Friday, July 6, 2018

Iron Maiden @ Accorhotels Arena Bercy, Paris - July 6th, 2018

There is an intense debate that has split the Metal legions into two very vehement factions and that has lasted several decades now: Priest or Maiden? Some reasonable fans have managed to keep a level-headed, measured approach by saying both are great bands in their own right, blah blah blah... Fuck that. I like Judas Priest, they're pretty cool. But I'm a Maiden guy all the way. And over the last two nights I was reminded as to why.

The first night started auspiciously as I got into the venue a bit too late, but still not late enough to miss Bland Metal stalwarts Raven Age, a band so generic and faceless that makes you wonder why they are on so many big tours and festivals. Well, wonder no more: the guitarist is Steve Harris' son. Maiden have a habit of taking their offsprings' bands on the road with them, making the nepotism that's rampant in the Trump administration pale in comparison. They came, they played, and then went back to their hotel to play X-Box presumably.

After about 30 minutes, the ritual starts: UFO's Doctor, Doctor starts blaring on the PA and we know what's coming next: Maiden are about to come on. And sure enough, after Churchill's speech, they make the grandest entrance I've seen from any band. As a life-size spitfire replica hangs over them, they blaze into Aces High and the audients lose their collective and proverbial shit.

Over the course of the next 90 minutes or so, they play every major classic and some less obvious tracks, including some from the much-maligned Blaze Bailey era. The scenography is jaw-dropping: every song is illustrated by its own backdrop, and a lot of them feature cool props and theatrics that bring the songs to life and weave them into a coherent narrative in an exciting and clever way.

Now, because of my late arrival I wasn't able to secure a spot near the stage as I prefer, but the show is so huge and bombastic that it didn't matter much. Consequently the pictures in the following link are kind of shitty but they do give an accurate idea of the spectacle:

Night two however was a different story. If the show was absolutely identical (save for the Bruce speeches that referenced the world cup and the Icarus icon that didn't work the first night) I managed to secure an early entry bracelet.

So I stood just a little left of center, second row in front of the stage.

Now the problem with the early entry is that I had a lot of time to kill so I used that time to re-read War and Peace. The ending still sucks.

That was the view of the venue when I entered:

And that was the view before Maiden started:

Maybe it's because I was closer but Raven Age seems a little less annoying this time. The singer still looks like a total douche canoe, but the other guys were just kids having a blast and that made their performance somewhat endearing. I'm not going to buy their records anytime soon but I no longer wish them severe bodily harm.

I'll be 40 in less than two weeks (yikes) and I thought being up front at metal shows was behind me. Well, I guess not. I had a fucking blast, even with all the crazy hairy dudes sweating beer all over me. Maybe I secretly like it? God what a breakthrough!

As I said the show was identical but so much more intense from the second row... Bruce was his usual funny self, addressing the crowd in French throughout, nailing every note and committed to bringing every song to life. The man is a force of nature and the best frontman in metal.

Dave Murray always looks friendly and affable (and possibly a little inebriated) and plays really well. Adrian Smith, to me, is the one with the coolest leads.

I know people dislike The Prancer and I get it. But I happen to enjoy the fun he brings to the show. Jannick dancing around like a ballerina and barely playing his guitar is still more rock and roll than your average metal band member frowning and trying to look all dark and evil.

Nicko was barely visible, for some reason they hid his drum kit behind some sort of camouflage so his head would pop out every once in a while (well, his nose mostly, as it now takes up three quarters of his face). He did mess up a few things here and there on both nights but he and the band recovered seemlessly.

And Steve Harris of course is his usual intense self, mouthing every word while playing those galloping bass lines, anchoring the whole operation, even gently mocking Bruce when he begins to ramble on for too long.

That was Maiden concert number eight for me and I don't know how they'll ever top that. But if they want to try I'll be there for sure. Up the Irons!

Some of those pics are quite badass, if I may say so myself, but even they don't do the show justice. It's to be seen to be believed, but mostly it's to be heard. Sure, they could have played other classics, other hits, more obscure stuff. But that's the problem with having such a vast repertoire. The show is perfect how it is. The sequencing, the pacing, the visuals, the song selection... This is the best Maiden show and this is the best metal show. Even if you're a casual you will be awe struck and if you're already a fan no doubt you will leave the venue even more of a die-hard than when you entered.

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