Never in my life did I imagine I'd be within whacking distance of my hero's cane.
Until last week a long-standing source of shame for me as a metalhead was the fact that I had never seen Iron Maiden. I was turned off to huge arenas after a crowded Meadowlands-induced panic attack during a Slayer concert that resulted in me getting so drunk to cope with the crowds that I actually nodded off for a few minutes while Slayer was playing. That's right, I fell asleep during a Slayer concert. To be fair I was in the nosebleed section so it wasn't exactly loud all the way up there. It took me years to be brave enough to go to another massive arena show. The promise of Iron Maiden playing with one of my all-time favorites Alice Cooper was enough for me to conquer my fears and get in the van with twelve long-hairs heading from the Turkey's Nest (a terrible/wonderful bar in Brooklyn) to Jones Beach for the show.
We hadn't even gotten out of Queens before three of the dudes in the back needed to piss. I guess guzzling a couple of beers the size of big gulps will do that to you. The only bottles in the van were Smart Water bottles which didn't have the ideal-sized opening. There were a few pee-shy moments in the stop and go traffic getting out of the city on the L.I.E. and eventually both of them ended up shirtless a'la George Costanza to get more comfortable. Success!
Our next stop was a grocery store to pick up tailgating supplies. After all, that's half the fun of going to these big shows (and the reason I got so drunk at the Slayer show…I was with two girls and as we wandered around the parking lot of Meadowlands groups of dudes practically begged for us to drink their beers…it's what happens to a group of unattended women at any metal show, sexism is lame and all, but that was admittedly pretty sweet.) Living in New York it's pretty hard to feel like you're a weirdo, threatening, or any type of hoodlum because everyone kind of looks that way and everyone else just minds their own business but in that Key Food on Long Island we were definitely a distraction. It didn't help that my pal Jake showed off his one-armed push-ups in the parking lot.
With about 150 beers in tow we made it to the parking lot of the Jones Beach Amphitheater. Because of our pal Matt, we had all gotten pre-sale tickets in the same section thanks to his Iron Maiden Fan Club membership.
Matt's definitely a superfan, but he wasn't the only guy wearing an Iron Maiden banner as a cape, not by a long shot.
The diversity of the tailgaters wasn't much of a surprise. While the heavy metal archetype looks like the above couple, most Iron Maiden fans look more like these guys:
Once again heavy metal archetype:
Typical Maiden fans:
The Jones Beach Amphitheater was sold out. That means there were nearly 12,000 Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper fans present. That's more than the population of most of the towns in the state I grew up in. With all the Maiden mania in the parking lot before the show I kind of felt like the odd one out. Don't get me wrong, I love Iron Maiden. But I'm a bigger fan of Alice Cooper than I am of just about anyone in the world. He wrote one of my all-time top 3 favorite songs. "Is It My Body" is up there for me with Pentagram's "Be Forewarned" and the Obsessed's "Iron & Stone" when it comes to dirty dark heavy bluesy perfection. What other artist can you say that their first seven albums are all excellent and eminently listenable? For me the Alice Cooper Group era music is rock and roll gold, the stage show was just a glorious bonus. In fact one reason why I hadn't seen Cooper before was because I like him so much. When artists get older live shows become risky. I've seen some piss-poor reunions and late-in-life tours in my day. Alice Cooper wasn't perfect, but it wasn't disappointing either.
This was half of his band. The guy on the left is named Tommy. I know this because he's apparently a local boy and I waited to get my photo pass with his extended family. Also, his shirt said Tommy on it three times, just in case anyone got confused. They were cheese balls so let's not look at them anymore.
I had an unprofessional moment when Alice got this close to me. Never in my life did I imagine I'd be within whacking distance of my hero's cane.
Can we take a second to talk about this man's accessories? The knife in the boot? The mic holster? He's still got it.
Important fact: I dressed up as Alice Cooper from the "Welcome to my Nightmare" stage show for Halloween one year. I like him that much. He didn't play everything I wanted him to play but he was doing an abbreviated set of 45 minutes so it was strictly hits. He opened with "Black Widow" and I got to see him sing "No More Mister Nice Guy" while draped with a snake. "Eighteen" was in the set and it's probably a good thing he didn't play "Is It My Body" or I would have cried. I bonded with some 50-something year old men in the front row who I am sure were very interested in what I had to say about music.
Onto the main event. These people were so stoked to see Maiden. Look at them! Total normal looking dudes about to rock their faces off. There were tons of kids crawling around the VIP section, Maiden is apparently a family affair, at least on Long Island.
Oh shit! It's Bruce! The set started with "Moonchild" and stuck mostly with the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son theme. They played "Trooper" and I was a happy lass.
Steve Harris is a god.
Do you really want a review of this show? Okay, yes, they are getting older and yes, it shows, but come on, they're Maiden! People travel the world to follow them and if those people feel like they get their money's worth then how could anyone else complain? These men are professionals and consummate showmen. The stage was a little crowded with three guitarists and unfortunately Adrian Smith and Dave Murray were on the opposite side. Sadly Nicko McBrain was completely obscured by a giant cocoon of drums and I couldn't get a photo of him, but rest assured he was there. I did have prime real estate when it came to watching Janick Gers and his fancy footwork and many hair-tosses and was closer to Steven Harris and Bruce Dickinson than I could have ever imagined. Bruce is a ham, but that's why he's great. I'm a huge Di'Anno-era Maiden fan but I'm about as eager to get into that debate as I am the Ozzy vs Dio one.
I will always get behind white Reeboks.
Back in the nosebleeds where my tailgating buddies and I were relegated to due to our budget restraints spirits were high.
Watching people lose their shit to Maiden makes it so much easier to lose one's own shit to Maiden and forget about one's critical perspective.
The show ended after an encore that included "Aces High" and anyone who walked in not wearing an Iron Maiden shirt walked out wearing one.
My pals shotgunned beers in the parking lot (lucky for them I was the designated driver of the van.)
This guy tried to sell us bootleg tees for $10. He ran away when I tried to take a picture of him, I have no idea why. Hey mister with the suspiciously cheap tees! Why you running?
When it all was said and done I was just as tired as Adrian who was the littlest metalhead I saw. When we asked him how he liked the show he said, "Maiden was awesome!" Sometimes it takes a 4-year old in a Motörhead shirt to sum up your night.