We finally made it to Brasilia! On our ride from the airport to the hotel we passed by a lot of great looking buildings built in the 1960s. With the whole retro architectural boom going on in the states, the buildings really stand out as individual pieces of art. People with money where I live pay millions for houses with the same look and feel. Really cool stuff. When we arrived at the hotel, somewhere around 2pm, I went to a shopping area and had a look around. It actually felt little like home as it was a proper shopping mall. I actually came across a haunted house on the top level so I thought, what the hell, bought a ticket and went in. It was a little cheesy, mostly guys in black sneaking up on you type of thing, but it something different to do for only a few bucks. After, believe it or not, I had a little craving for McDonalds so I stopped for a quick bite. Honestly, I think it was more because I have been away from home for so long and this was "familiar" so it gave me a little taste of being back in my own world.
Later that night one of the promoters took some of us (Patrick, Justin, John McM, Tony) to a popular Brazilian BBQ buffet where waiters walk around with different kinds of meat they slice off for you at your choosing. It was the same place they took the band last time they were in Brasilia in 2009 (see Rod's Brasilia diary). As we walked in, Ian, Gaddsy, Bruce, Janick and a couple of the promoter team were in the corner eating. Some of the Production Krew were also in the restaurant finishing up. Obviously this was the place to be. When we sat down, there were these little cards, one side green for go and one side red for stop, but of course Patrick told me green was for vegetarian and red was for meat. I believed him and turned mine over to red and wondered why the meat slicers were skipping me. I did eventually figure it out and was fed.
Towards the end of the night Ian and Bruce came over and joined our table. We sat around talking until the restaurant closed. We got into an interesting conversation about some of the television shows Bruce was involved with including a show on SKY titled "Inside Spontaneous Human Combustion." It was fascinating to hear about some of the different scenarios of the show, most you can see on Youtube, and the back story on how it came about and how he chose that topic out of a list of topics because it was just so outrageous that he HAD to do it. How could he not!
As usual I got the venue early to organize the press photographers and news video crews for covering the show. I do this at every stop just to make sure they are where they need to be at the right time. Some venues are set up differently so you have to figure out the ins and outs of the front of house and barricade. It's all part of my job (it's not all diaries and hanging out). As the lights went out, the intro started and the band hit the stage. As I stood there, I watched the crowd explode with emotion and excitement which has been keeping me grounded, reminding me of how lucky I am to work for them and not to take this all for granted. We actually had a lot of IMFC up front who have been following the band throughout Brazil including Ricardo who had not only been to all the Brazil shows but Singapore and Indonesia as well. I hear he is planning on being at most of the European dates too. Now that's dedication! Steve had his own fans up front this night, cheering and going nuts. He even threw his wristband to the girl in front wearing a "Steve Harris Open Your Heart To Me" t-shirt. I hear she held it to her face as she cried. Adrian was also well represented as you can see below.
One of the many highlights of the show for me is how well "The Talisman" comes off live. It's one of my favorite Maiden tracks and already seems to be a crowd favorite. A couple times during the set Bruce gave a shout out to the dedicated bunch outside who couldn't get in but stayed to hear the set. I had to duck out and have a look and maybe get a quick photo. There were hundreds of them. Their cheers could actually be heard inside the venue, letting the band know they were there.
The next day we were off to Belem, the gateway to the Amazon. Founded in 1616, Belem was the first European colony on the Amazon but didn't become a part of the Brazilian nation until 1775. As the gateway to the Amazon, the port and city grew tremendously in size and importance during the nineteenth century rubber boom and is now a large city with millions of inhabitants.
This was the first visit for the band, and myself, adding to our adventure into the unknown. It was a good two hour flight so it gave me a little time to prep for some interviews we had coming up for Dave and Steve. When we landed, it actually kind of reminded me a little like Bali. We also passed over the Amazon as we flew in which was a thrill for me. I was originally told Belem would be the most humid stop on the tour but because it was raining when we arrived, it was a lot cooler than usual. When we pulled into the hotel we were met with a group of fans screaming and singing Maiden tunes in unison. They were pretty much out there all night screaming and chanting when anyone walked by the doors.
