15 Aug 2000 - Sumit's Detroit Review
Return to the magic and madness! My mind was frolicking in a little tingle as I woke up on the morning of August 15, 2000. Sure, it was another typical summer day, however it was also a special day because today would mark the return of Iron Maiden to the very unique city located in Southeast Michigan known as Detroit in support of the 'Brave New World' album. Detroit has a place all its own when it comes to American cities. As the hub of the Automotive Industry, the city is home to two of the largest companies in the world, while also being a trend setter for the Automotive industry around the world. (Some of my counterparts in Europe may disagree) The city has a great mix of industrial innovation and manufacturing might while also being a haven for the recreational side of life with a strong supply of lakes and golf courses. The city also holds a special place in American culture as being a hotbed of music with the whole Motown movement and names like The Supremes and Ted Nugent to its credit. With its work hard and play harder mentality, the city and its fans have been especially good to rock and metal artists in the past. KISS has always had a special affection for Detroit (dubbing it 'Detroit Rock City') and any rock / metal band touring the US is always certain to make a stop in the Detroit. Iron Maiden is no different. The band have always had a good following here and have always delivered enjoyable performances. Needless to say, I was excited about the events that awaited me tonight!
As I have been lucky enough to be staffed in Detroit (as part of my day job) recently, there was no travel required to get to the city as I was already here. I managed to leave work a bit earlier than normal and speedily made my way towards tonight's venue, Pine Knob Amphitheater located in the northern suburb of Clarkston, MI. Pine Knob is another one of the amphitheaters that are popular venues in the US in the summer time. It's nestled beautifully in between some hills and has a covered area with seats as well as an inclined general admission grassy hill behind the seats. As I arrived at the venue, it was already filling up with hardcore metal fans. They had arrived from all over Michigan and also from nearby Canada and upper Ohio and were partying in the parking lot. One of the local rock stations had organized a little pre-show party and was doing a simulcast that featured songs from the bands on the bill tonight. I made my way into the venue and could kick myself as Halford was delivering the crowd-pleaser 'Breaking the Law'! Once again, I had managed to miss most of their performance. Thankfully Queensryche and obviously Iron Maiden were still ahead.
I made my way around the venue and ultimately to my seat about 11 rows back facing the right side of the stage. In the process, I ran into a couple of fans that remembered me from previous Maiden or metal encounters. It was good to catch up with them as we discussed our mutual anticipation for tonight's performance. Queensryche gave another well-received performance and now the stage was set for Iron Maiden. The skies were now dark and the anticipation was building for Maiden to take the stage. The house lights went out and the audience roared as the classical music intro began. I still need to figure out what this piece is called so I can appropriately identify it in upcoming reviews because it's such as appropriate beginning. The stage background was changed to reveal the artwork from the 'Brave New World' album as red lights shined through the eyes of the Eddie figure on the artwork! As the classical intro came to an end, Adrian emerged under a spotlight strumming the opening riff to 'The Wicker Man'. The other members of the band provided some background support and then with an explosion accompanied nicely by a snare and tom sequence by Nicko the band took the stage. Seconds later, a flying Bruce joined his bandmates with the first words as the show was underway. I don't think I'll ever get tired of the adrenaline rush and excitement that accompanies the very beginning of any Iron Maiden show and tonight was no different.
The band were displaying good energy tonight and during the 'Your time will come' spotlights shined brightly on the Pine Knob audience to alert them that it was indeed their time to partake in the Maiden bliss! As the song continued, Adrian remained in the spotlight with a sweet solo while Bruce took his place in the front of the stage with both feet on monitors to deliver the words. The rest of the band played their parts well, as did the crowd by singing along resoundingly to the chorus.
All was not perfect however, as there were a couple of problems that hovered above the performance for the first 4 - 6 songs. The sound mix was initially muffled, but improved steadily. However, it was held back by some of the setup of the monitors and PA. This was something that irritated Bruce right away as it was impacting his and the band's ability to clearly hear the monitors and thus remain crisp in their performance. Another issue was apparently with Nicko's kit which it appeared was being adjusted (as if undergoing impromptu) surgery for many of the early numbers in the set. This constrained Nicko as he had to play around the pieces of his kit that were being adjusted at a given time. This must have been especially challenging for him as he's known to make full use of every drum and percussion device available to him when performing live, however he did a fine job of keeping the rhythms focused and consistent. A final element that also constrained the performance tonight was in the stage setup. Although the band was able to fit in the entire stageshow, for some reason the bars and sliding handles that connect the platforms next to the drum riser to the ones on each end of the stage were missing. Typically Bruce uses these to glide from one part of the stage to the other, however tonight he would have to make these journeys by walking down from the platform and then walking through the main stage area and then climbing the platforms at the front ends of either side of the stage.
