Iron Maiden Still Slays

No rest for the wicked.

"Nope, this is our 'Maiden' voyage," quips Schoolyard Heroes bassist Jonah Bergman when I ask him if he's witnessed Iron Maiden's practically patented brand of metal theatrics before. It's my sixth time, but that doesn't mean I'm not as giddy as Bergman and bandmate Steve Bonnell as we speed down I-5 toward White River Amphitheatre on a dreary and periodically drizzly Monday evening. As we prepare to pass Boeing Field, I fill them in on the fact that Maiden is conducting their retrospective "Somewhere Back in Time" tour via a private jet appropriately named "Ed Force One" (after the band's time-traveling monster mascot Eddie). Though its namesake's emblazoned on the tail, and though it carries virtually every crew member and piece of equipment necessary to create the over-the-top visuals and sound that are key to their live show, the most impressive thing about Ed Force One is that it's flown by the band's seemingly ageless front man (and licensed pilot) Bruce Dickinson. After a brief detour to a liquor store for the requisite preshow bottle of Jack Daniels (I'm a woman of tradition, if only in areas where it truly counts), and a long excruciating crawl through rush-hour traffic and past some terribly impoverished residences on the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation, we finally pull into the gravel-and-weed- riddled heavy-metal parking lot outside the amphitheatre. Once inside, the people-watching is prime, though we quickly learn that the three of us are attracting an inordinate amount of attention ourselves, thanks to Bonnell's towering Afro and my super-rare and admittedly form-fitting Judas Priest jersey. While in line for $8 beers, it is agreed that we will start a running tally of who gets the most comments from attendees on their physical appearance. Bergman only manages to chalk up one, from a young woman taken by his ornately embroidered 3 Inches of Blood hoody; Bonnell and I ultimately tie with six each (though I'd say Bonnell wins hands down for being photographed and having to endure strangers touching his head constantly). Unfortunately, our separate ticket sources mean splitting up at the start of the set, but the good thing about a classic metal show on the scale of Maiden's extravaganza is that there's little inclination for chitchat during it. From the second Winston Churchill's booming voice filtered through the overhanging speakers (signaling the start of "Aces High"), I was happy to find my prediction that the band was aging well entirely validated. Dickinson may have been getting some minor pretaped assistance with the very top of his vocal range, but when you fly your own tour jet and still clock in a few good miles running around the stage every night, you get a pass in my book. The set list was essentially a dream for old-school fans, with its focus exclusively on albums released between 1980 and '89. This was no skeletal revival staging either; they still have some serious cash to spend on sets. There were countless backdrop changes, a stunning arsenal of pyrotechnics, and of course ghoulish set pieces, which included a red-eyed, minotaur-like creature during "Number of the Beast," a mammoth mummified Eddie during "Iron Maiden," and the climactic appearance of a statuesque cyborg Eddie during a handful of Seventh Son of a Seventh Son numbers. What I was most impressed by, however, was the inclusion of "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Pulling off a 13-minute song based on an epic poem is ambitious enough; having your overhanging lighting rig lower and eerily creak back and forth to simulate the sound of a ship caught at sea is just plain bad-ass. It really couldn't have been more satisfying, and it's safe to say I really don't need to see Maiden again in my lifetime (though they will be coming back later this year in support of a new album). The same may not be true for Bergman, however. When we meet in the parking lot to head home, he's grinning uncontrollably, if moving slightly off-kilter, thanks to his freshly impaired vision. "Look! I broke my glasses," he says proudly. "I was rocking out too hard and they flew off my head!" Finally, two bits of good news from the opposite end of the old-school spectrum: local garage-punk legend James Burdyshaw (aka Brother James) is reconvening with his comrades in Sinister Six for a one-off show at Lo Fi's triannual Studio 66 event this Saturday, June 7. And just as we're going to press, the long-anticipated reunion show date for the Sonics has been announced. They'll be playing the Paramount Theatre on Halloween night this year; tickets go on sale Saturday, June 7, at 11 a.m. rocketqueen@seattleweekly.com

 
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