The one thing about places like this is because of the loads of enthusiastic fans ready to mob the band combined with the uncertain areas, they are usually stuck in the hotel for the duration. I heard that on one of the past South American tours Janick tried to go out and have a walk and was mobbed with fans. He said he was trying to sign things but the crowd got bigger and bigger and he was backed into a corner with hands coming at him in all directions. Ian just happened to be walking by and, wondering what the commotion was, walked over. He realized it was Janick and got him out quick.
For us, unlike the band, we are fortunate enough to able to move about more freely so later that night, against our better judgment, a group of us (Justin, Griff, John, Nick and myself) decided to explore Belem a little. We went to find a restaurant at a place known as "The Docks." There we ran into Patrick, Rob and Antti. It was located in a gated area so it was safe enough until we decided to walk around a bit. We ended up leaving the safety of the gated area and started walking until we came to a fork in the road in a VERY sketchy neighborhood. Nick decided to have a look and as he started walking a guy came out of nowhere and started following him. Just around one of the roads we saw a couple of others also walking toward him. We started calling Nick back and this point a taxi stopped and made a gun gesture and said "Bad area, bad area." We ended up getting Nick, jumping in the taxi and getting the hell out of there. STILL not learning our lesson, we ditched the cab and walked up a main road before deciding to walk back to the hotel. After all, Nick had a map (sarcasm).
We ended up walking blocks and blocks through dodgy neighborhoods, not sure exactly where we were going. We were also getting calls from the hotel telling us that we need to stop walking about, get in a taxi and get back to the hotel immediately. It wasn't safe. We ended up taking their advice, going back and gently being scolded for not listening. Lesson learned.
The next day was show day and it was just pouring rain. We ran into Adrian in a robe coming into the lobby. In true Adrian fashion (great comic delivery) he casually said with a smile "I went out to lie by the pool and get a little sun when..." as he looked up with hands out. He was soaked but not from the pool! Too funny!
We ended up getting to the Parque de Esposicoes at around 4:30. It was an outdoor venue so luckily the rain had completely stopped just before the show and stayed clear all the way through. Amazing how it worked out. I did feel for the fans that stood there under the pouring rain earlier that day, holding their spot in line. The Belem audience was one of the best so far. There aren't a whole lot of big shows that go through Belem, especially one like Maiden's, and Ed Force One actually allows the band to go to places that are normally too hard to get to by bus. The fans were so excited to finally get a big show. I heard that when tickets went on sale, it was complete pandemonium!
It didn't take long after the doors opened for the place to fill and the IMFC to take their rightful place up front. I was impressed to see so many young kids and girls holding their own right up front.
Opening the show was a local band called Stress. I actually liked them. To me they reminded me of a heavier version of that old French metal band Sortilege. I went back to let them know they sounded great and they were very cool guys. They were excited about playing on the same stage as Iron Maiden.
The band hit the stage at 9PM to a sea of Maiden hungry faces who bounced in unison as every lyric poured out of them, soaked with pure emotion, back toward Bruce. As I stood back in the crowd to watch, which I like to do at different points of every show, I really noticed how great the lighting was on "Dance of Death." Lighting has always been great but seeing all the shows, I have become more aware of different aspects of concert and everything that goes in to making it a great live experience for everyone. I realized the art form behind what Rob and Antti do as they lit Bruce up for a great dramatic effect. With the mood lighting and Bruce's expressions and movements, it felt like I was watching a Broadway play. During the course of the show you can always catch Antti running from the mix to the pit and staring up at the lighting, making sure every little detail is just right. This shows you how much of a team effort that goes into pulling off such a big production. I've said it before that everyone on this team has their own part to play and all these separate parts have to work and click together to give the best performance as is always the case with an Iron Maiden production.
I never thought I'd be in Belem but it was all around a great experience and the fans I spoke to were some of the nicest and most dedicated fans I've met on the tour. They really opened their arms to the band, showing their love and devotion. Hats off the Belem!
Page 2. Do it.
Zeb considers a new career.