Despite these annoyances, the band remained professional and carried on with the performance in blistering fashion. 'Ghost of the Navigator' was up next. As Bruce introduced the song, the lightning rig lowered to bring the spotlights closer. Bruce took a moment to acknowledge the size of the crowd before the band kicked into the main groove of this soon-to-be-classic. The band members were again in good form and delivering their unique performances. Dave riffed away in his typical happy stance before the spotlight turned on Janick for the solo. The audience was quite into it as I noticed multiple banners and beach balls floating about. As the band entered the bridge, the three axeman took centerstage as a group before Bruce joined them to sing the final chorus. Next up was the title track of the new album 'Brave New World'. The melodic intro was especially nice with its beautiful instrumentation as Bruce delivered the first verse in an introspective tone from the platform next to Nicko's drum kit. The overall sound continued to get better as they entered the main part of the song and then the chorus. Janick delivered the first solo while Steve huddled at the drum kit with Nicko to ensure the rhythm section stayed on time. Dave made his way to the center with the next solo before Adrian and Janick joined him for the triple guitar melodies! Bruce then led the audience in one final chorus leading to a triumphant end for this song.
By now the audience was in the mood for something old. Bruce sensed this and asked them if they wanted to hear 'Something old?' or perhaps even 'Something Jurassic?' As the audience roared, Nicko delivered a count of 4 into the opening moments of 'Wrathchild' from the Killers album! Dave joined in with the introductory solo as the fists of Detroit were already in the air. Bruce came down to stage level while Steve stood directly to his left in his classic pose delivering the bass line. During the first chorus, the spotlights lit up Pine Knob as fans from the first row of seats to the back row of the hill proclaimed 'I'm a Wrathchild!' Dave continued with another fine solo, while Bruce did some stretches on stage before unleashing a most wicked scream that seemed to linger forever! The band and the audience were once again in unison during the final chorus and then again at the very end as the song ended to a voracious roar!
'How are you?' Bruce asked and as the answer came back Janick played the opening riffs to '2 Minutes to Midnight' from the Powerslave album. The temperature at Pine Knob seemed to be getting higher as the band unleashed this favorite among the US fans. The crowd was singing along from the get go, even at times when there wasn't a chorus. The overall sound was getting better and didn't appear to be quite as loud as it had been at some of the other shows that I've seen thus on this tour. Perhaps it's a sign of my ears getting acclaimed (i.e. desensitized) to the audio onslaught that is a Maiden performance. The guitarists were again in good form as Dave delivered another beautiful solo while Steve's fingers were a flurry over his four strings as the band entered the instrumental break of this song. Steve went into his classic shoot down the audience with his bass pose before Adrian and Janick took the spotlight coming out of the break back into the final verse. The Detroit audience was loud and emphatic during the final chorus as they proclaimed 'Midnight, its all Night'!
Bruce addressed the crowd once again after this song. He spoke of the band's successes on this tour including the special show at Madison Square Garden. He continued to say that the band had never really had a problem drawing in Detroit and then proceeded to share his disdain for the mainstream media while appealing to the common threads that unite metal fans everywhere! He then introduced 'Blood Brothers' from the new album. Once again the light show on song was memorable during the melodic intro. As the band entered the main part of the song they were pumping on all cylinders while Bruce displayed intense conviction in his vocal delivery. Nicko was getting more in the groove now with his classic and crisp drumming style and the crowd was in an approving mood with their voices. As the band entered the truly riveting moments of this song, i.e. the instrumental break and the time changes, they were in really good form. Bruce got a good clap along going with the audience while Dave and Janick handled the solo duties masterfully. The last chorus was again great and as this song ended, the stage went dark as the sounds of monks chanting came across the PA.
