Friday, July 20, 2012

Concert Review: Iron Maiden/Alice Cooper @ Klipsch Music Center, Indianapolis, Indiana - July 19, 2012


For the first time in seven years Iron Maiden returned to Indianapolis. On this occasion, they weren't part of a half-baked festival named Ozzfest but instead on a headlining tour with an amazing support: Alice Cooper. The already deliciously sweet bill got even more impressive. I didn't get one legend. I got two.

The last time Maiden visited Indy was all the way back in 2005, which, coincidentally, was my first live music experience. As far as the whole first concert deal goes, that one couldn't have been better. I somehow squirmed my 14-year-old body to the front of the venue and found myself among adults--other kids oddly out of sight. But now that I think about it, Maiden weren't as monstrously popular back then. In fact, their following burst to immense proportions in subsequent years all the way up to 2012's Maiden England tour.

The sweatband Steve threw to me in '05.
Don't get me wrong; Maiden were always popular for a metal band, especially in the eighties when they created controversy for being Satan's spawn with their "The Number of the Beast" single. As the ninties rolled around, however, the majority of rocker heroes hit a dead end in both appeal and creativity and simply lacked the musical "resources" to dig themselves out, resulting in a style change. Eddie and the boys regained their momentum circa 2000 with the release of Brave New World and began to climb the ladder to glory in and outside of the metal community. That said, the Iron Maiden of today don't fit the nineties description. They have, in reality, ripened as a live band and exceed my expectations every time I get a chance to see them. And this concert increased that magical number to five times!

But that's enough of my blabbering. The lead up to the concert started like any other day because immediately after I woke up, I began to sift through my never-ending music collection for something to jam with. Strangely, both my childhood idols and Alice Cooper managed to avoid the playlist, even as I was going to see them live later in the day. Without the music lingering in my head, the show was considerably "fresher," if you get my drift.

We eagerly awaited Mr. Cooper's arrival.
Formerly known as Verizon Wireless Music Center, Klipsch Music Center was almost as I remembered it seven years ago--the last I saw a show there--except for one glaring fault: a tiny, virtually pointless pit had cemented itself in front of the stage. Maiden's showing in 2005 proved to be my lucky day because seating pushed all the way to the head of the venue. This time I wasn't so fortunate because seating was slightly behind the pit and closer to side. For someone who dislikes moshing and instead wants to focus on the music...well, you get the idea.

Alice emerges from the mist.
The seating turned out to be the least of my worries because a menace was brewing in the sky behind the venue; out to get all the metal maniacs who had shown up for one heck of duo. Severe drought finally succumbed to a windy thunderstorm--something we desperately needed, mind you--and Alice's appearance was, much to my dismay, delayed for a good hour or so. Nonetheless, when he finally hit the stage, all was forgiven because his dramatic shock rock origins kicked off the show and practically one-upped Iron Maiden at their own game.

Surprisingly, Alice brought a new friend along for this tour, Orianthi, a guitar player who has gained accolades of respect for her bluesy soloing style and tapping techniques. Even as she joined Mr. Shock Rock's live band, Alice had a total of three guitar players under his wing, and why he chose to bring her along is puzzling. Although I find it hard to deny Orianthi's ability to belt out a scorching hot solo, she is terribly overrated for nothing other than the fact that she is a woman. A man of a similar skill level wouldn't be given a second look.

As evidenced by his impressive entrance, Alice makes it painfully obvious that he places just as much importance on visual aid as music. The Coop commenced the concert with "The Black Widow" as the very subject at hand: six spider-esque, sprawling metal legs jutted off his body as he stood perched atop staircase as the centerpiece of the show. Thick smoke, Orianthi, and friends surrounded him with a barrage of down-tuned riffage to accommodate for the toll years of touring and age takes on one's voice and molded the songs to a heavier-hitting, chunky kind of texture. More modern, if you will.

Orianthi doing her thing.
The setlist continued with "Brutal Planet," and a classic pair-up of "I'm Eighteen" and "No More Mr. Nice Guy," garnering undivided attention from show-goers, fans, and non-fans alike. As a kid, "No More Mr. Nice Guy" was what brought me to Cooper fandom, so I was absolutely psyched to see the number live. At that point, I began to notice that a largely new line-up of players seemed a bit awkward around veteran bassist Chuck Garric and Alice himself, who, for all intents and purposes, have more experience in their little finger than the younger players have in their entire bodies. Garric took place directly in front of me during "Brutal Planet,"  enabling me to see his deceptively simple style of picked bass playing--in other words, child's play for Mr. Steve Harris, who would storm the stage later.

