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San Bernardino is about 80 miles out of LA and is a very well equipped Amphitheater with a potential maximum capacity of over 40,000, about 12,000 seated and the rest on the lawns. Like most acts who play there we didn't expect to get even close to sell out, (not this time anyway!) and anything over 15,000 looks good and we got close to 25,000 so it looked great. Fortunately about 2 miles from the venue we were met by our police escort and it was just as well as, although only about 90 minutes before we were to go on stage there were hundreds of cars in a massive traffic jam/tailback on the highway leading to the entrance. There is only one way in and out so of course all the traffic had to go the same way hence the hold ups. As we got closer there were thousands of fans walking up to the entrances from the car parks. It was pretty clear even at this time that there could be delays -- shades of San Paolo 2009 when about 20,000 were waiting to get into Interlagos when I arrived (see that diary). So, on arrival, I met with promoter and our Production Manager to assess the situation -- fortunately they had already delayed Dream Theater by about 15 min to gain some time to get the fans in. We were due to go on at 8.50 and this was already put back to 9.10, having a reasonable time between acts as DT delayed. We reassessed just prior to that and decided we would have to go on at 9.30 so as to ensure all our fans were in. This left a longer gap between sets of some 50 min, much longer than we like to have as its unfair on the fans. So an announcement was needed to inform everyone inside of what was going on and that we were ready to go but were waiting to get everyone in. I drew the short straw to make the on stage announcement which I did, simply saying we were ready to go but there were still a couple of thousand fellow fans outside so, if it was ok with everyone, we would wait and go on at 9.30 for sure so please be patient and get a beer or visit the toilet or have a wander for 25 mins or so. As I have always found in these circumstances, if you are clear and honest with the fans they will respond positively and this was again the case -- I think everyone thinks of themselves still outside and how happy they would be if both band and audience were happy to wait for them to get in. There was not even a groan and I thank those misguided individuals who yelled a welcome to me when I made my very rare stage appearance!! So thanks to all of you who were there for your patience.
In between discussions on this I visited the guest area to see some of my guests and say hello to various biz people, label, media etc. As usual in LA, NY or London there were too many people for comfort and you get hassled by people you really don't want to talk to and this stops you talking to people you do! But it will never change, its the same for any band.
I don't know precisely what it is with Maiden, probably nervous energy , but they always seem to nail the really big shows and this was no exception. Everything had been getting better with the playing and the show gradually from the start in Dallas and this night was absolutely breath-taking, the band were totally fired up and were playing with immaculate precision, Doug did a terrific job on the out front sound and the show looked a million dollars. I know the band approach all shows the same, they are all important and fans irrespective of number or place deserve the best and the band are fully aware of that and always go on full throttle so it just has to be that extra pressure can bring the very best out of them, really pushes them to the edge. It has happened many times all the way through our history, the big ones have always been mega, they are never less than their very best. Tension, pressure, nerves, call it what you will, but it works!! Or maybe its just me feeling the pressure and seeing it from a different angle? Who knows. Anyway I was on the mixing desk all the way through (with my beers) and I had a great time. And I think so did all the fans, the reception was tumultuous -- so thanks if you were there for your very vocal support as well as your patience. A really great show for one and all -- including I found out later the band. I have said here many times how important it is for the band to truly enjoy a show to have good onstage sound, something which varies a lot and sometimes you can do little about despite excellent road techs on the stage. And tonight the onstage sound was spot on.
After to make sure we could get out of the venue we were straight off stage into the cars and off with a police escort. This way we could get back to the hotel for a couple of well deserved beers before they closed!!
The next day was Concord, another Amphitheater near San Francisco, where we sold the last ticket on the day to have a 12,500 sell out. However I wasn't there -- I took a day off. I think I deserved it as fitting in all the work with the shows and travel can be tough (hence the tardiness of these diaries) That's my excuse anyway, I had a quiet day with lunch of bangers and mash at an English Pub, read some English papers I got hold of, caught a bit of sun and only looked at my BlackBerry about 300 times!! But even without me there I heard that the show went just great!! Nicko, Jan and I had been down the pub on the Friday evening too meeting up with various people for a few beers, and I was there again on the Monday eve for dinner with some of our label people following various meetings during the day. When in Rome??!!
Lets get rid of the sport report here. We all know England are out. Hardly surprising based on performances lacking energy, passion, commitment and most other things. It is hard to truly get behind your national team if you despise the attitude of some of the players -- not all, for example Rooney gives his all, although he did look tired in South Africa. I saw the Algeria game in -- of course -- the pub, I think on the Saturday before the San Bernardino show (on tour one day drifts into another and plays havoc with your memory! Or is it age!!) -- well I saw the first ten minutes and seeing the poor body language and lack of any real application by some of our players I left. You could almost bet on a 0-0 draw. No disrespect to Algeria but we were piss poor. I saw the (7am here) Slovenia game too, where we managed a feeble 1-0 victory and most of the German game where, irrespective of a disallowed but unquestionable goal, we were beaten by a far more exciting team. Fortunately things were very different in the 2 sports I love -- rugby and cricket. In the former we beat Australia in OZ 21-20, only the third time ever we have won down there, and our cricketers also beat Oz at one day cricket quite easily to win the second game of the 5 match series -- and they have since won a close game in the third so the series is ours. Fantastic stuff. An Oz journo was at San Bernardino to do a feature for a number of major papers down there so I had of course to search him out, gloat and invite him to join me on the desk and share my beers during the show!! I love the continuous sporting conflcts with and the company of Aussies. As a Yorkshireman I find my inclinations much closer to those of an Aussie than most Englishmen from say Kent or the south. Sport, beer, beer and sport -- fantastic idea!! Just throw in a bit of music to the mix and you are all set!
So on to Seattle, another Amphitheater, another 12,000, another great show. Some on stage comments from Bruce from here and Concord had hit the media basically about him denigrating downloads. This was not the actual story. Bruce still prefers analogue's warm sound to CDs, and CDs to downloads -- probably I do too. Others disagree and yes the convenience is great with iPods etc -- as one report said you can't carry Iron Maiden playing live down a subway -- and nor can you a record deck!! As usual his comments were to some extent misinterpreted and headlines misleading but that generally happens with the media on most everything.
We flew into Vancouver -- a beautiful lively city -- straight after the show and members of our party who shall remain nameless (Dave et al) had a bit of a party til the early hours. What the hell, we were back in Canada, somewhere the support for Maiden has been unwavering over the years. We will hopefully get to this next part of the tale soon.
NB -- for those who are new to these diaries if you check back to previous diaries for the cities I mention most will be covered and will have more detail on the venue and the city if you are at all interested. I see little point in repeating myself. This not only applies to North America but also to a lot more places we will visit over the next year.