The mellow intro of 'Sign of the Cross' was next, followed by the emergence of Bruce on a cross with angel wings that rose behind Nicko's drum kit. It continued to rise and almost reached the ceiling before being lowered to be the same height as the platform behind Nicko. He leaped off the cross with the opening words as the band joined in to deliver the aggression that is the beginning of this song. I was in happy times with this song as I put my notepad down and took the liberty to headbang and sing along. What an energy release this song is! Nicko did a great job of laying the foundation with his crispy accents and triplets as the band entered the instrumental portion of this song. Maiden's sound has continued to get more and more progressive over the years and this song is a very good example of the evolution. The instrumental portion builds with a good haunting rhythm before going into time changes followed by classically delivered Maiden solos by Dave and Janick. Both guitarists displayed their fluidity on their instruments tonight, while Adrian joined Steve and Nicko in maintaining the rhythm with timely power chords! During the final verse, the cross was set ablaze to the line 'A fire in the sky!' which received an appreciative roar from the audience. Next up was 'The Mercenary'. This is typically a song where Bruce charges all corners of the stage and interacts with the entire audience, however tonight it was as if he was trapped on an island due to the lack of some of the stage props that facilitate his passage. At this point a nice breeze came through the crowd which was a relief on this hot and muggy night. The chorus on this song is one that the audience can relate to 'Show them no fear, Show them no pain!' and many of them sang along to the words although some of the crowd was not yet familiar with this new track. It still had the classic Maiden elements however with another blistering solo by Dave followed by Adrian in the spotlight with his own display of six-string wizardry. Bruce made up for the lack of stage props by running around all over the stage to interact with each side of the audience! The band climaxed this song with a hard stop and then the backdrop changed to reveal the artwork for 'The Trooper'.
It was instant recognition by the audience and as Bruce waved the Union Jacks on either side of the drum platform, the roar of Detroit was loud and true! It almost made me wonder if in fact we were in Britain! I just sat back and simmered in the audience reaction on this song. They sang along and went pretty much ballistic throughout. The lighting was good on stage and then the houselights lit up the entire crowd on the chorus! Dave delivered another great solo followed by Adrian and Janick before another mad rush brought us the final verse and final chorus of this 1983 classic!
Bruce took the chance to address the audience once again and this time he had a very specific point to make. Apparently, someone in the audience had thrown beer on stage. This miffed Bruce immensely and he was not at all shy about sharing his anger. He was in rare form and was definitely the most expressive I've seen him and that's saying quite a lot! He proceeded to issue a verbal assault on the fan and reiterated that the band was all about the music and it was very rude of someone to put the band's safety at risk by being a prick. He told the audience to not piss him off tonight (as he was already irritated by the issues with the PA) but then lightened up by asking 'Apart from the prick, how are the rest of you?' The crowd replied and then Bruce thanked them for sticking with the band while everyone had written them off in the past few years. He also thanked openers Queensryche and Halford and then introduced 'Dream of Mirrors'.
This song was once again delivered very well, starting from the heavy intro with Bruce's vocals on top to the mellow melody that introduces each verse. Detroit was happy to proclaim 'The Dream is True' and clap along as the band started the second verse. As we entered the power chords and chorus all systems were go. The band was blistering and the stage show was excellent with the lights and the choreography. Solo after solo with intertwined melodies seemed to get finer with time, much like fine wine and Maiden's delivery of these musical elements continues to be superior to all peers! One could really tell that the band was fully alive now! Next up was 'The Clansman' from the Virtual XI album. Bruce asked if anyone was from Scotland in the audience or of Scottish heritage. Many roared back while Nicko used the mellow intro as the opportunity to throw some sticks into the audience. As Bruce reached the first chant of 'Freedom' the band was once again in great form. Nicko's drumbeat was a little heavier on the bass drum during the instrumental bit prior to the second verse. The three guitarists hopped around the stage like little kids (they still have fun on stage after all these years!) before making their way front and center for the triple guitar melody. Dave delivered the first solo and utilized some extra elements of feedback in his sound. Bruce returned to lead the crowd in the chorus while another gentle breeze cooled down the audience! As the band finished the delivery of this song, the audience gave a great applause in appreciation.
Next up was 'The Evil that Men Do' from the 1988 Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album. As the opening chords of the intro to this song hovered in the air, Bruce asked, 'Are you ready Detroit?' A loud scream was his reply as the band unleashed another Maiden classic from the past. They were once again very active on stage with Bruce leading the way. His glides from one side of the stage to another reminded me of a skater in Ice Hockey. This was especially relevant in Detroit as the city is home to the Detroit Red Wings who've being among the elite of the Professional Hockey world with 2 Stanley Cups in the late 1990's. During this time, the city has become Hockeytown USA and the fans' passion and appreciation for hockey is unrivaled in the rest of the country. (Of course, across the river in Canada is a different story where Hockey is practically religion) As my thoughts wandered to the ice for a moment, they were quickly forced to focus back on the concert as a ball of smoke went up on the left side of the stage. This was soon followed by the entry of Eddie! The Ed Hunter incarnation of our favorite monster took his rightful place on stage and demanded a reaction from the Detroit fans. The fans were more than happy to oblige before he made his way towards Janick side and engaged in a blow by blow match. Janick, the quicker and nimbler of the two although slowed by his guitar duties was especially punchy tonight and managed to get in a couple of kicks as well as his usual slaps! Eddie's mass was hard to overcome in this friendly skirmish and as the song came to an end, Eddie focused his attentions once again on the audience before walking off stage.
