Iron Maiden at Summerfest 2012

This is a bit late, I know. Apologies.

Iron Maiden’s on tour again, and I wasn’t going to pass up a chance to see them a third time. I ended up seeing them at their Summerfest performance in Milwaukee, because oddly enough, Milwaukee is more accessible than Tinley Park. So on July 4th, I took a bus from Reggie’s (which was a blast in itself), got dinner with a friend who lives up there, and then as soon as I could, grabbed a patch of grass and waited for the show to start.

After meeting up with some people from the Reggie’s bus and being too nervous to approach any of the pretty ladies among them, the opening act came on. With a headliner like Iron Maiden, you’d expect nothing less than an opener like Alice Cooper.

Alice Cooper. Father of shock rock.

Admittedly, the stage show which is so critical to Alice Cooper was a bit hard to see from the lawn, but being 6’1″ and having a good location helps. The Alice Cooper act was an extravagant display of morbid fantasy, and I was not disappointed by the now well-known guillotine trick. For those of you who haven’t seen, Alice Cooper takes a part of the show to have himself forced into a guillotine. His head is then cut off, and he then raises it up in one hand and makes out with it. This always leads into the song I Love the Dead. There’s something about seeing the actual stage show and being there with the performer that removes any shame that I may normally have singing along to songs as over-played as Feed My Frankenstein,  No More Mr. Nice Guy, or even School’s Out. But I sung along all the same, not giving a damn. It’s a great feeling.

Another break to deconstruct and reconstruct the stage, and Maiden came on. At which point a chill ran down my spine not unlike when I heard The Prisoner for the first time. They put on a great show, using the more recent anamatronic Eddie walking out on stage, though this tour he was dressed as General Custer and came out (appropriately) while Run to the Hills was being played. There were enough flame pods throughout the show to compensate for the lack of fireworks on this 4th of July, and it added a certain odd pleasure at spending the most iconic American holiday seeing a British band. The lawn seats actually added something to the experience, I thought. I had not problem seeing the band members, especially Bruce Dickinson as he ran around all over the stage set-up. How he has that much energy is beyond me. The robotic Eddie is about nine feet tall, so that was easy enough to see as well. But alongside the stage show and the music were some of the strangest visuals I’ve seen on the LCD screens. I enjoyed them all the same; they served as a reminder of how distinct Maiden makes themselves from other bands in the genre or otherwise. Additionally, nearly every song got its own tapestry backdrop, and those are really best appreciated from a distance. They did cause a bit of a stir by taking Hallowed Be Thy Name off their set list for the first time since 1982, but they played The Prisoner, Aces High, Number of the Beast, and Fear of the Dark, so I personally have no complaints.

If you’re on the same side of the continent as Iron Maiden, you’d best get on a bus and go see them live.

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