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Tuesday
Jul312012

Kudos to Calgary: Iron Maiden at the Saddledome

We just got back yesterday from our road trip through the national parks of Alberta (BanffJasper) and northern Montana (Glacier). Most of the trip was spent as a family, appreciating the natural wonders, disconnected from technology and population. The trip, though, was really built around last Thursday's Iron Maiden concert at the Saddledome in Calgary.

Wow, I've gotta give credit to the people of Calgary. They know how to put on (and how to attend) a metal show. The lines for food and T-shirts were long, but everyone was in good spirits. I think a lot of us got a kick out of the special-issue Canada 2012 T-shirt showing Eddie as The Trooper riding on a moose from hell. Three of the Hearst-Reynolds clan got shirts, and two of those were the "moose from hell". It just felt right to celebrate Canada's contribution to the show and looking around the arena between acts, I suspect they sold a lot of that particular shirt.

Coheed & Cambria put on a a great set, albeit it short. I've seen them at a festival (Shoreline Amphiteatre and I've seen them headline (The Warfield) and I know they can rule the stage when it's appropriate. In this case, they played the support role well, keeping things short and sweet and getting the crowd amped up for Maiden. I enjoyed hearing their take on Sabbath's "Heaven & Hell", a great match for Claudio Sanchez' voice and the bands eclectic musical approach.

By the time Iron Maiden hit the stage, the Saddledome was packed. That's a good thing because I'd hate any space in the arena to have been wasted. Bruce Dickinson was in true form, singing like a banshee and prowling the stage, egging us fans on to sing along whenever possible. The rest of the band was spot on, both polished and edgy. As always, I spent most of the show fascinated by Steve Harris and his unmistakeable bass techniques. He held my attention effectively, interrupted only by the massive pyrotechnics display, combining flames and fireworks at a level that would make Gene Simmons proud. My son, Zane's jaw dropped and eyes went wide open the first time the flames rose up behind Bruce on his over-drum kit walkway.
I think both kids especially liked the various mechanical and stilt/costume versions of Eddie that were integral to the progression of songs in "Maiden England 2012" set. The only failing for the massive stage production, in my opinion, was the placement of the drum kit. I only saw Nicko McBrain's human form twice during the set, once before the encore and once after the encore. Basically, the walkway for Bruce flanked the drum kit so closely and projected so far forwards and up that (from the midline of the arena where we were sitting) there was no way to see anything except the front of his kick drum and a few cymbals. Nicko is a machine behind the kit and it's a shame we couldn't see his work more closely.

What really struck me is what a great collection of fans shared the Saddledome with us that night. We were not the only full family at the show. We saw tons of parents with their kids; there was another mom/dad/daughter/son combo sitting right in the row in front of us. My wife, Nancy, also commented that there were quite a few women of all ages in the venue, and that's not necessarily the norm at a metal show. Everyone seemed happy to be there and no one seemed interested in fighting or showing how tough they are. We got a lot of smiles from other fans when they saw our two kids with us. Calgary knows how to rock and knows how to make guests welcome, providing a perfect introduction to arena concerts for our two kids.
The next morning, the first breakfast stop we could find on the route out of town was Denny's. For better, or for worse, you know what you're getting at Denny's, so we stopped off to get some food. The waitress brought me a left-behind copy of the Calgary Sun and I quickly stumbled onto a review of the previous night's show. I was a little wary, concerned that it'd end up like so many shows over the years where I had a blast and the "critic" shot holes through the whole thing. We were all pleased to know that the reporter, Gerry Krochak, did in fact attend the same show and was there with the same positive energy that I saw in all the other fans. Gerry's article really captures the mood and feel of the show.
It was a hell of night, and, by now, Maiden has finished up the Canadian leg of their tour. Still, there are still a bunch of U.S. tour dates left. If you've already got tickets, get ready and do not miss the show. If you don't have tickets, beg or borrow your way into a ticket (No, don't steal. That's just stupid - see Michael Todd). This is a "can't miss" tour for any respectable metalhead. Up the Irons!

 

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