Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My Maiden Voyage

Thank you to my wife for the tickets and the name of this blog post. Sunday night was a night of firsts for me, it was the first time I had gotten to see Iron Maiden. But more importantly, it was the first time I got to see Dream Theater.

I've been a DT fan for awhile now and although I had an opportunity to see them once opening for Yes I couldn't get to the Sleep Train Pavilion in time to catch 'em. We arrived about an hour before the show and promptly got into line to enter the Pavilion. And waited. And waited. Nice mix of ages in this line. And waited even longer, I don't think they opened the gates until about a half hour before showtime. Not that this stopped anybody from getting the party started. Shortly after we sat down in our seats, these two guys sat their drunk friend down a few rows ahead of us. About 15 minutes later, one of the friends escorted the drunk dude back up the stairs because the guy was so wasted he pissed all over himself. In a sort of surprise move, the music before the concert included a Dream Theater song "The Best Of Times". Then the famous slashing strings from the movie Psycho hit the PA to let the crowd know things were about to kick off.

In a real rarity, Dream Theater started their show five minutes before the official start time of 7:30. I've never seen that in all the years I've been to concerts, no one ever starts early. DT came out with guns blazing on the opener "As I Am", immediately proving lead singer James LaBrie was in excellent voice. A sea of devil horn throwing arms thrust towards the stage to the beat. "A Rite Of Passage" has a sluggish groove but came alive with drummer Mike Portnoy doing his drum parts while standing each chance he got. The longest cut of the evening was the epic sitar effect laced "Home", a ten minute run through DT's proggy side. My wife had gotten me a beer during "Passage" so I had a nice buzz going when we hit the highlight of my evening, "Constant Motion". DT blasted thru "Constant Motion" hitting the groove changes with hairpin precision. Guitarist John Petrucci and keyboardist Jordan Rudess took their fleet fingered solos to the next level. Meanwhile, we noticed this one dude to our right headbanging with equal fury and accuracy. This guy was definitely a fan, he changed head banging speeds in perfect time with the music.

The groups Rock Band representative track "Panic Attack" came up next, giving bassist James Myung room to groove. Then it was time for the big finish, DT didn't miss a beat on their lone hit "Pull Me Under". Keyboardist Jordan Rudess whips out the keytar and it is smokin'. And then as efficiently as they had started Dream Theater finished and left the stage. A great performance that seemed to be held to a very regimented time table.

After a set redress the stage became cloaked under a black fabric screen. The sound of an Iron Maiden song raged over the PA as the audience anxiously awaited the arrival of their Metal heroes. Then the cloak was removed and revealed a stage set that looked like a sci fi movie. The stage was framed by sci fi looking storage containers that doubled as a second tier above the floor. Iron Maiden's drummer sat centered on the second tier as band members ran in and out of a fabric door to the rear left of the stage.

Now for a disclaimer / admission. I like Iron Maiden. They are one of those bands that are beyond questioning in terms of motivation to rock. I don't know a lot of their music. I know three albums from them, The Number Of The Beast, Piece Of Mind and Somewhere Back In Time - The Best Of Iron Maiden. I thought playing the Best Of Cd the week before would help me prep for the concert. Of the 15 songs on that album, Iron Maiden only played three of them in my presence (I had left before "Hallowed Be Thy Name" was played). So I hardly knew any of the songs played at the concert. It doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the show, but that my Iron Maiden experience was more a series of impressions than anything else. From what I remember, it went something like this:

  • All right, it's Iron Maiden!

  • Bruce Dickinson runs around a lot. And jumps a lot. He's more active than David Lee Roth!

  • Wow, that blond hair guitarist got those poser moves down. Playing while standing on one leg? Cool!

  • Hey, I didn't realize they had three guitarists before.

  • "Wrathchild"! I know this one. Interesting how Dickinson does this snake like move with his upper torso and arms while singing.

  • The other blond guitarist is playing, funny how the one guy looks hair metal while this dude looks Bachman Turner Overdrive. And the non blond guitarist moves with courtly gestures like an English gentleman.

  • Their new album The Final Frontier isn't out yet so the sci fi staging doesn't make total sense, but it sure looks awesome!

  • Why is it I can hear Bruce Dickinson loud and clear when he does stage patter but he gets buried in the mix during song performance? WTF?

  • Gotta take a monster whizz.

  • Is Dickinson skipping to the drum kit during guitar solos? Is that allowed? I've never seen skipping by a member of a hard rock / metal band.

  • We're getting to the slow songs, kinda cool and medieval sounding.

  • Dickinson pays tribute to Ronnie James Dio, huge crowd pop and "Dio" chant follows. Nice lead in to the song called "Blood Brothers".

  • I like it when the bass player aims the neck of his guitar out at the audience and pretends to strafe them with a gun.

  • The audience is getting drunker if that's possible. I've had people fall out of the aisle into me twice now. That first dude had serious b.o., he hit me for a second and his stench lingered the whole song!

  • Speaking of smells, there has been a lot of medicinal herbs stinking up the place.

  • All right, back to the fast songs!

  • The Bunny looks cute head banging.

  • Should I put up some devil horns at the end of song? Should I? Yes! Feels so good :)

  • Dickinson's shirt says Psycho Ward. I kinda miss the Medieval warrior look I used to see him wear in Circus magazine all those years ago.

  • The guy in front of me keeps getting blocking my view at random by making out with his chick. Damn he's got a big head. Now they're leaving to presumably do it in the bathroom.

  • Awesome, the blond guitarist with the poser moves has added two new moves: slinging his guitar up and down his shoulder like a military rifle mixed in with some around the worlds.

  • It's the song "Iron Maiden". I've heard this one before! A giant alien looking Eddie is onstage and the band members are doing battle with him. Cool!

  • The Pavilion looks totally sold out. The main part of the set is over, time to go. Don't want to get caught in a drunken traffic jam.

  • I can hear "The Number Of The Beast" play as we walk to the car in the distant parking lot.

  • Time for some Dennys!

Considering I didn't know most of the songs, I had a great time at the Iron Maiden part of the show. The size and spectacle was impressive, as was the tight performance of their music. Maiden is one of those groups where if you like one song, you're gonna like them all. Sound mix could have been better but it wasn't horrible. I left thinking I was going to miss "Run To The Hills" but it turns out they didn't play that one. All in all, a fun concert.

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