On September 13, 2013, in St. Louis, Missouri, I finally got to see Iron Maiden perform live. It was life-affirming, to say the least. The sort-of-review that follows was originally posted on my personal facebook page.
Note: Some of this is written in past tense, and some is written in present tense. If John Steinbeck can do it, so can I.
“I feel like I got hit by a truck while I was inhaling a cigar, and then while I was in the emergency room, the nurse put a bunch of dirt in my mouth and blasted air horns in my ears. Which is to say, I witnessed Iron Maiden live last night, and I feel great.”
That’s what I wrote in my journal the morning after the show. Before I get into the show, though, I have to back up a little bit and discuss some of the people we met earlier that day. We started our day off with a trip to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery to check out their complimentary tour (followed by complementary tasting). There was a couple in our party that Sheila remarked looked like “us in 10 years”. The lady had red hair and was dressed like a regular person, while the dude had very little hair and was wearing shorts and an Iron Maiden shirt. I approached him during the photo op part of the tour and said, “I assume you’re going to the show tonight?”
He pulls up his shirt to show me a giant tattoo of the Piece of Mind album cover on his giant belly and says, “Yeah, I’d say I’m goin’ to the show tonight.” I respond with, “It’s my first time, I’m really excited. We drove in from Bloomington, Indiana for it.” He counters with, “We drove in from Rochester, New York. I already seen ‘em in [he proceeds to name off cities for a long while], and I’m a fan club member, so I got seats in the pit. I also got “Purgatory” and “Killers” tattoos on my back.” I’m beginning to regret talking to the guy, because one-upping is clearly his business, and with me on the other end, business is good. I say, “Cool. I’m really excited about the show,” and leave him to feel superior. As Sheila and I walk away, I say “Fucking Rochester, New York! That’s the kind of insanity this band produces.”
Later, in the elevator between stops on the tour, the guy asks me if I’ve ever seen show openers Megadeth live. I tell him that I have, in 1996. He immediately begins to tell me all about seeing them on Gigantour recently with a bunch of shitty bands that I couldn’t possibly care about, then tells me that he saw Hellyeah last month, and he saw Shinedown with Papa Roach the night before, and he has tickets to see Five Finger Death Punch later in the month, and at this point I’m feeling glad that I am not friends with this man, while simultaneously wondering how someone with such dedication to Iron Maiden could have such otherwise shitty taste in music.
After the tour, while we were enjoying our complimentary beverages, I spotted another dude in an Iron Maiden shirt. This mustachioed man appeared to be mid-40s, was wearing a red ball cap, had his Maiden England World Tour 2012 commemerative Canadian tour t-shirt tucked into his jean shorts, and wore his cell phone on a belt clip; in short, he looked like a dad trying to look cool and fit in. His wife had a mom-style haircut and was wearing white shorts and a pink top; she looked like she might have just dropped the kids off at school on her way to the brewery. Sheila remarked that they also reminded her of us, as it seemed clear that the wife was there to support the crazed fan husband. I approached their table on our way out of the tasting room, and struck up a conversation that reminded us to not judge by appearances. The couple had come in from Connecticut (!) to see the show, and it was the wife’s 14th or 15th time seeing the band (she has trouble remembering after the twelfth time). They were very excited for me to be seeing my favorite band live for the first time, and the lady assured me, “You’re in for a real treat. Iron Maiden doesn’t have bad shows.” As Sheila and I walked away, I said “Fucking Connecticut!”
Fast-forward to hotel check-in: the super-awesome desk clerk (I believe his name was Andre, although he was not a giant) asks if we’re in town for the concert. We reply that we are, and he says, “You here to see Megadeth?” I tell him that we came mostly for Iron Maiden, and he asks us to get into some trouble for him. Then on the way out to go to the show, he yells after us, “Don’t forget to get into some trouble for me, sir!” Note: the rest of the hotel staff was exceptionally friendly as well; I wholeheartedly recommend Candlewood Suites in Earth City, MO if you need to stay in that area for any reason, but that’s a review for another place.
Fast-forward to Heavy Metal Parking Lot: the truck parked near us is blasting Metallica’s Ride the Lightning (my favorite Metallica album) when we pull up, and as “Creeping Death” ends and “The Call of Ktulu” begins, I mention to Sheila how excited I am that I’ll get to hear “The Call of Ktulu” before going in to see Iron Maiden. As the words leave my lips, they shut off the Metallica and start playing some horrible bullshit with lyrics about getting gonorrhea from a Thai prostitute. As this wretched excuse for music is playing, we begin to hear Bruce Dickinson’s voice rising over everything else as he sings the soft opening to “Afraid to Shoot Strangers” for soundcheck. The noise coming from the right side of my car fades into the background, and nothing else matters.
Fast-forward to the pavilion: I’ve purchased two shirts and have tucked them into my belt for safe-keeping (a prior trip to St. Louis that ended in a lost t-shirt kept me very aware of my t-shirts on this trip). The projected extra-humid weather seems to have somehow avoided our area, and a pleasant breeze is blowing through the venue. Megadeth is set to take the stage at 7:30, and I’m not very excited, as I assume they’ll be playing a bunch of newer songs, and that Dave Mustaine will be talking a lot. The lights go down and the band blasts into “Hangar 18”, followed by “Wake Up Dead”, followed by “In My Darkest Hour”, all before Mustaine even opens his mouth to speak. When he finally starts to talk, I yell “Don’t talk, David, just play your songs!” Some people around us laugh, and a guy in a Maiden shirt sitting in front of me (whose wife is wearing a denim vest with a Faster Pussycat patch on the back) turns around and says, “Right? He talks way too fuckin’ much!” More about that couple later, though.
