Izod Center, East Rutherford, NJ • March 14, 2008
Flying from Florida to New Jersey for just one night to see a heavy metal band is not something I thought I would ever do. So how is it that I ended up wrestling with turbulence and my distaste for flying, on my way to the Izod Center on a cold and dreary March morning? Because my girlfriend is an Iron Maiden fan. By the end of the night I would be able to say that of myself as well.
As my flight ended in the stark and depressing, rust-colored city of Newark, I spotted the customized Iron Maiden charter plane lying calmly on the tarmac. The 757, which is piloted around the world by the band’s multi-talented vocalist, Bruce Dickinson, has the band’s name emblazoned on its sides and the recognizable Eddie mascot painted on its tail. Take a moment to let that sink in. The singer is personally flying his own plane, with the band on-board, all over the world. He flies by day and performs by night, like some kind of Rock Superhero.
For the Somewhere Back in Time Tour, the legendary band from England showcases songs from the most popular era of their 33-year career: the 1980s. Even the set dressing is reminiscent of their infamous 1984 Powerslave tour, with its Egyptian theme.
A simple glance around at the fans made me feel like I had traveled back in time to the glory days of metal. Guys with long, frizzy hair and denim jackets plastered with faded patches stood in long lines for overpriced beer and merchandise. Actually, it was the prices of these items that sent me crashing back into 2008. T-shirts were going for $40 and a bottle of beer was a mind numbing $7.25!
Once inside the heart of the arena, the anticipation of the sold-out crowd was palpable. It could be felt in waves of fist-pounding in the air, and heard in the chanting of the band’s name. When, at long last, the band ran onto the stage framed by bursts of fire, it was as if the last twenty years never happened. They opened up with “Aces High” followed by “2 Minutes to Midnight,” and very quickly I began to understand what it is about this band that has forged a place in the hearts of so many. Here before me was a band with boundless energy. The six members are well into middle age, and yet they sprinted across the stage like kids on a sugar rush. Dickinson was in constant motion, leaping over amps and jumping gaps in the stage with more gusto than musicians half his age.
The two-hour set delivered well on all of the promised big songs from yesteryear. They played “Run to the Hills,” “The Trooper,” “The Number of the Beast,” and a spine-chilling “Fear of the Dark,” during which the 20,000 fans in attendance sang along. It wasn’t until the end of the set that their trademark Eddie character appeared. This time around he was a 15-foot tall version of the muscular Terminator-looking Eddie depicted on the 1986 Somewhere Back in Time album. As he stomped around the stage, dwarfing the band members, I think that we all felt like twelve-year-old kids watching our action figures come to life.
At the close of the night, Dickinson tossed his sweat-drenched hat into the crowd and band members threw out picks and drumsticks before exiting the stage. A three-song encore was demanded by an audience that would not let them leave.
Iron Maiden put on a dying brand of rock show, one that celebrates spectacle, but delivers substance. Shows involve fire, smoke machines so powerful that they bury the band up the knees in fog, an ever-changing stage, fireworks, and that aforementioned larger-than-life Eddie. This is what a metal show should be, and I had never seen anything until this night that came remotely close to the childlike bliss that Iron Maiden create onstage. I imagine that this is what KISS fans must have felt like in 1975.
The following morning we packed up and headed back to the airport for a long ride home. Again we spotted the plane, and this time we got to watch it taxi out and take off. On their way to satisfy some more fans, this time in Canada, Iron Maiden left New Jersey in their wake, Bruce Dickinson at the controls.
To see more photos of this show, and others, go to www.jencray.com.
Iron Maiden: www.ironmaiden.com