July 4th was the hottest day here in Milwaukee in 17 years. It hit 102 degrees that day. I also had to work what was a grueling 8am to 3pm shift at work. None of this would stop me from venturing to Summerfest for the first time in 14 years to see a band that I have been listening to for the past 20 years named Iron Maiden.
Iron Maiden has been a band that I have listened to on and off for it seems like forever. I can't even tell you what the first song I heard by them was. I am pretty sure the first album I listened to though was "The Number of the Beast". Then I was introduced to albums such as "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son", "Peace of Mind", and "Powerslave". When "Fear of the Dark" came out I liked that album, well the majority of the album, and the title track of that album became a favorite of mine to this day. I always thought it would be awesome to see them live. Lots of people have told me that Maiden is amazing live and would probably be the best show that I have ever went to. Then back in February it was announced that Maiden was going to be playing July 4th at Summerfest. I knew I had to go to this show. In the time leading up to the show I listened to more Maiden then usual. I always liked Maiden but during this time they really begun to grow on me. Even 20 years after I had first starting listening to them it at times seems like I was just discovering a new band. I thought to myself maybe I should of paid more attention over the years to the music, the lyrics, the vocals, the guitars, etc. I knew even before I got to Summerfest that day that I would be apart of something special.
We got to Summerfest and inside of the Marcus to see a sea of people with their Iron Maiden shirts on. I have one but for whatever reason i did not wear it. I hadn't been to the Marcus to see a show in 16 years. Last show I saw at that venue was White Zombie, Pantera, and The Deftones. That was one wild show but enough bout that. It was nice to see my nephew Josh sitting in the bleachers in the seats right next to us. Funny story. The day I bought our tickets I found out he was going too. As we were talking on facebook we discovered that his friend had gotten tickets right next to us. Talk about a weird coincidence. His friend apparently had bought tickets an hour after I bought ours. It was pretty hot in there since it was a hot day outside. Every now and then there was a cool breeze for relief but it was not going to help.
Alice Cooper took the stage. I have known some of his songs since I was like 8 or 9 years old. I don't know much by him but I do know "the hits". I was pleasantly surprised how well he sounded and his stage show was pretty entertaining. He played through songs that I knew so I had a chance to sing along to some of his songs. Towards the end of the set he was decapitated but then came back out to finish off his set with "Schools Out" which was mixed in with some lines from Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" which I thought was pretty damn cool. You never expect much from an opening band but Alice Cooper was the perfect fit and perfect opener for Maiden. The stage had been set for what was going to come.
When I heard the music of UFO's "Doctor, Doctor" I knew Maiden was about to hit the stage. The lights went out and there was a little film dedicated to their current tour. Their current tour is based off of the 1989 tour Maiden England. Same theme and about 60% of their set list. It was based off "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" album which was fine with me since I liked that album a lot. The opening music of "Moonchild" hit and I had the biggest smile on my face. I felt a bit weird. I am at a metal show and I am smiling. I suppose though I can compare seeing one of my favorite bands to being a kid and opening up an Xmas gift. Immediately I was amazed at how great they sounded live and the stage show was everything I expected it to be. I sang along and cheered to the songs I had been listening to 20 years. I can't even really begin to put into words how much of an amazing experience it was to hear this band live. Frankly Iron Maiden sounds better live in my opinion then they do on record. Even a song like the song "Iron Maiden" sounded awesome live. I like that song but it was never a song that I like listened to on a consist basis. Another pleasant surprise for me was the song "Phantom of the Opera". The song is on their first record but I honestly never gave that album the time of day cause Bruce Dickinson wasn't the singer when Maiden first started. That was a mistake on my part cause I really did miss out on what is a classic Maiden song. After the concert this has become a song that I can not stop listening to.
Bruce Dickinson sounded awesome. Well to be totally honest everyone in the band sounded great not just Bruce. Bruce was all over the stage running around and singing. Nicko Mcbrain is an amazing drummer. He is one of the best drummers in my opinion. Then you have the 3 guitarists. How awesome is it for one band to have three guitarists. I will be honest I never gave much attention to how great Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, and Janick Gers are. Now I find myself wanting to learn Maiden songs on guitar and well I sorta have. Been working on the beginning to "2 Minutes to Midnight". Who hasn't wanted to learn how to play that guitar riff at the beginning of the song? Steve Harris is a great bass player. He runs around and sings backup vocals and whatnot. Let me not forget to mention how great of songwriters these guys are. If people were to ask me to recommend them what heavy metal bands to listen to are I would off the top of my head name Iron Maiden, Metallica, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath.
The night was hotter then hell. I had sweat dripping off of me and I am pretty sure I felt like at one point I was not going to make it through the show. I also felt like I couldn't sing or scream or whatever else I was doing. I had no energy left to give but I had to. It was Iron Maiden and they sounded great and it was like the music demanded me to give every last ounce of energy to enjoy what was going on. Greatest concert I have been to. Hands down the best. I had an awe struck moment too. When they went into the encore and played "Aces High" with the Churchill speech, it was one of those wow I can't believe I am here hearing and seeing this live. I had heard that song and the intro to it many many times but on this night it took on a whole new meaning and felt more special.
20 years ago when I went to Summerfest and the Marcus for the first time to see Metallica they for 20 years held the title of best band I have seen live. Metallica is great and they will always be near the top of the list but on July 4th Iron Maiden overtook Metallica as the best live band that I have seen. Funny that for 20 years Metallica kept that title and then at what ended up being my 20th concert Maiden takes the number one spot for me. I recommend everyone, well people who like harder music, to see Iron Maiden at least once in their lifetime. Even if you only know one or two songs by them they do not disappoint live.
July 4th with Iron Maiden will be a night I will remember for a long time to come.
Can I Play With Madness
2 Minutes to Midnight
Afraid to Shoot Strangers
The Number of the Beast
Phantom of the Opera
Run to the Hills
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
Fear of the Dark
The Evil That Men Do