16 Mar 2009 - Rod's Diary - Quito and Manaus

And so the next day we went off to Quito. I'd always wanted to go to Ecuador and to Quito when I was a kid, they're fascinating places, pretty high in the Andes at just under 3000 metres which is slightly higher than Bogota but by the time we have the show we'll have been at high altitude for three or four days so the effects shouldn't be too bad. The only thing is that it gets quite cold in the evening at these altitudes so the guys'll probably get pretty cold on stage - a pain in the arse but you know, they can deal with it. Quito is the Inca capital of the old northern empire (with Cuzco being the capital of the southern empire) so it goes back a long way but we didn't get a chance to go and see any the ruins. It's also the middle of the Earth, literally - it's zero degrees longitude and zero degrees latitude, the equator goes through it and so does the longitude line.

When we flew in it was chaos at the airport. It's the first time we've been to Quito and they've had very few shows in the past - I think Def Leppard played a long time ago and Bon Jovi maybe more recently, but it's very unusual. It's a difficult place to get to if you're going to air freight equipment it's costly and it's not linked that well. But of course with Ed Force One we've surmounted all those obstacles and it's quite straightforward for us to go and play there. The airport was just chaos. When we landed everyone who was working on the airfield seemed to want to get round the plane and get autographs and everything. We got into the cars to try and get out, to be told there were 4000 kids around the airport. We tried one exit which was just impossible so we tried another one which was still pretty crowded but more feasible. There was a great shot in the papers the next day... we had this quite tall red bus to go to the hotel in, and the kids had climbed up along the fences around the exits. So there was a shot of this bus in the paper, just swamped by kids all the way up! I'm surprised none of them actually got on top of the bus and tried to ride to the hotel with us. That excitement of going to these new places really does make it worthwhile. Obviously for these kids it's such a thrill for them to get the band playing there, and it's a thrill for us to play for such audiences and Maiden-ize and metal-ize new places... though this place didn't need much as at the concert they seemed to know every word.

That evening we were met by out longterm press officer William Luff and also Chris Ingham who's the editor of Metal Hammer. They were out through Quito to Manaus to do some features for the UK press. So that evening we were fortunate to get an EMI meal, which was very nice, a very good Japanese - all the guys turned out for it along with the usual lot (Gaddsy and Ian and everybody) so that was a good evening.

The following day was a day off and we definitely wanted to get out of the hotel. I think it's the first time I've got out of the hotel on the tour so far, to do anything other than go to a gig or go and do a playback of the movie with the local record company. But it's certainly a place I was going to get out! We went into the mountains where there's quite a big memorial (which you'll see in the photographs, I know Gaddsy and John Mc took quite a few pictures of it) - you've got the equator line, you've got the board saying latitude zero and longitude zero and this big monument behind with a globe on the top. There were a few fans there when we arrived and a lot more fans when we left - all with banners and flags and all sorts of stuff, it was great. We all took pictures, including myself astride the equator! Although we found out the next day it might not have been the actual equator... I don't think the equator moves, I know magnetic north moves but I don't thing the latitude and longitude positions move? However the next day Bruce and Janick went to the real equator and apparently on the real equator (and I was really quite pissed off I didn't get to it!) it's almost impossible to walk on it, you walk like a drunk while being pulled each way by the different forces. Also on the equator you can balance an egg on a nail and you can't knock it off. Of course we all know that in the norther hemisphere water flows down the plug swirling one way and in the southern hemisphere it swirls the opposite way and that was demonstrated too. But going back to where we were... we went round to the equator memorial and then took a cablecar up high into the Andes where we saw the most magnificent view overlooking Quito. Quito itself is in a valley between two peaks in the Andes, but it's quite an uneven valley so you get quite severe drops - you'll get some houses and then there'll be a drop and then some more houses. We did find on the way back that the centre of town is quite beautiful, Spanish-themed as many places are here of course. Going to the gig had to go high up into the mountains and then drop down the other side, so as we're going higher and higher we're thinking more altitude problems to deal with! But thankfully we settled back into the valley for the show.

