Skaldic scratchpad

An assortment of poems and other selected writings.

This site may or may not be updated in the future.

I got Butchered

A Midsummer Afternoon

God Shuffled his Feet

Epimetheus

Romancing the Reaper

Closure

The Vogon Poem

Vogon Haiku

Winter Scout

Scream for me Washington

 

Jellybean on prozac at an Iron Maiden concert.

Scream for me Washington DC!

... and so it dawned. The day I'd been waiting for, fantasizing about for the last 10 years. The day I got to attend an Iron Maiden concert (and as a bonus, I got to see Black Sabbath live as well). The day that Ozzfest came to town.

It started off as any other Sunday. England lost an Ashes test to Australia, Kimi Raikonnen's McLaren had an engine failure, I had cereal for breakfast. Nothing out of the ordinary. But through it all, there was an ominous feel to the morning (all right, mid-afternoon); a buzz in the air; a prescience of the fulfillment of a long cherished dream.

After making a meal of rather copious quantities of lamb kebabs and vegetable biryani, we, a couple of my friends and I, made our journey to the holy grounds at the Nissan pavilion in Bristow, just south of Washington. Not leaving anything to chance, we got there well in advance. In time in fact to catch one of the opening bands, Mudvayne perform. I wasn't familiar with much of their work, and after listening to their performance, was glad for it. To put it mildly, I was not impressed. Still, I waited patiently for 8:00 pm. The hour of reckoning; when Maiden took centre stage.

As the hour approached, Mudvayne retired to their quarters, and cut-outs of Eddie from the early Maiden albums started appearing on stage. The band had already declared on their website that they would be playing songs from their first four albums, as a promotion for the 'early days' DVD set. To whet our appetite, 'Doctor Doctor' a B-side from Fear of the Dark was played in the background while the crew set the stage. Then the lights went out. And then it began...

'The Ides of March' is a very short but immensely intricate piece, and has always been one of my favourite instrumentals. As the beats from the song echoed from a dark and seemingly empty stage, I literally jumped with joy and almost fell head first into the seats in front of me. Luckily, I regained my balance just in time to catch a glimpse of Bruce running across the stage with a streak of lighting behind him, breaking into a power packed rendition of 'Wrathchild'. For the next hour or so, I was held spellbound as if in a trance. Completely oblivious to everything but the music, in this state of stupor, I could finally comprehend the blissful ecstasy that Keats wrote about when addressing the immortal bird. Of course through it all, I was jumping like a jellybean on prozac and shrieking at the top of my voice in a vain attempt to match Bruce.

Wrathchild was followed by 'The Trooper', a song based on Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem 'The charge of the light brigade'. As expected, out came the Union jack, waved by Bruce (a la Eddie on the cover of the single). Trooper's always been a crowd favourite, but 'Revelations', the song that came next, is much more profound, with roots in Christian mythology and eastern philosophy. I was a bit surprised to hear it being played live, but was I ever glad that they did. Dave Murray excelled with an extended solo.

As the crowd took a breather, Bruce talked about when he first heard of Maiden. Apparently, there was one song in particular that had totally blown him off, and made him want to audition for them. The song was 'The Phantom of the Opera'. I almost cried out with joy as Adrian Smith and Dave Murray played their medley halfway through the song. There are no words I have to describe this classic; it just has to be heard to be believed. I have read the book by Gaston Leroux (on which the song is based), seen the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical on Broadway, watched the 1925 classic movie featuring Lon Chaney, but this song is simply on another level. Let it suffice to say that it is now my all time favourite song usurping greats like 'Child in Time' and Diamondhead's 'Am I Evil'.

The Phantom was followed by eternal favourites 'Run to the Hills' and 'The Number of the Beast'. Always popular with the crowds, it was great to be part of the chanting hordes singing "Six, six, six, the number of the beast... Six, six, six, the one for you and me". It was even more satisfying to sing along to an almost perfect rendition of 'Hallowed be Thy Name' that followed. Maiden's most popular song by far, it has the trademark Murray-Smith guitar medley and some of the best lyrics I've heard outside of Pink Floyd. They wrapped up with the song 'Iron Maiden' from their self titled debut album. One of their earliest numbers, it boasts of some rather frivolous lyrics, making it quite an atypical Maiden song. But it is unbelievably catchy, and for some reason one of my favourite songs from the album. Needless to say, I screamed aloud through all of it.

As the band walked off stage, the audience refused to move. All of us just stood there clapping our already sore hands for the better part of five minutes, with occasional chants of 'Iron Maiden' and the perennial requests for 'one more'. Lo and behold, the gods smiled upon us, and returned for not one but two more songs. The first of them, 'Running Free' is another crowd pleaser, and gave Bruce the opportunity to indulge the crowd in singing along with him. The second was an extended version of 'Sanctuary', a song about a man falsely accused of murder and on the run from the law, based on Edgar Allen Poe's famous story 'Murders in the Rue Morgue'. No extended guitar solos in this though, but it found Bruce on the top of his form again. As for me, sanctuary indeed had been found.

As I sat there feeling every bit euphoric as a hajj pilgrim on the gates of Mecca, and trying to find my voice again, I felt sure that nothing could match that performance. I had not reckoned however, for the metal powerhouse that is Black Sabbath. And to be perfectly honest, they came as close as is humanly possible to match Maiden (some would say they were better on the day, but as far as I'm concerned, Maiden are still the best). When I say Black Sabbath, I really mean Tony Iommi. He single-handedly and quite nonchalantly stole the spotlight with a performance that could only be described as phenomenal. While Ozzy lived up to his new found reputation of being a confused old stuttering goofball, messing up the lyrics, and sounding a decade older than his 56 years, Bill Ward looking like a long lost cousin of Syd Barret with his potbelly and receding hairline, and Geezer Butler a pale shadow of his old self, Iommi shouldered the responsibility of leading from the front and quite simply stole the show doing it. With his trademark luciferous leads and magical flying fingers he proved yet again that he is in the same revered league of extraordinary gentlemen as Ritchie Blackmore, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. For anyone who has not seen this great artist perform, please do so as soon as possible, before Sabbath stop touring altogether.

The flip sides of the day:
1. Mudvayne.
2. Ozzy Osbourne mooning the crowd. Not a pretty sight, to be sure.
3. Iron Maiden being given just an hour for their performance. They deserved much more just to go through their first four albums (I know I could have done with a couple more hours of Maiden). Also, the equipment provided to Maiden and the other bands was clearly inferior to that used by Sabbath (including the light shows and sound amplifiers). I think Bruce was a bit unhappy about this, and there have been a few grumblings on the Iron Maiden message board about it as well, but I don't think much will be made of the issue.

It is now well past midnight, and I have a busy day of work in the morning. I shall therefore end this narrative here. Hope you enjoyed reading it half as much as I did writing it. If not... oh well...

- July 25, 2005

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