Thursday, July 05, 2012

Iron Maiden with Alice Cooper [That Corporate Shed That Used To Be Called Great Woods, Mansfield, 6/26/2012]

In a happy coincidence, Iron Maiden came around at the end of June, in the same year that I a) wasn't leveraging carryover to go anywhere and b) had to burn off excess vacation.  Because driving down from Burlington on 95 at rush hour is a pain and a half, and because the last time that I went to this dumb venue for a show I overextended myself and nearly fell asleep behind the wheel coming home, I took off the day of and the day after, finishing off my 2011 vacation allotment, and was able to get started in time to get down shortly after the free lot opened.

This was probably not actually an optimal outcome, given the circumstances; I'd been wall-to-wall with work and had no time to prep anything to eat/drink/do in what ended up being two and a half hours till the gate opened.  Furthermore, of the two brothers I generally lug along when Maiden comes around, one couldn't get out of work, and the other one was in Spain, so after napping in the car until the heat became unbearable, it was out to bum around Billy-NoMates-stylee while waiting for doors, not even carrying a flask or anything to help mooch off other people's grills.  Some of this time was spent grabbing a new shirt, based off a less-known Somewhere In Time artpiece, and filled out with excellent color and a lot of production value, but costing 40 goddamn dollars.  This is not only more expensive in absolute terms than $35 shirts from four and six years ago, but more expensive in real terms as well: the CPI has been virtually flat due to this debt-deflation recession/recovery, and thanks to austerity knuckleheads in London and Berlin (ok, Brussels, but we all know Euro policy is actually set in the Kanzleramt), the dollar has been steadily gaining on the currencies that Iron Maiden counts their income in at home.  But this is the market: as long as marks like me are willing to pay these stupid prices, they will get marked further and further up.

Shirt acquired, then lugged back to the vehicle and dropped off, I hung about the entryway, spent $13 on what is normally about $6 of dinner, and then got in line as it was starting to form up.  As silly as some of the younger generation in line behind me can be at times in their assessment of what's good, musically, or smart to do, it's good to still hear that people are looking towards Wacken as the king of the festivals.  To a certain degree, its reputation is still justified, and if you haven't been, you still need to go -- and before the rot gets any worse.  Guide is over there.  Also, in a real stroke of luck, I got a flyer for Seax's release show off Carmine, and thus didn't have to feign interest in the Mayhem tour (energy-drink derpfest, not the band, obviously) once the gates opened in order to have something to write setlists down on.

Once inside, after a brief delay as the ticket-taker tried for a couple minutes to figure out how the hell he was supposed to scan my card for the paperless ticket, I picked up a ten-dollar beer/improvised missile and found my seat.  Of course, given the nonexistent security -- I was not frisked on the way in, despite wearing a large hardwalled jacket that could easily have had a medium-sized handgun stowed in it -- it's pretty clear that the folks running the venue think that the extortionate ticket prices will easily keep anyone with the inclination to heave a full aluminum bottle at the stage from ever being in a position where they might be able to hit anyone by doing so.

The seat in question, before most of the crowd filled in.  It's better to have the pit than not have the pit, but I'm not really a fanclub-joiner, and enjoy the opportunity, limited as it actually was, to sit down occasionally.

Bud Lite bottle deweaponized, I took a brief hike to find a vendor of non-terrible beer (there had been a few four years ago), and if possible at less-ripoff prices.  First condition satisfied, not second.  I picked up a Harpoon for $12 and made do; there was allegedly a stand doing cheap Rolling Rocks way in the back, but I didn't find it, and was willing to put up with the expense for the relative convenience of shoving through a little less of the crowd on my way back.

As it was, I got back in a fair amount of time, as the seats around me filled in, and presently Alice Cooper started the evening off.

Alice Cooper [6/7]
Black Widow
Brutal Planet
I'm Eighteen
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Hey Stoopid
Billion Dollar Babies
Feed My Frankenstein
Wicked Young Man
I Love The Dead
School's Out

This was about a 45-minute set, and as a result it was a little constrained in, essentially, everything but music....which does happen to be a lot of the reason that you go see Alice Cooper in 2012.  This was a good performance with just about all the hits that you could want or expect (no "Dead Babies", but which of these are you going to take out for it?), and if not all of Alice's gags from back in the day, at least the big ones: a guy who'd been running around the stage with a mini camera and a photo pass "impaled" with a mic stand, and the essential guillotine trick leading into "I Love The Dead", which got nearly as big a response as any of the music.  For a performance delivered in 2012, with a backing band full of journeymen and a lead singer past retirement age, this was probably as good an Alice Cooper performance as you're likely to get: Alice still has nearly all of his vocal range and commands the stage masterfully, and in truth the musical material underlying the outre live act has not been all that challenging since he decided, "ok, Pretties For You is completely not the direction we want to take the band in".  (Digression: bought that tape in like '98 due to misapprehension and, debatably, mislabeling as it sounds nothing like you expect "Alice Cooper" to in the present.  Hit it with a sledgehammer or something.)  The polished glam rock here supported the antics well and didn't overstay its welcome, but a little more might not have gone amiss.

