By Jesse Coy
It’s March 10, and damn, I’m on the bus to Seoul, where I can finally see one of my favorite bands from high school, this time with their primary (not original, Paul… I know) singer, Bruce Dickinson, who flew the 747 in country.
Up the irons, mother fucker!
So I’m psyched. I’m also grinning happy that my current girl, the sweet BlueKat, will apparently be there to meet me in the wee hours of morning when I return to Masan after the show. I’m about a half hour from Seoul now, listening to “Blood Brothers.” Yes, I cheated and peaked at the set list. Iron Maiden will be playing a lot of new stuff. Who knows? Maybe I’ll look at it differently. There’re a few songs from the new one that I quite like. Anyway, for two nights in a row I had bad sleep.
On Wednesday, I bought my bus ticket. So on Thursday, I gave my afternoon class their assignment for the movie presentation. We went through the current event of the day, and then watching the time, I finally left at 1:40. I was already dressed in riding clothes, my computer off. I already had a bottle of soju in my backpack for the bus ride. I was on my bike at 1:41. It takes me seven minutes to bike out of the academy and reach the third gate, I discovered. I bought some black coffee after locking up my bike, and then walked to the bus station, where five minutes later, it’d be off to Seoul for me. First I got caught up on my journal, and then I read about 70 pages of “Flowers for Algernon“, and then I went back to this. It’s 6:24.
We’re in traffic now, near the bus station.
Now it’s later. Surprisingly, MJ sent me a text message on that night, mostly because she had a friend who was going to the show, too. We actually sent messages back and forth. She works from 7 to 1 now, six days a week at a bar. Sunday is her only day off. I’d be happy to talk with her again, but I won’t go out of my way to do it. And that’s my ex-girlfriend, but I’m supposed to be talking about Iron Maiden.
It takes about 40 minutes to get from the bus station to the Olympic Stadium. On the way to the stadium, I snapped a shot of the sign for both Iron Maiden and the Eagles. I also got two large cans of beer. I downed those in a short time, with a half hour or a little less before 8. I was hearing loud music from inside the stadium. Damn, Iron Maiden didn’t start early, did they? No… I found out later that a Korean metal band opened up for Iron Maiden.
Inside the stadium, it felt like home. I was with family (like-minded fans). There were plenty of foreigners, but also Korean metal fans. I got into conversation with a couple foreigners. “You see Maiden before?” The one guy bought a four-pack of beer, sharing it with us. He’d seen them before. He turned out to be living in Changwon, going to the same weekend places as me. The shorter guy was from the southwest, around Mokpo. He was into a lot of 80’s hardcore punk, wearing a Cryptic Slaughter shirt. The bigger guy was 29, I think. He got into Iron Maiden when the Fear of the Dark album came out. I got into them a little after Somewhere in Time. We finally went inside the actual stadium area. Soon after the band started, I lost track of those two guys.
Now right off the bat I will say that this show was the smallest in attendance that I’ve seen in this stadium. Mostly, it was only standing room. In contrast, a couple weeks back when Eric Clapton played, it looked like all the seats were taken. Here, only a handful of people were seated in the far back. Bruce even commented on this.
“What’s with the people in the back? Is there something wrong with their arses?”
They were musicians, one of his band mates told him, which doesn’t explain much. Why would you want to be far back when you could get up close to Iron Maiden? As a matter of fact, that’s what I loved so much about this show. In most venues in other countries, you’d be far removed. And let me clarify one thing, or add a contrast. While yes, this show had the smallest audience compared to all the other shows I saw at this venue, without a doubt, the audience here was the most charged for any show I’ve seen at this venue. I’d peg it as double that of anything else I’ve seen in South Korea, and the main reason is simple. Bruce Dickinson is an awesome showman, and the rest of the band is quite charged, to slightly varying degrees. Guitarist Janick Gers takes top honors, hopping and stomping about like a mad elf, tossing, flinging, and flipping his guitar around. Steve Harris is a close second, running about the stage, a machine with his bass, and aiming it like a machine gun, clearly the band’s engine.
And I have to say, besides the overall showmanship of Bruce, it’s nice to actually hear him engage the crowd and address the fact that the band is playing here in South Korea. Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton, the last two concerts I saw, said nothing, for example. As for Bruce, he answered the question that I had, wondering if they’ve ever played here before.
“We’ve lost our Korean virginity,” he said, meaning it was their first time.
I have to check David Lee Roth’s age. He’s noted for having high energy. Well, besides the fact that Bruce actually flies the band’s plane around the world, his stage energy is very high. Okay, Bruce is 53 and David is 56. Unlike many bands with a long history who have their problems, I couldn’t help but get the feeling of Iron Maiden being a family. That was enhanced by my feeling of kinship with these fellow fans, my temporary family. For Iron Maiden, that’s why they kept Janick when Adrian returned, the band being one of the few heavy metal acts with three guitarists and a bassist. Speaking of family, for much of the show, I was beside this girl who looked to have brought her mom along to the concert (interesting).
