task to have it animate on stage, remote controlled no doubt. It felt for me that we have been given a 2 hour lesson not only in Maiden discography but also in Ancient history - with everything that has gone before us.
The band left the stage after "Iron Maiden" song and shortly after came back for encore of three more songs. "Moonchild", "The Clairvoyant" (another one of my favourites due to incredible emotion and killer solos) and of course "Hallowed By Thy Name". By the end of it Bruce was covered in sweat, just goes to show how much on stage running this man does. The band had promised to return very soon and that was it - finito. Amazingly there was absolutely no crowd trouble as everyone present was a legit fan of the band and indeed true metal. Thankfully Sharon Osbourne, or should I say the egg throwing bitch, wasn`t present as Ozzy Osbourne gig is a month later so trouble didn`t find Bruce. There was no moshpit and there were quite a few old school elderly fans which was excellent to see.
As we`ve had seats close to one of the open exists we quickly made our way out before the rush and before we knew it we were in the car as Romeo, who was driving Oliver`s car, found a parking spot right opposite Acer Arena main entrance. How lucky was that? We figured we had lots of time and decided to drive to Romeo`s place - pick up jumper leads for the dead battery and drive back to Maroubra Beach, take a few shots of the ocean before getting to my car which was waiting near by. Well, thankfully the car started on its own and we were on our way home just before 3am. Another Iron Maiden night was just a few hours away - for Oli and I who had secured gold tickets. So stick around for that review and more soon…
01. Intro - Churchill`s Speech
02. Aces High
03. 2 Minutes to Midnight
05. The Trooper
06. Wasted Years
07. The Number of the Beast
08. Run to the Hills
09. Rime of the Ancient Mariner
11. Heaven Can Wait
12. Can I Play With Madness?
13. Fear of the Dark
14. Iron Maiden
16. The Clairvoyant
17. Hallowed Be Thy Name