Never one of my favorites, "Hey Stoopid" poised itself alongside the classic pair, followed by a short guitar solo by none other than Orianthi herself. "Billion Dollar Babies" was my personal highlight, however, because Alice appeared to be having a genuinely good time being the old man that he is, defying his age in stage antics and trickery. I managed to snag a few Cooper bucks as Alice shook a cluster off his pointed stick and littered them across my side of the audience. I hear they're accepted legal tender at his restaurant back home in Phoenix. For the rest of the concert, the legend would continue to enjoy himself, entertaining by carrying a live boa constrictor, being decapitated by a particularly feisty death dealer and impaling an innocent, yet persistent photographer with a bloodied rapier.

Another great number, "Feed My Frankenstein," was next, the down-tuned guitar playing beneficial to the overall feel of the song, as well as Alice's labored vocal delivery. Cooper flipped around at this point, enough for me to catch the patch on the back of his vest that read something "sucked." I recall laughing at the time, but the phrase is unfortunately slipping my mind at the moment. The track had Alice tussling with a massive, zombiefied version of himself, similar to Iron Maiden's utilization of Eddie as a giant, interactive prop. Sadly, the setlist included "Poison" directly after the demented monster left stage, which kind of left me in a temporary lull because I've always found the song to be a lackluster attempt to capture a broader audience. Likewise, "Wicked Young Man" didn't do much for me, and "I Love the Dead" came off as set filler--Alice wasn't even on stage. Fortunately, the show would close with the influential, yet somewhat overrated "School's Out" and rile the audience up--all very well suitable for the coming thrill.

The legend himself: Mr. Steve Harris
After a brief wait, mostly because the crew was strapped for time, "Doctor Doctor" began to creep through the speakers, signaling Iron Maiden's completed preparations to hit the stage. Without fail, the track's playback always causes a chill to run up and down my spine as I tense up my body for the approaching metal attack. To my surprise, the band chose to open with Seventh Son of a Seventh Son-pulled monster, "Moonchild," complete with the synthesizer intro and Bruce's maniacal laughing bringing up the rear of the number. As an opener, I can't think of a better choice to build the hype and tension surrounding the legendary show Maiden is known to put on.

Bruce being Bruce!
Eddie and the boys decided they would throw an assuredly poppier cut into the mix with "Can I Play with Madness," which I could have easily done without, given its awkward placement beside fan favorites and classics. On top of that, Bruce sounded less than stellar during the acapella intro, which is admittedly hard to pull off in a live setting. Seldom heard since '82's Beast Over Hammersmith, the crowd went nuts for "The Prisoner," a bonafide classic in every since of the word. The song's groove got me up and mouthing every word of the Harris-penned number, and the Maiden-heads seemed to agree when the collective majority screamed during the spoken intro. If there's one characteristic that is remarkably consistent about Iron Maiden, it's their beautifully poetic lyrics that are easily remembered and lavished over in both a live setting and private listening sessions.

At this point, one of the seminal classics needed to show its face to an increasingly antsy crowd. "2 Minutes to Midnight" jumped into the set with iconic opening riffage, and Bruce, Steve, and Janick settled into what I've tagged "the triplets" because they are the heart and core of Maiden's entertaining concerts. As usual, Steve ran to my side of the stage and towered confidently, mouthing every lyric, while his comrade, Janick, stood by his side prancing, dancing, and enjoying himself. Bruce continued to run about the stage, while Dave and Adrian opted to concentrate on their guitar playing over attention-grabbing frolicking. "Afraid to Shoot Strangers" was next--a curious choice--but the track pushed new life into the band's live show beacuse I've never had the chance to see Maiden play the cut in real life. Nonetheless, hearing the song live made me realize how average its repeated lyrics and melodies are.

"Run to the Hills" Eddie
Thankfully (and for the crowd, not me), the group of "The Trooper," "The Number of the Beast," "Phantom of the Opera," and "Run to the Hills" succeeded the number, complete with blasts of fire, fireworks, and Bruce's familiar love affair with the British flag. As expected, a deranged devil figure rose from the rear of the stage during "The Number of the Beast," spurting flames and flashing pupils that were out to possess innocent souls. Galloping along happily, Steve ferociously clanked his bass during "The Trooper," as did the triple guitar attack, and Nicko proceeded to get into his own little routine during "Run to the Hills.""Phantom" had its picture-perfect shuffle pattern going at full force, with Eddie proudly watching on in the backdrop and positioned next to an icy, frozen over organ. The tamer, golden-age recalling "Wasted Years" followed suit, with Bruce cosmically hitting all the notes, while Adrian concocted excellent lead work during the instrumental section on his Jackson guitar.