So to recap before I get into the actual songs, I’m talking high, positive energy from the band, and an overall top notch performance. As for what songs Iron Maiden played, or should play… with all the albums they have throughout their long career, they’re sort of like Rush in that there’s a lot for them to pick from, and you don’t know what you’re going to get (unless you peak at the set list). I like a lot of songs from Somewhere in Time, but not too long ago, they toured and played that album in its entirety, so all material from that album was absent.
For those who only want a band to play their older or classic stuff, that’s not what Iron Maiden does. Of the sixteen songs, half were from before Bruce left the band (after Fear of the Dark), and the other half were from when he returned. But that’s misleading, because many of the newer songs are seven, eight, or nine minutes long. One other comment on checking out the set list in advance, before the show started, that taller Iron Maiden fan from Changwon was adamant when someone asked him if he wanted to know what they’d be playing. “Don’t tell me anything,” he insisted, blocking his ears. For him, it was sort of like sacrilege to ruin the surprise. For me, I looked the set list up mostly because I wasn’t as familiar with the newer material.
“Satellite 15… Final Frontier” is a great way to start the show. It’s a lot of build up during the first half, and actually Bruce and company weren’t on stage until the “Final Frontier” portion of that song, as though this was some satellite transmission being beamed to us. “Final Frontier,” by the way, is a great song that reminds me of a heavy metal take on “Space Oddity” or “Rocket Man” (David Bowie and Elton John respectively). There were four other tracks from the new one, including “El Dorado,” “Coming Home,” “The Talisman,” and “When the Wind Blows Wild.”
“The Talisman” hadn’t stood out so much for me on the new album, but Bruce was very expressive during the song, which made me reconsider it. It made me realize the power that music video promos had. With one of those, this one would really stand out. I don’t see so many music videos these days. As for “Coming Home,” I’d like that one before. Live, you got to hear a brief explanation of the inspiration behind the song, which enhanced it. From Brave New World, the album that marked Bruce’s return, there was “Wicker Man” (one of Iron Maiden’s newer classic songs) and “Blood Brothers.” There was “Dance of Death,” the title track of the album by the same name.
And that brings us to the older classic material. “2 Minutes to Midnight” was played three songs into the show, and everyone went wild. I was shouting those lyrics out with everyone else. Sometime later came “The Trooper,” with Bruce vanishing, and then reappearing decked out in a red World War I style soldier’s uniform, waving a battle-tattered British flag. Again, myself and many others sang out that one. Later in the show, there was “Evil That Men Do” and “Fear of the Dark” (apparently a fan favorite, but never a favorite of mine). The really old (more) classics were saved as the last song and encore tunes. Eddie was let out of the basement, so to speak, for “Iron Maiden” (Eddie about twelve feet tall). And then, no offense to Blaze, but I finally got to hear Bruce singing both “Number of the Beast” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name.” For “Running Free,” band introductions were made. Steve Harris’ vocals were quite prominent on the chorus, actually. And that sadly ended the show.
More than two hours melted away rather quickly. I hurried out of there, hoping to catch an earlier subway train. But I ended up waiting with everyone else. I’d spoken with BlueKat earlier, before the show. She was going to meet me in Masan. I made it to the bus station just in time to catch an 11:20 bus. It was 11:15. I raced to get two bottles of makgeolli for the return ride. I ended up finishing “Flowers for Algernon” (a really good book). I drank one bottle of makgeolli, and then cracked open the next one. Got into Masan at about 3:10 a.m. It was sweet to have a sugar pop like BlueKat waiting for me.
We made a wrong turn (my fault) going back to Jinhae.
“Are you drunk?” she asked, because normally I don’t curse, but I did once or twice.
Well, I was buzzed. Asleep at 4, I had to wake at 7:30, to ride into the academy with Joey. My four hours of classes went fine, but seemed a blur. I left around noon, walking to my bike, locked at the main entrance. But Joey drove by, asking if I needed to go to HomePlus. Sure, because I was so tired that this would make for an easy return home.
Meanwhile, Bruce was flying the plane to Japan for two performances over two nights in Tokyo. That same day at 2:46 p.m. an enormous earthquake caused a massive tsunami, killing thousands or more, the surreal scenes of cars being carried away, bouncing off each other like pool balls, or entire buildings swept away, towns vanishing. Iron Maiden was diverted from Tokyo, landing elsewhere in Japan. The two Tokyo shows were obviously cancelled, with the band expressing their sorrow over the situation and overall concern for their fans and Japan in general. One of the students I have had been in Japan, returning a day before the tsunami hit.
Jesse Coy Nelson’s music review site is: http://www.audiotavern.com/