Megadeth then plays “Sweating Bullets”, which I’m not crazy about (although it’s still better than anything from United Abominations) followed by “a song from our new album”, during which I took a pee break. I come out of the restroom to hear “Tornado of Souls” beginning, and I run back to the pavilion only to find that I don’t have my ticket with me! Luckily, our seats are pretty close to the entrance, and I was able to get a dude behind Sheila to get her attention so she could slip her ticket to me, and I was safely back in. As “Tornado of Souls” ends, Sheila sees my ticket on the ground under my seat and a dude behind me hands it to me, so that no further problems might arise. Thank you, anonymous stranger!
Megadeth continued on, playing “Peace Sells”, followed by “Symphony of Destruction”, followed by “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due”, and just like that, Megadeth 2013 were finished – no unnecessary banter from Mustaine, only one terrible song, and the band sounded phenomenal! Then Mustaine came back out and said “You’ve been great, we’ve been Megadeth!” which I thought was pretty funny, but then he began to play air guitar to the song playing through the PA, and he never once mentioned the fact that they were opening for Iron Fucking Maiden. I’ve never heard an opening act not ask the crowd if they’re ready for the headliner, or tell the crowd to get ready for the headliner, or mention how cool it is to be opening for the headliner, or something of that nature. And so, Dave Mustaine blew his chance to redeem himself in my eyes, which is something about which he should care deeply. Also, he ignored my request/demand to play “The Conjuring”.
After Megadeth was off the stage, a guy a couple of rows behind us very loudly (and drunkenly) proclaimed that “when I bought this fuckin’ ticket, I honest-to-God thought Megadeth was the headliner! I came to see the American band, not those British fucks!” and as he walked down the stairs out of the pavilion, I turned to his friends and said, “Does that mean he’s leaving?” They laughed, but their eyes told me that they were not amused with their belligerent friend.
Back to the couple in front of us: between sets, Sheila struck up a conversation with them, and told them how excited I was to be there, and that we were celebrating our anniversary (which is next month, be we were celebrating early), and we found out that they drove in from fucking Baltimore to see Maiden for their 16th wedding anniversary. They had both seen Maiden many times before, but that was their first time seeing Megadeth. The dude and I discussed how much Megadeth used to rule, and how much Dave Mustaine sucks as a person now, and he told me how excited he was for me to be seeing Iron Maiden live for the first time, and how excited he was to be there for my first time.
Moments after this conversation, the couple got up to walk around for a bit, and a lady sitting next to that couple turned around and started talking to Sheila, as she had overheard that both us and the other couple were celebrating anniversaries. She told us that she and her husband were also celebrating their 16th wedding anniversary with Iron Maiden, that they had driven from 2 ½ hours away in Illinois to see the show, and that she had to work at 7:00 AM the next day. She was also exceptionally happy for me to be seeing Iron Maiden for the first time.
So then around 9:00 PM, “Doctor Doctor” by UFO starts to play through the sound system, indicating that Iron Maiden will be on the stage very soon. As the song ends, the lights go off, and the opening strains of “Moonchild” flow through the venue… “Seven deadly sins, seven ways to win, seven holy paths to hell and your trip begins…seven downward slopes, seven bloody hopes, seven are your burning fires, seven your desires…” and then the keyboards, and then the opening riff, and then FUCKING BLAM! and just like that, Maiden is on stage rocking my brains out through my earholes, and they don’t let up until the soft opening of “Afraid to Shoot Strangers”, and it’s a good thing they did let up a little, because I might’ve died. I already knew the setlist, because it’s been the same since they started this tour last year, but that didn’t lessen the impact every single time they started a song.
The crowd screamed along with the sample from The Prisoner that begins the song of the same name, and they screamed along with the bible verse that opens “The Number of the Beast”, and they screamed along with every verse and chorus, and every time Bruce said “Scream for me, St. Louis!” they did, and they screamed when the first Eddie walked onto the stage dressed as General Custer during “Run to the Hills” and simulated masturbation toward the crowd in the pit, and they screamed when the second Eddie appeared above Nicko’s drum kit during “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” (which also marks the only on-stage appearance of Michael Kenney, who has played live keyboards for the band since 1988’s Seventh Tour of a Seventh Tour, but who plays offstage except during this song, when he appears high above Nicko and Eddie, disguised as “The Phantom”, which was really creepy to see live), and they screamed when the final Eddie appeared during set closer “Iron Maiden”, and they screamed along with the spoken Winston Churchill intro to “Aces High”, which began the encore, and they screamed along with the chorus to “Running Free”, which closed the encore set, and they screamed all the way out of the venue and into the parking lot, and I screamed along with them, and I had such an amazing time, and I cannot fucking wait until the next time I get to see Iron Fucking Maiden live.
A couple of extra things: I’ve been to a lot of shows (like, hundreds and hundreds), and a fair amount of those shows (half or so) were what I’d actually call “concerts” (like, really big shows with big-name touring bands), and the crowd at this show was, overall, the most well-behaved, most respectful crowd I’ve ever been a part of. The lines to get in the venue were long, and everyone waited quietly, just chatting with their friends, or with the people near them in line. And when the couple from Baltimore left during the encore, as “The Evil That Men Do” was winding down and “Running Free” was beginning (the wife seemed to have had too much to drink), the guy hugged Sheila and me and told me again how happy he was for me. I never got a chance to get their names, but I wish I had. They both seemed very cool.
I sincerely can’t imagine that kind of brotherhood arising from any other genre of music.