The next two numbers showed the band making an effort to incorporate lesser heard songs, namely "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" and "The Clairvoyant." Both tracks taken from Seventh Son of a Seventh Son recall one of the highest, if not highest, rated album in Maiden fandom on Metal Archives. For this metalhead, however, Powerslave will always take the cake for a perfect collection of traditional heavy metal, but SSoaSS is still home to some of the most enjoyable Maiden tracks. The song of the same name had Bruce dressed in a stealthy cloak and a solid wall of fog enveloping the stage during an epic spoken midsection. The fan favorite and extremely well received "Fear of the Dark" and self-titled track closed off the setlist before the encore. Both songs relished an enthusiastic crowd, which is something the former never fails to do.

Bruce and Janick
Clearly, the band were rushed after the delay we experienced a few hours earlier, so the boys didn't walk off stage and play mind games with us about not returning for a handful more tracks. The encore launched with a massive response to "Aces High"--arguably one of the most adrenaline pumping metal songs committed to recording--and had Churchill's symbolic speech, as well as the rumble of a fighter plane, opening up the spitfire guitar riffage. Seemingly a Dickinson favorite, "The Evil that Men Do" came next, with excellent vocal play and a nice round of fiery guitar solos. The closer, "Running Free," shunned more complex pieces with its punky attitude and memorable chorus, which was all too fitting for a band that worked their way to the top from nothing.

Simply put, Alice Cooper was a match made in heaven as tour partner, and Maiden defended their title as one of the best live bands around. July 19, 2012 marked my fifth time seeing the act in concert, which was certainly no small feat considering their lack of support for Indianapolis. Here's to hoping both Alice and Maiden have many more fruitful, fun-filled years of music-making and touring. God knows we'll need it as the legends begin to retire and new faces attempt to take their place.

-TMA

Setlist for July 19, 2012

Alice Cooper

1. The Black Widow
2. Brutal Planet
3. I'm Eighteen
4. No More Mr. Nice Guy
5. Billion Dollar Babies
6. Feed My Frankenstein
7. Poison
8. Wicked Young Man
9. I Love the Dead
10. School's Out

Iron Maiden

1. Moonchild
2. Can I Play with Madness
3. 2 Minutes to Midnight
4. The Prisoner
5. Afraid to Shoot Strangers
6. The Trooper
7. The Number of the Beast
8. Phantom of the Opera
9. Run to the Hills
10. Wasted Years
11. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
12. The Clairvoyant
13. Fear of the Dark
14. Iron Maiden
Encore
15. Aces High
16. The Evil that Men Do
17. Running Free 

5 comments:

  1. First of all thanks for sharing, i was waiting for this. I love how clear and good your memory is, i wish i could remember my concerts as well as this. Also, you have a nice way with words because i could totally picture everything you were saying and i think i was drooling at some point.

    Now freaking out because i totally forgot you mentioned Alice Cooper was there and because of my mom, I've grown up with his crazy videos and stuff since forever so this was a real treat reading. "Billion Dollar Babies" is one of my favorite songs along with "Hello, Hooray" and boy i would have cried being able to hear that one live sdkjfksdjf that's so awesome. Those dollar bills are brilliant by the way.

    I also really love all the pictures you took man, that first one of Alice i cried because i don't like spiders but he looks so awesome and looks like he didn't disappoint at all with his stage presence.

    Now to the Maiden, fjweijwjdsf Bruce and his flag, i dream of seeing all this in real life someday. I wanted to marry Steve Harris when i was like 14 so i would be lying if i still didn't freak the fuck out every time he just started playing the bass. Janick is just the coolest person forever and his playing always makes me happy, i always feel like I'm going to explode when the camera shows him on live shows idek i have a lot of feels.

    Fucking "The Prisoner" though, i haven't heard that song in ages. So glad you got to see that live, i think i would have passed out. The setlist was pretty great. "Wasted Years" is one of my favorites and always a pleasure to be able to hear "Aces High" live. I am glad you had a good time and thank you for this!!!

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  2. Good review but I hate to point out two errors. You forgot they played Iron Maiden and the creepy organ player came up during the breakdown of Seventh Son of A Seventh Son even though it would have made more sense for Phantom of the Opera.

    It was an awesome show by Alice and Maiden. Well worth the wait through the rain.

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    1. Hey there, I did mention "Iron Maiden." Look a little closer! Good catch on the organ player, in any case. I was thinking of the colored background which featured the photo of Eddie standing with an icy organ. Edited!

      Thanks for commenting!

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  3. Vomiting the color of envy here, man. One day I'll have to go to one of these REAL shows.

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  4. Great review! Obviously a classic Maiden show. I really need to see Maiden again!!

    Further, my first real concert experience was Alice Cooper in 1989 outside Oslo in a god-forsaken sports hall. The Trash tour! Fun to hear that he's still up there on stage!

    Keep them metal-articles coming, nice work!!

    Hails,

    Metaloath

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