I worked that evening cos I had things to catch up with... again. Managed to get online after a bit of difficulty but once I did it was a good connection so I was able to catch up with a lot of the artwork issues we're dealing with at the moment and everything going on around Flight 666. Day of the show I was chained to the laptop for the most part. Off to the show... about 26000 which is pretty remarkable - it's not the biggest of places. They seemed to know everything. By South American standards they were a little more subdued than a lot of places, but I think that's more because they were just stunned by the show. As I said before, its hard to get equipment into Ecuador. The PA - we had to scramble for every piece of PA equipment in the country and while the sound was good (thankfully we've got a great sound engineer in Dougie) it wasn't the quality we'd normally get, at some of the sides it wasn't ideal but we did the best we could with the equipment that was there. I think just the scale if the show, although it was the '757 show' as we call it rather than the full show as we just couldn't freight the full show there... for anyone who hasn't seen it it's a bit reminiscent of when we were playing Poland and the iron curtain in the 80s when it was the first time people had seen a show of that scale, you know with the colours and the drapes and the intro movie and everything else. I think there was a bit of stunned silence but they certainly seemed to enjoy it.

There was quite a large miltary presence but absolutely no trouble. I think it was more the fact that with so many people in one place they were just being over-cautious, but the paper the next day said how well-behaved the fans were. We did get a whiff of tear gas at one point, drifting across the mixing desk and Bruce said it was the same on stage. It smells initially as if it's an electrical connection gone wrong, that kind of acrid burning, but then it gets in your eyes and you realise it probably isn't. We've no idea what happened, maybe someone just dropped a cannister as there was no trouble at all, the kids were great and we were really pleased we went.

The following day we flew down to Manaus which is another place I'd always wanted to go. Manaus is very close to the confluence of Amazon, there's the Rio Negre joins the Solimões river to form the Amazon. So the Amazon was about half an hour downstream from Manaus, itself quite an intriguing place. It was built largely by the British about a hundred years ago because of all the rubber they used to export out of there. In the rainy season when the water's pouring down the Andes, the river is massively swollen and there's actually a 20 metre difference between high and low water in Manaus. The ingenious British engineers of the time actually built a port which floats up and down with that massive difference in level. A lot of it was British but what's also intriguing is that you'd think somewhere in the middle of the rainforest like that would be very reliant on the local resources, but we're told that apparently 98% of the economy in Manuas is industrial. So the actual state in Brazil that Manuas is capital of still has about 98% of its rainforest intact, while as we all know many other areas of the rainforest basin have been quite savaged by exploitation.

That evening we had a few drinks in the bar, Nicko managed to lose a couple of hundred bucks at poker, which he hasn't played before. So that'll teach him to chance his arm! Davey survived rather longer, being a dab hand at Texas Hold'em.
The next day we were lucky enough to be invited out on a boat to go and see the confluence, the head of the Amazon. The Rio Negre flows down through the rainforest and picks up all the mud and silt along the way so it's a very rich brown. Although Rio Negre means 'black river' it's really a dirty brown. The Solimões comes down though the mountains so it's much more like a mountain stream, although rather wider! Where the two meet there's a really distinctive line, not a straight line obviously cos we're talking about water, but a very obvious line between the brown and the clear mountain water. Again John and Johnny took a lot of photographs and footage so it'll be on the website and I think you'll find it quite interesting.

So we had a jolly old time on the boat and got back a couple of hours before I was due to go down to the show so I caught up with a bit of work first. We're back in Brazil, it's wonderful being back in Brazil and we do enjoy our times here. There was no real military presence whatsoever at the show, which was crammed with very passionate, very excited kids. Its the first time we've been here - again it's just terriffic to play to audiences for the first time, they really do appreciate us making the effort to get there as some of these places aren't that accessible. Manaus is a long way from anywhere and the only way in is by air, there's one road going north but going east, west or south.. forget it. You fly or you walk a long way. Another great show and afterwards we went back to a pretty cool bar, ready to continue with the Brazillian tour.

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