Iron Maiden @ Credit Union Centre, Saskatoon, SK, June 29, 2010

ironmaiden

A series of random observations by a writer who’s too exhausted to write a full essay.

By Adrien Begrand

It’s funny how some of the best shows I have ever seen walk a precipitous line between perfection and complete, utter disaster. I once saw Motörhead in a dive bar in Saskatoon that didn’t know how to handle 500 rowdy metal fans, but for all the delays and drunken brawls, that show ended up being spectacular. Similarly, everything that could go wrong was threatening to go wrong as yours truly and companions tried to negotiate the complete chaos that was Saskatoon’s Credit Union Centre this ominously muggy June night.

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My media pass, which had been arranged nearly a month prior, wasn’t on the venue’s record, and despite being shown email proof, the ticket office staff tried to brusquely shoo us freeloaders away. Five minutes after my quick phone call to the reps in LA, whaddya know, the office staff said my name was on the band guest list after all. You don’t say! So they begrudgingly surrendered a ticket, but sadly no apology.

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The outdoor merch tent is a brilliant idea. Buying overpriced Iron Maiden merch is a joy that fans can’t quite put into words to incredulous family members. We’re the Trekkies of metal.

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If you’re seeing this tour, have a “paperless” ticket, and live in a city where paperless ticket shows are rare, for goodness’ sake, get there early, because the lineups are horrendous. If you want to skip the massive lineup, though, go to will call and tell them you tried to get in but your credit card didn’t scan. My party did that, and it worked like a charm, handed paper tickets, and quickly inside five minutes before Dream Theater started, rather than missing their set entirely.

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When Dream Theater took the stage to Bernard Hermann’s theme to Psycho, the rink was only a quarter full, thanks to the paperless ticket hassles.

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Dream Theater was only half somnambulistic, which is generous praise in my books. “As I Am” is a good little tune, as is the Muse rip-off “Panic Attack”, and “Pull Me Under” is the closest thing they have to a classic song, but egads, is this band tedious. Drummer Mike Portnoy tries to get people involved, but his bandmates are all drably static, in their own little worlds noodling away, while singer James LaBrie simply goes through the motions, not showing any passion at all.

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Keyboardist Jordan Rudess‘s swiveling keyboard stand is a neat idea. It gives him something to do during all those interminable John Petrucci solos.

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And was that a keytar during “Panic Attack” or a flattened version of the monster fish at the end of La Dolce Vita?

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Is there no better way to get a crowd pumped than by blasting UFO’s classic “Doctor Doctor”? It gives me chills every time I hear it at a Maiden show.

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For the Maiden completists out there, their new intro music for The Final Frontier show is Gustav Holst’s “Mars, Bringer of War”. Apt. Plus, Alexander Courage’s “Theme From Star Trek” would have just been too darn obvious.

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He may be old, but Bruce Dickinson is spry. He literally flew onstage at the start of “The Wicker Man” and the energy didn’t let up for the entire show.

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Earlier this month at the international press meet in Dallas, Steve Harris asked me if I was seeing the show and I said no, I was seeing them in three weeks. He said, “Great, it usually takes us two weeks to get our legs anyway.” And wow, was he right. Nary a glitch. Tightly performed, Bruce in good voice, the three guitar mix exceptionally clean from where I was.

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Ever since Dave Murray decided to stop wearing Iron Maiden t-shirts and go the clean-cut, buttoned-up route, he looks a lot cooler out there. As opposed to Janick Gers, who, well…you know his shtick. You either hate it or you sort of tolerate it.

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“El Dorado” is a killer live tune. Total ’70s hard rock vibe courtesy riffmeister Adrian Smith, Heart’s “Barracuda” mixed with a little Thin Lizzy and UFO.

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The best Dickinson between-song chatter of the evening: “We sing songs about death and destruction, but nobody actually dies.”

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The setlist’s focus on the last four albums is a brilliant idea, and I heard no complaining from anyone else. “Ghost of the Navigator”, “These Colours Don’t Run”, and “Brave New World” went over very, very well, but my own personal highlights were “The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg” (their best single since “The Clairvoyant”), “Dance of Death”, and much to my surprise, the much-debated inclusion of “No More Lies”.

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I brought along my younger sister to the show, whose Iron Maiden knowledge is peripheral at best (having endured Powerslave continually blasted through the bedroom wall in 1984-85), and not only was she blown away, but for the record her personal fave was “Blood Brothers”, a song lovingly dedicated to Ronnie James Dio by Dickinson.

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When I first heard “Fear of the Dark” in 1992 I thought it was the stupidest, laziest, most formulaic song Steve Harris had ever written. To this day I still feel the same, but I have to admire how it’s become such a revered live staple. The famous Donington and Rio sing-alongs have led to similar reactions worldwide, and it’s a fun spectacle to witness.

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The second-best Dickinson between-song chatter of the evening: “I’m not leaving here until I get some Saskatoon berry jam.”

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Ending the show with “The Number of the Beast”, “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, and “Running Free” is a nice touch. Goodness knows we don’t need to hear “Run to the Hills” for the bazillionth time.

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It’s great to hear Dickinson talk about how much the band loves playing in Canada. As he says, unlike our neighbours to the south, we’ve supported the band from the beginning and every album of theirs has charted here. With a two and a half year touring cycle, it’s impossible to tell if the band will ever be around these parts again, so this was a night to savour the greatest metal band ever. If this was the last time I’ll see Maiden, then I couldn’t be more satisfied.

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With Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” providing the traditional exit music, we walked out only to see a classic, volatile prairie storm outside, blinding sheets of rain outside turning into walloping hail as we got back to the car, drenched to the bone. It was a small price to pay for having seen the best, most gratifying metal show of the summer.

Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.