Alice setting things off.  This is probably more important as a shot of crowd composition, because you certainly can't see the band at all.

The guillotine, set up for its final judgment.  Things get blurry here and will be worse for Maiden, but since this was a single show on US soil, I didn't bring a camera, sticking with the phone like at DIY shows.  I paid $95 to see Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper live, not to watch them indirectly through a glowing rectangle.

The set break showed how thoroughly insane things are either in the US, or at large corporate venues, depending on how pessimistic you're feeling.  The first thing I did was go for a piss, which involved getting into a wedge-shaped pileup heading into one of a very few indoor restroom facilities.  These things are probably ok for most shows at this place, but metalheads drink a lot of beer.  I mean, like, a lot.  Also, nobody leaves during the set to hit the head -- it's just not the done thing.  So the result is that everyone has to go, all at once, and for whatever reason the venue ops did not go with the usual Euro solution to large numbers of metalheads at an outside event, that being temporary troughs.  We are not, by and large, fastidious people.  Those who are can use the inside facilities, while the rest of us get our business done and go get another beer.

This was probably actually more mental.  The Harpoon line was like 30 people deep, so I cast about for a bit, and saw that there was Stella on tap, in large cups, in the smokers' tent.  So I went in there and got filled up in time to make it back to my seat.  I'm mildly allergic to cigarette smoke.  Harpoon and Stella are much of a muchness, and in this case, at the same damn price point.  I don't get it at all: neither the idea of a smoker's tent at a venue where the entire non-seating area is, um, outside, nor the pathological dread of smoke exposure that condemns you to a longer beer line.

Existential weirdness aside, I got back to my seat well in time for the lights to go down, and the curtain rise on....

Iron Maiden [7/7]
Can I Play With Madness?
The Prisoner
Two Minutes to Midnight
Afraid To Shoot Strangers
The Trooper
The Number of the Beast
Phantom of the Opera
Run To The Hills
Wasted Years
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
The Clairvoyant
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden
Aces High
The Evil That Men Do
Running Free

Even an Iron Maiden set that has tech issues, as this one did, and that only runs two hours, as this one also did, is still one of the best experiences on offer in heavy metal.  However, the time that this is still the case may be running out; on this set as was not the case in '06 or '08, and definitely wasn't even in the frame in 2000, you get the feeling that the time that Iron Maiden has as an active band is running down.  Mostly because Iron Maiden is so damn active as a band; as good as they keep themselves in shape (this is a band that includes two former elite-level athletes and used to include "play footy wit us and don't fail at it" in the audition process), the members are now pushing 60, and likely sensitive to the contradiction of standing still while playing high-energy music.  More importantly, the air-raid-siren's pitch is starting to fall: "Aces High" is an extremely demanding song vocally, and in the parts that are taken down, greatly and all over the place, shows clearly that Bruce has lost about an octave off his 1984 peak.  That the band continues to play it is a testament to their gargantuan balls, but this tour may well end up being the last time.

All this, as well as the mic drop or misvocalization that lost, like, the entire second verse of "Fear Of The Dark", or the occasional guitar flubs, was ultimately immaterial.  Iron Maiden were never going to entirely recreate the "Maiden England" live set 25 years on, but they did a great job delivering the music from that era, that performance, as Iron Maiden of 2012 was going to execute it.  The chance to hear stuff like the deep cuts from Seventh Son... is a rare one, and the performance here, especially of the title track, eminently justified the idiotic ticket price and the corporate-venue bullshit.  I was less on board with Eddie-as-7th-Cav-trooper for "Run To The Hills", but the costume was well-executed, and the other stage-dressing and animatronic bits were superbly executed.  The seats around me may have cleared out for the encore, as the part-timers and overnighters and casuals headed out to beat the traffic, but most of the 14,000 crowd stayed in to the end, unsatisfied with the bare two hours of top-class material from an ancient band digging up long-sought-after deep cuts, to bang on the seat backs in front of them and yell for everything from "Hallowed..." to "Alexander the Great".  Eventually, though, instead of the band coming back out, we got the lights coming up and "Always Look On The Bright Side" over the speakers; time to go the fuck home.

Iron Maiden step out.

Moloch at the back stage right for "Number of the Beast".

Maiden still have the FIRE! in addition to the force, and power to make their evil take its course.

Spark fountains; no wasted pyro, but likely for "Wasted Years".

Eddie as philosopher for "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son".

Last trick; Eddie comes up with a throbbing brain in his hand.

Despite staying to the end of the show like someone who values their ticket spendings, I got out to the parking lot in decent order (it was still only like 11), and got moving into the queue quicklike, blasting Demolition Hammer's Epidemic of Violence with the windows down because this is kind of what I do (and there was enough wind that the AC was unnecessary doing so).  Despite local congestion, misleading signs, and backups on the highways, I managed to get home within two hours of starting the engine -- or in absolute terms, sooner than a normal Metal Thursday.  Despite this, I took the day after off as planned, then didn't work on this at all over the weekend due to an office move and the Euro final.  Next is Seax's release gig tonight -- and after that, the trip draws closer and ever closer.

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