Pick Your Rock and Metal

Friday, December 22, 2006

MAIDEN, MAIDEN, MAIDEN….such was the ignorance of some daft twat yelling behind those of us revelling in the quieter segments of the masterful ‘Matter of Life and Death’ when Iron Maiden played it in it’s entirety at Dublin’s Point theatre on Wednesday night.

Once he was (forcibly) disabused of the notion that yelling the band's name in the middle of one of their songs was unacceptable unless (a) it is part of a singalong or (b) you really want a slap to the head; it did serve to reveal interesting insights into Wednesday’s concert. Firstly, Maiden have the balls of lionhearted musical warriors to play an album, that is mere weeks old, from start to finish. And, also, that there were many people who were there waiting for a greatest hits package who have neither the time nor the inclination to read the articles, interviews and web posts, forums and blogs that told of the bold move by the Irons.

And that is always the problem for some people; Maiden have been doing things on their own terms for the 25 years that they have been rocking the metal world...

Nepotism is a dirty word in politics (check it up in the dictionary if you don’t know what it means). And in the music world it is usually frowned upon. But when Steve Harris signs his daughter’s band to open for Maiden, it raises not an eyebrow.

Had her set been crap that might have been a different matter. Fortunately Lauren Harris has killer tunes and great looks ("Easy on the eye" being Baal’s verdict). Where it all fell down on Wednesday was that her stuff isn’t metal. It’s loud, raucous old school hard rock, but not heavy metal. A less forgiving audience would have ignored the tunes and ignored the energy and passion so obvious in her songs. Lauren has a future in the rock spectrum, but she needs to improve her banter, and perhaps think about the name of her band; it would be awful if her talent as dsplayed at The Point was over-shadowed by accusations of trading on daddy’s success.

Trivium also has family close to them; Matt Heafy’s father is co-manager of the band. Some ignorant so called metal fans have accused them of having it easy; but the truth is much different. They’ve worked and toured damn hard to get to the place where they are respected by so many in the business and adored by fans, especially in the UK; where The Crusade sold 10,000 copies on the day of its release.

In Dublin on Wednesday they were playing to a largely converted audience, even if a few were not prepared to give the Floridians a chance.

They ripped through their set, with a healthy outing of tracks from The Crusade and ending with Ascendancy’s highlight songs Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation and Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr. All in all Trivium are much better when they are playing a full set, as the shredding solos and better balanced set pacing gives their Metallica/Megadeth tinged epics more room to breathe. Now cancel one of those Ambassador gigs and make tracks for Belfast you bastards! :)

Where to start with Maiden? Bruce’s banter, ‘Bomber’ Harris’s energy; three virtuoso guitarists, or a drummer in Nicko who makes a single bass kit sound mightier than half of the double kick amateurs plying their wares in metal?

Truth is Maiden are a metallic behemoth packed with talent; accomplished as musicians and entertainers. With 25 years tucked under their collective belts they know what people pay them to do; make a gig an event in every sense of the world.

Clearly Maiden are a band comfortable in what they do, but with hidden depths of musical skill and lyrical dexterity emerging during the course of the Matter of Life and Death tunes.

The gamble in playing all the album paid off. From the traditional sounding Maiden opener of Different Worlds, through to the intricacies of The Legacy, the core set was a series of jaw-dropping highlights; even those weaker tracks from Matter of Life and Death (and they’re only weak in comparison to the rest of the album, they stand head and shoulders above the rest of most of the current contenders in metal) emerge live as fresh and devastating. Out of the Shadows and Lord…in particular have a far greater impact in the competitive atmosphere of a gig.

Benjamin Breeg and These Clours Don’t Run are particularly noteworthy, but when The Legacy emerges unshackled from the confines of the CD player to the stadium it is clear that Maiden have now transcended all musical boundaries that ignorant critics and misguided fans try to shackle them with. Bruce’s command of the stage is absolute. Harris and McBrain handle shifting rhythms as if negotiating unsteady sands, always teetering on the edge of falling, yet somehow managing to keep the changes to tempo and time signatures under control and anchoring the song for Bruce and the triumvirate of guitar excellence.

Smith, Murray and Gers are clearly working now as a unit, much more than ever before, whereas previously there was a times too much effort to make sure everyone got a moment in the spotlight.

Gers and Murray’s strat dominated sounds are counter-pointed by Smith’s edgier work; but it is Gers who has at last seemed to have discovered his comfortable niche in the band’s complicated live chemistry.

Outlandish gestures, finger-pointing and mock histrionics (pretending to play over other’s solos and feigning innocence as he drops hands off the neck, he is positioned as the ring leader of the six-string trio’s performance.

But make no mistake; live there are two people who help Maiden transcend to ever higher metal achievements. Harris and Dickinson. One an East End boy, the other a public school drop-out with what seems like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; both foils for each others idiosyncrasies, both determined, despite past rumoured fall-outs, to deliver an all-out, no holds barred heavy metal show.

Oh, and it being a Maiden show there was of course, Eddie, atop a tank etc, etc, encores packed with signature tracks (Fear of the Dark and Iron Maiden getting better each time they’re played live) and banter with the crowd.

Apologies for this being a long winded review, but really Maiden are that magisterial live; dominating the audience and having the time of their lives, while we join in the party. Ten paragraphs in Merrang or Metal Hamster just don't capture the seering audacity of the Irons in full flight.

It seems that the 12-legged monster is playing just at Donington on Thursday 6th June 2007, before the main festivities get under way (TBC). But as Bruce promised, find them a muddy field to play on this island and they’ll be there. Can’t come too soon.

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