The stage set was completely dark now, as Bruce introduced 'Fear of the Dark'. The audience was involved from the beginning as they sang along to the melody and the intro in a manner similar to audiences in Europe. The mood for the delivery of this song was very authentic with the lights and the music and the words. The band was in excellent form and continuing to get even better as the show progressed. The audience response was deservedly loud as the band went into the extended instrumental break with Janick and Dave delivering delightful solos! Bruce was a pure animal during this song, running all over the stage and singing his heart out while Steve and Nicko kept the rhythm focused yet diverse. The outro of this song was an excellent mix of serenity and eerieness as Bruce pondered 'As I'm walking the dark road, I'm a man who walks alone!'
'Scream for me Detroit, Scream for me Detroit, The Iron Maiden' Bruce commanded as Dave played the opening riff to the band's namesake. The audience roared as they sensed the end of the main set. Bruce emerged in 'The Wicker Man' Eddie surrounded and draped by virgins! What a dedicated man to his vocal craft he is as he managed to sing the first verses beautifully while being almost eaten alive by the eager vixens! The rest of the band was also having an excellent time (although under less intrusive and less pleasurable circumstances) as Steve gave support to Bruce on backing vocals. Eddie's head with red lights for eyes went side to side to add to the visual effect of the stageshow. During the break, the Eddie with the virgins in it was engulfed in mock flames as real flames added to the visual onslaught in the second verse. The final chorus was absolutely triumphant as the energy level peaked and everyone sang along! Each member of the band displayed his improvisation skills while Bruce unleashed another wicked scream! The band members took their bows, sprinkled goodies into the crowd and said their good-byes. The audience was hungry for more and let the band know with their chants of Maiden and other noise making tactics.
Soon, the PA system gave way to the words 'Woe to You' as the backdrop changed to reveal the artwork from the 1982 classic 'Number of the Beast'. The title track from this album was next as the stage lights created a devilish red mood on stage. Steve and Dave joined forces for the opening riffs while Bruce told the tale of a most haunting dream! The crowd knew the words from the beginning and screamed in unison with Bruce at the end of the intro as the platforms next to Nicko's drum kit were engulfed in explosions and then flames! During the first chorus fists were raised everywhere as I looked back to take in the immense size of the crowd. What a beautiful sight it was indeed! Nicko was very enjoyable on the drums during this one with his sharp accents and rolls during the solos. The final chorus was another example of audience participation utopia as we were treated once again to a sequence of explosions and flames!
'Hallowed Be Thy Name' was next as Steve led the clap along during the intro. Bruce sings this song exceptionally well and tonight was no different. The audience joined in during the 'Running low' but to no one's surprise, Bruce outlasted them all! As the band entered the solos, more brilliance was displayed with Dave's solo, which was followed by Janick's successful attempt to play as many notes as humanly possible in a limited amount of time! Bruce delivered another display of his vocal abilities during the final chorus as the song came to a thunderous end. Without a moments rest, the band entered 'Sanctuary'. This term has been a constantly lurking theme in the band's career as its also the name of their Management company and is now also the name of a record label that will feature some prominent names in the near future. But first and foremost, this song is about 'Sanctuary from the law' for a man on the run as well as an excellent opportunity for the band to display their instrumental prowess and to interact with the crowd! Bruce was up to the task as he ran from side to side manipulating the audience in halves and then as a whole! The rest of the band was in good form as the guitarists played delightful solos while Steve and Nicko delivered a strong rhythm. Janick was a pure madman during one of the breaks as he did everything imaginable with and to his guitar before a triple guitar melody played out the final notes of tonight's performance. Bruce and the band thanked the audience and promised them that they would see them soon!
This brought another night of Maiden bliss to a close for me. I drove home happily into the night reflecting back on another great Maiden performance. One that was particularly memorable due to the crowd and the band's performance despite some of the difficulties with the stageshow and the less than desirable behavior of one fan. Overall, it was another example of how Maiden manage to do their best regardless of the circumstances. Thanks Iron Maiden and I'm looking forward to rejoining the fun in Cleveland next week!