Dear KMA Readers, have I got a tale for you!
It’s a long one.
Go get a coffee.
Allow me to preface this post with apologies for the shite photies. My little iPhone 5 just didn’t cope well with the stage lights and the distance. In truth, none of my photos came close to depicting what we actually saw – they look much further away. They also came out looking like watercolours, everything lightly blurry. So, I’ve just left them as medium size so you can at least see something, even if they’re not great.
Ages ago, Wilf’s Buddy got us tickets to see Iron Maiden in Toronto. I KNOW!
Then the day before the show, that same buddy had a buddy (it’s a chain of buddies) who works at the Air Canada Centre (ACC) and got us bumped up to the ACC Club. I will explain more. First, let’s talk the day of the show.
Weather reports called for snow flurries and reduced visibility. Plus, a state of emergency had been declared south of us due to flooding. Some roads were closed. No matter, we would get through.
I picked up Wilf at noon, and we rolled towards the big shitty. Just light snow, no biggie. But sure enough, we hit a road block/detour. Which sent us out a back country road for a bit, but ended up being just fine. We didn’t see any evidence of flooding, so it must’ve been one specific area within the cordon.
We got to Toronto in good time and… sat in traffic. On the 401 an accident had blocked everything. No matter, we eventually got through it. Then traffic elsewhere, in places there is (typically) none. No matter. We got there! And plenty early because…
Wilf has recently been bitten by the vinyl collecting bug. He has a new turntable and a small but impressive collection of records already. He wanted more. We hit Kops Records and BMV. I’ll reveal my scores in a seperate post. This one’s all about Maiden.
We got kick-ass parking by the ACC ($30! Highway robbery and it wasn’t even on a highway!) and got a beer to kill time before meeting Wilf’s buddy. We sat in Casey’s, a block up from the show, me in my Eddie trooper t-shirt, and I felt like I belonged in a club. Every second shirt in there was a Maiden shirt, most of them concert shirts. A sea of them. Hells yes. We were joined by Wilf’s friends and it was all good.
Off to the venue. “Tickets” were a swipe of his credit card away – no more paper tickets! Except the credit card machine at the gate wouldn’t read buddy’s card, so off we went to the box office. Turns out his credit card had expired between ticket purchase and concert date, so the new card had the same number just a different expiry number, but it was enough to cough up this hairball. They actually asked him if he still had his old card. Haha what? Who keeps an expired card? And we live 3 hours away, so let me just pop home to have a look! We wondered if we’d get in, for a bit, there. Anyway, he sorted it out and they printed us old school rectangular tickets, which I’m happy to have as a keepsake!
Back to the gate and in we go, reservations under our name and holy fuck our seats were front row of the restaurant, right at the railing, overlooking the whole floor from the 200 level, directly across from the stage! We had highback leather chairs, waitress service, and the restaurant’s own super-clean bathroom where there was never a line-up, and no fighting through crowds to get there. What a set-up!
Wilf’s buddy’s buddy (haha this is fun) who works in the kitchen and who got us the upgraded seats came out from the back, brought us an appetizer he’d made. Holy hell, it was these delicious handmade pork things breaded in something fancy with homemade relish and a pickle, even some flowers… Someone at the table said they could’ve eaten 20 of those and called it a meal! Hooray for fancy pants restaurants! Hooray for friends!
We ordered from the Maiden Menu, all of us getting the double cheeseburger except one, who got the fish and chips. This burger, folks. I am a bit of an afficianado for burgers, and this one obliberated most of my ratings scales.
And with these lightly spicy and salty kettle chips… I wanted another plate. And another…
And for all the others (not me, I was driving) the beers started flowing. A good time was being had.
Sadly, there was no Trooper beer.
Opening act The Raven Age hit the stage to less than half the crowd Maiden would have. They played ably, no real missteps. The band is solid enough (and it was the drummer’s birthday! Plus, he’s a monster on the kit, great stuff), and George Harris on guitar did well. But I’d say the singer, Michael Burrough… he was good, and he worked hard to get people into it, but I dunno. Maybe more time is needed? They were good, but not great. Probably they suffered by comparison with what we all knew was coming up next… Anyway, they got out of the way quickly enough after a decent set.
I’d had requests for copies of the Raven Age CD from the merch table, but I inquired at the table and it was not for sale! The band did say, from the stage, that they’re available online. Odd that they weren’t selling them at the show. Poor choices! Maybe it’s because it is not on a label, so maybe not too many got printed up? Were it me, I’d have them in boxes ready to go, cheap and plentiful. Anyway, sorry folks, I could not procure the CD. Reminds me of the time we saw Bad Religion (and they were headliners!) and no album at the tables. Weird.
Anyway, the roadies set to work while more beer was consumed, and we all talked a lot about how friggin’ great these seats were. I took pictures, but they don’t do justice to what our eyes actually saw.
Slightly left of center and just above the stage, with perfect sightlines. We did have to stand when the very back row of plebes in the seats on the other side of the railing stood up, but no matter. We’d have been standing anyway.
