Third Time's the Charm
If I have a vice - and I have a few - it is that ever so often I tend to give in to sudden fits of impulse. It was one such impulse that found me late Wednesday evening in that rarely-visited dungeon of human torture, also known as the gym in the basement.
Having made my way to the dungeon, I flailed around my limbs for a full ten minutes, before deciding that I'd had enough, and returned quietly to my quarters feeling rather pleased with my efforts. Alas, we must all pay a price for our indulgence.
I woke up next morning to a badly sprained left shoulder and a rather sore back. Normally, this wouldn't have been a cause for worry. I would simply have uttered some profanities, swore never to visit the gym again (or to get in shape, depending on the mood), and slept it off over the weekend. This however, was no ordinary weekend. This was the weekend I was supposed to attend the Somewhere Back in Time concert in New York.
I had been planning for the concert for months. Had booked tickets well in advance, made travel arrangements, had detailed contingency plans in order. I wasn't going to let a little niggle get in the way. Still, as anyone who's been to a Maiden concert will tell you, it's rather difficult to headbang with a sprained shoulder and sore back. I pointed this out to Curly as we drove towards the Continental arena.
"I don't think I'll be prancing around much during the concert. You know, with the sprained shoulder and all. This is going to have to be one of those concerts where you sit quietly and enjoy the music."
"Hmmm..." Curly replied.
Something in his tone led me to believe he wasn't quite convinced. I decided to let him know that I was serious.
"I'm serious, mate. Don't think I'll be banging any heads tonight. Besides, there is nothing wrong with behaving like a civilised being at a rock concert"
"Mm Hmmm...", Curly insisted.
We got to the Continental arena ahead of time, for a change, and proceeded to find our seats. And what seats they were - Lower level, second row. Just one row (and the mosh pit) removed from the stage. "What about these seats, eh?" I gushed. "You couldn't possibly get better seats". Technically of course, you could get better seats. You could get first row seats, right in front of us. But I let technicalities slide.
Soon it was time for the show to begin. Lauren Harris and her band entertained for a while. After a bit of a lull, Doctor, Doctor boomed across the sound system, followed by a montage of the tour to the tune of Transylvannia on the big screen. Then the lights dimmed, and the crowd roared. The bugle had sounded, and the charge had begun. The bugle in this case being an excerpt from Churchill's famous "We will fight them on the beaches" speech, and the charge a power-packed rendition of Aces High. I found myself springing to my feet along with 20,000 delirious fans screaming
There comes the sound of the guns sending flak"
Someone behind me tapped me on the shoulder. "Sir, do you mind not moving your hands so much. It's difficult to see the stage". So much for sitting quietly and enjoying the concert like civilised men. Oh, well.
As the night moved on, the hits kept rolling out one after another (complete set-list here). It's difficult to pick a single highpoint in the evening. Maybe it was the near-perfect rendition of Revelations. Or the rousing charge of The Trooper. Or perhaps it was the majestic PowerSlave with its impressive light shows. Oh, and then there was Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a fourteen-minute masterpiece that held the entire arena in thrall. The song has long been a favourite of mine, but listening to it live was quite something else.
The show maintained its feverish tempo right through to the end, concluding with the soulful Clairvoyant and the customary Hallowed be Thy Name. I was on my feet the entire time, of course, screaming at the top of my lungs. Despite the sprained shoulder, sore back et al., I did not feel spent. In fact, I was just getting warmed up. I could have gone on all night. The day after, however, would have been a different story.
The band was in great form, as usual. Bruce led from the front in style, as the crowd tried, in vain, to match his cries. I could have sworn I heard glass shatter during his scream in Run to the Hills. Janick kept up his whirlwind act, running around the stage, as the two old hands Dave and Adrian recreated their magic of old. Steve could often be seen in the corner singing aloud the words to his songs, luckily nowhere near a mike. Nicko was content just being Nicko. It's all he has to do to keep the crowd entertained. But most importantly, the band was quite clearly enjoying themselves. They seemed to be having as much fun, if not more, as the fans. There were no clashing egos here, no bitter angst. Just some plain old blokes from East London having a good time doing what they do best. It's probably the reason why they've been around so long.
All in all, it was, without a doubt, the best Maiden concert I've attended so far. The first one was special - the first time always is - but was way too short. The second one was longer, but didn't have all the big hits. This one was more satisfying. It had everything a fan could ask for - a popular set-list, elaborate stage sets, and a longer playing time (though the concert never seems long enough, if you ask me). In the end, as always, I was left craving for more.
The good news though is that Maiden aren't done quite as yet. There will surely be other shows to attend. In fact, the band will be returning to these shores again in the summer. Rest assured, I will be there cheering them on. And this time, I might just get those front row tickets.