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ROD'S DIARY TWICKENHAM STADIUM PART 2 -- THE PREP
Back from the beach, lets get a bit more done before we go out. Lets look at the prep that goes into a show if you want it to be as perfect as you can. Its home, its London, and its Twickenham Stadium. We do our best for all our shows under whatever circumstances allow but at home, as our team is based there, it is generally feasible to do that little bit more, although we do try to continue any additions through to any large shows to follow. The band are always on form and committed irrespective of how big the venue and the only thing that can really affect them adversely is poor onstage sound or excessive heat (first Paris show for the heat, for example, but more of that later) and outdoors onstage sound tends to be more consistent as it is not "surrounded" by venue walls. So all I can do to make it even better, along with the band and crew, is to look at the detail and see if there is anywhere we can perhaps improve even slightly to make it even more memorable. So here are a few of the things we looked at to enhance the Twickenham experience for you guys.
1 - I wanted the staging to make the fans gasp and increase anticipation of the show to even higher levels when they entered the arena so we got Hangman to design drapes to go along the both sides and top of the stage and have to say it did look great. These made the stage look even bigger. We also got side panels with art on to go each side of the runways at about the same height. This obscures all the control gear behind but makes the staging look even bigger and better. A detail but worth the effort. Detail all counts, everything has to be considered to enhace the overall effect for the fans and equally for our own satisfaction of doing it right and the best we can. All the Maiden team think this way or they really wouldn't last long!!
2 - Pyro -- for a show in a stadium this size lets triple it, we said, as much as is safe anyway. Don't want to blow the band up half way through a tour! So the gas jets were huge, more explosions and bigger in Mariner, etc. everything at least one size up. We intend to repeat this at the really big stadium shows like Gothenburg, Helsinki and others. During Number to the Beast you can feel the fire on your face a hundred yards away. On the night Kevin our pyro man did us proud and his timing was spot on throughout.
3 -- Sound -- Dougie and his ML team went down and studied the stadium well in advance. They eventually decided to use delays for the back of the standing area and lower and middle tiers but to enhance the sound for fans in the upper tiers they hung PA from the roof, something which Twickenham (who were very cooperative throughout) allowed us to do. Jumping ahead, reviews and comments on the sound have been exceptional from people in all parts of the stadium so I definitely think our guys got it right. It was loud and clear. As we hung from the roof the delays did not need to be as large so that opened up seats at the back and also standing room on the floor. Standing was about 16,000, but could I think have been more as there was space at the side and back. However there is a limit of how many people per square metre you are allowed to have standing due to ...yes, you guessed it... elf n safety (again!!). However for those who read comments in the Canada diaries you may remember how relatively few we could have standing in those arenas so a definite improvement on that. E 'n' S with various sound and audience restrictions is gradually curtailing the real rock n roll aspects of concerts and making them more and more sanitised. Of course we want our fans safe, but at times it is truly over the top.
4 -- Lights - I really like the effect of the moving lights in the "singing bits" towards the beginning and end of Fear of the Dark and wanted to enhance that to really bring the stadium together and create a very special atmosphere. So we put similar moving lights to those on stage around the mixing and lighting platforms out front. The curfew at Twickenham is 10.30 so, to allow for our full almost 2 hour set plus a bit of "just in case" time, we went on at 8.15pm, a bit earlier than normal which is generally 9 or 9.30. This happens a lot in the really big stadiums when they are in residential areas as a courtesy to the residents. But when we came to these dramatic points of audience participation in FoD it was still a bit too light to have much of an effect, though I hope some of you noticed it and appreciated the thought and effort! We were going to continue this in the other stadiums but dropped it as a lot of trouble and cost for little or no effect (in Scandinavia it will be even lighter!!) Again a word about our terrific crew, Rob did a fantastic job on the night, as usual, and I thought the lights looked huge and spectacularly classy. You may have noticed how different our lights look on this tour to most other bands as there are so many "old fashioned" par cans which are not used much in these days of moving lights. It was actually very difficult to find sufficient as there are not so many still around. We think they look great and were appropriate to the period of our music this tour was covering, They are very similar to our original 84-85 lighting rig and I think give a really mighty look, not as fast and twiddly as modern moving lights but much more powerful looking.
5 -- Big Eddie, as we call him, the one who comes out on Iron Maiden, is always a key point in our show and, lets face it, a lot of fun. Everyone's face lights up when an effin huge tank or mummy comes out right in front of them!! Our mummy on this tour would not fit in the plane for the first leg so we first came across him at preproduction in San Antonio, Texas, in mid May. I had seen him briefly at preproduction in the UK in December when we put the first leg show together, but he was in his case and as his face looked fine I assumed the rest of him was. He was supposed to be exactly the same, just perhaps a bit bigger, than the one on Live After Death. That was the brief. However he wasn't, his arms were straight down with limp wrists. And he was too ragged. We did everything we could in North America to look as good as possible, shaking him, kicking him, you name it but it just wasn't as good as it should and had to be. To be honest I found him a bit embarrassing at times knowing what it should look like. It would have been logistically very difficult to change any aspect of him during the North America tour due to time and distance. However we intentionally put the two back to back Bercy Paris shows in right before Twickenham as this would allow us 2 days relatively nearby in a controlled environment to make any last minute additions or changes, and also to rehearse screens, as below. So the body was thickened, the arms changed and the bandages more stuck down in the afternoon prior to the first show and he looked much much better. Eddie was returned to his former glory!!
6 -- Screens -- as you will have seen we had 2 huge clear daylight screens for Twickenham. Bercy is a very intimate venue despite its large 16,000 capacity and we don't normally use screens there but we did for these two shows, bringing over from the UK the director and cameramen to work with Dave to get acquainted with the show so that by Twickenham they would know what shots to look for. I think this gave us a far better chance of having an exciting show on the screens which, for the fans further back, I think is very important
7 -- On the way to the stadium I called in at a hardware store to pick up a hammer and some 10 inch nails to hammer into Nicko's snare drum so it didn't break down again as it did on the first couple of euro shows. Cant have this happening again. Well actually I threatened Charlie, Nicko's drum tech, with all sorts of mayhem if it did break down and it seemed to have worked!!!
So that's just some of what went into the show which I hope may be of interest to you. In part 3, which I will get to as soon as I can, we can actually get to the day itself. Its still a blur and so much happened but I will try to give you some insight of what it was like from our end.