Soon it was U.F.O.’s ‘Doctor Doctor’ and the place started going nuts. Folks, I’ve seen a lot of shows, and rarely have I felt the energy in a building of almost 15,000 people like I did last night. It was palpable, the air thick with shouts and pot smoke. And then there was Bruce, up at the back on the riser, with the intro to If Eternity Should Fail. The entire building collectively lost its minds. Unreal. Game fucking on!
I can simplify this. The set list has not changed at all since the start of the tour. As Wilf said, they’re just going to work every day and cranking it out while kicking ass. To fully give you a sense of what we saw, check this out:
Intro: U.F.O. – Doctor Doctor
If Eternity Should Fail
Speed Of Light
Children Of The Damned
Tears Of A Clown
The Red And The Black
Death Or Glory
The Book Of Souls
Hallowed be Thy Name
Fear of The Dark
The Number Of The Beast
Outro: Monty Python — Always Look On The Bright Side of Life
I just… words don’t really work, here. I tried writing this section three times. I tried to get out what it was like to be stomped by The Trooper, Bruce waving his flags around, and frickin’ Hallowed Be Thy Name, or lifted by The Red And The Black and Death Or Glory… seeing Eddie come out and stomp around stage, attacking band members (mostly Janick) and then being attacked (Bruce ripped his heart out and threw it to the crowd)… and then there was the big Eddie head… but I just couldn’t get the right words. Adjectives have honestly failed me. So I can sum it up thusly:
That. Fucking. RULED!
For a bunch of guys in their 60s, they were NOT dialing it in. They were giving it their all, leaving nothing behind. They kicked every ass and took every name, and honestly looked like they were having a blast doing it. And they still appeared ready for more. Unreal. UNREAL. I said to Wilf, afterwards, that so many other bands I have seen in concert in the past just got taken to fucking school.
Pretty much every song had its own backdrop curtain, and Bruce had several props (his flags and red jacket for Trooper, a noose for Hallowed, and even a lucha mask and leather vest for Powerslave. Anyway, they spared no expense on the pyros and lights either. And the sound was great. Where we were sitting, we were under the awning of the upper deck, and some said they got a bit of bounce-back especially on the vocals. I didn’t really notice. I was too busy rockin’ out!
And more than that, Bruce was everywhere, jumping around like a 20 year old and not pulling ANY punches on the vocals (take that, Vince Neil!). He sang every note, and with power. Between songs, he talked more than I thought he would, actually went on quite long sometimes between songs. One thing he said that stuck with me was in his (long) intro to Blood Brothers, when he mentioned that it doesn’t matter where you’re from, or what you look like, when you’re in the Maiden Family, you are IN the Maiden Family! Yes, cheap crowd-pleasing talk, but it was totally true. There was a real sense of respectful community in the crowd. Everyone was just there to have a good time, no rough stuff, people waiting their turns, no assholes. Bruce actually complimented the crowd, said they’d been to El Salvador and seen some shit, but after they’d played there people stopped killing each other for five days, and wouldn’t it be great if the whole world was Maiden fans! Imagine the peace! Haha, he then thanked us for being a great crowd. Right on!
Wilf wasn’t too keen on hearing Tears Of A Clown, not his fave track off the album, but I thought it went over great. I was worried about Wasted Years, I don’t dig the album track all that much. But in concert, it fit perfectly. Much, much better live!
Overall, it’s hard to ask for more. You could say I wish they’d played this or that song, but having been there, and been lifted by the brilliance of it all, I can tell you it hardly mattered what they played.
It was all awesome.
By the time it was all over, we knew we had been in the presence of greatness.
The setlist was stellar. Our seats kicked serious ass. The food was delicious.
We overcame some obstacles to get there, and to even get into the building, but everything worked out fine.
Sadly, it was over too soon and we were out into a very snowy Toronto for the drive home.
Which was total ass.
It was snowing hard, and accumulated snow had already obliterated the lane lines. It was guesswork the whole way. We live 2.5 hours north if the lake shore. This trip took us almst 4.5 hours. Most of the way, we did 50km/h. I totally missed the 410 exit off the 401, so we ended up on Highway 1 for a while. We found the 10 again, only to hit another roadblock, though I found out later that that one was for an accident where a car went headlong into a big rig and two people died. Ugh.
The further north we went, the harder it snowed, and it was blowing right at us like we were going into lightspeed in Star Wars. Once we got out of the city and onto those dark back country highways north, it got really fun. We couldn’t see the lanes or really where the road even was, and now there were no streetlights to help us guess. Plus the snow coming at us… it was not fun. Fortunately, I am well-used to these driving conditions, just living where we do, but it doesn’t mean I like it all that much. Others might’ve found a place to stay for the night…
We made it home, exhausted, at 3 a.m. I dropped Wilf off, got home, shovelled out the walk, crashed around 3:30 and got back up again at 7:00 to take the kids to school. I have to work today, too! I am gonna be done by this evening, I can tell you that. But right now the pure adrenaline of Maiden has kept me going thus far!
Folks, I have seen many, many bands in concert. I have enjoyed many shows, for many different reasons. But Iron Maiden last night easily earned a place in my list of Best Concerts Ever. There’s something timeless, classic, and fucking epic about what they do, and they do it so well and with such energy that you come away with a real sense of occasion.
We didn’t just go to a concert last night. We had one of the best times of our lives.
Thank you, Iron Maiden!