On Monday night this week I commented on a friends Facebook status where she said that she really likes the most recent single from Bruno Mars. I commented back and said that whilst it’s not my usual ‘cup of tea’ I liked it too and that I also liked a few of his other songs. As the conversation moved on it twisted into a debate about the more corporate side of the music industry and it’s seemingly non stop conveyor belt of boy bands who’s job it is make money……for their managers,publicists,stylists and sponsors; the kind of acts that are in it for the fame and the marketing as opposed to the music. I can remember reading a letter in Kerrang! Magazine years and years ago where this guy had written in complaining that Bon Jovi’s ‘slippery when wet’ album was too “corporate” and how they had “sold out” because they were on ‘top of the pops’ and that 10 year old girls were going to see them in concert. To a point I could see his argument. ‘Our’ music is rarely played on mainstream radio in this country and even less still on tv because advertisers don’t get it and can’t quantify a good return on their investment,but instead they happily advertise on MTV when one direction are on and in doing so can pretty much guarantee that 100m teenage girls will go out and buy a kinder egg, acne cream or even a ford fiesta. So when you spend your formative years on the fringes of society, ostracised simply because you’ve been wired up to like metal and not pop and then the same people who shun you start turning up at gigs it’s more than a bit galling. I went to see Guns n Roses a few years ago, had great tickets standing near the front where the atmosphere was rubbish as the people in suits standing next to me stood rooted to the spot like fishes out of water. A quick look through the channels on my sky box tonight shows that if you want to watch some heavy metal on your tv there are 2 channels to chose from,but if you want pop music there are 29 to chose from. Now you can argue that there’s not enough advertising to go around but that falls on deaf ears with me because there are 38 porn channels available on sky and I’m guessing that the silicone slappers get remunerated pretty well from the revenue sponsors bring in.
But back to the music. Buy me a few pints and give me a few hours of your time and I’ll tell you why Iron maiden are the greatest metal band of all time and why they are better than Metallica and why they are responsible for the direction my life took since that fateful day back in early 1986,when Michael Cahill lent me a cassette tape of what is considered to be the greatest live metal album of all time ‘ live after death’. The reason this album and band took such a hold on me basically comes down to two things; the songs,and the man who wrote most of them….Steve Harris. He became my hero and in the 27 years that has passed since listening to that tape, musically at least, he/they have never let me down. My very first blog last year called ‘unconditional love’ goes on to explain this a little further but to bring things up to date he released a solo album last year and this week I managed to get to a concert of his in a club environment.
A half day off work was booked and the usual gig routine of beers on the train to London saw us arrive, a little merry it must be said, in the smoke and then we made our way to the venue. When we got there there were already a few fans queuing up to get in first and guarantee a place at the front, but we decided that as the temperature was hovering around freezing and my beer coat was beginning to wear off, there was only one thing to do. Hit the boozer. So there I was staring out the window of the nags head in Islington watching the world go by and from out of nowhere, accompanied by a small entourage,Steve Harris walked past. Now, at that point I did what any self respecting fan would do and banged on the window to attract his attention which worked but only to fleeting glance,before he carried on walking, heads down,away from where I was. Unpreturbed, I grabbed my phone and legged it in hot pursuit after him, determined to get a photo of my hero. After a hundred yards or so I caught up with him and asked for a photo but was told in no uncertain terms by security that ” now wasn’t a good time” a second attempt proved unsuccessful too. Gutted.com
Beer coat fully topped up and we went to join the queue. Many familiar faces from Maidens road crew walked too and fro and we stood for about an hour and a half before being allowed access inside and a spot at the front was assured. I struck up a conversation with ‘Ivan the Romanian’ who’s pride and joy was a motorbike helmet shaped in perfect detail like eddies head, and he went on to tell me that he was Romania’s most dedicated metal fan. So dedicated was he that he moved to Finchley. But anyway the reason for us being there had arrived, the music. First up was a band that I’ve not heard of before but I’m hopeful of hearing a lot more of in the future, Zico Chain. A bit of dry ice and the dimming of the house lights heralded in the threesome from London who with a minimum of fuss and huge amount of energy hit the ground running with “The real life”. Virtually straight away the audience were engaged and the sound coming from the stage was phenomenal. On lead vocals and bass is Chris Glithero and what a great rock voice he has; soulful and harmonious when required but also with a massive rock presence.”New romantic” was my favourite song of their set and is the second song of the night. If this is the kind of song they are capable of writing then their days of playing small venues like this should be coming to an end because this could be on MTV rotation and see them get a much bigger audience. All the songs are taken from their most recent release ” The devil in your heart” which is an album I’ve not heard before but on a first time listen in a live show, it’s relatively easy listening as all the songs are a combination of melodic as well as heavy, exactly what w came here for. Paul Frost provides all the guitar work very capably while Oli Middleton beats the life out of his drum kit at the back of the stage. I could have watched a far longer set than this but sadly it was over all to soon but they have definitely won me over and left me wanting more and I’ll certainly be back for another instalment.
Familiar faces from maidens road crew began the process of prepping the stage for the main act and the room begins to fill up waiting for British Lion to arrive and after 30 minutes or so the lights dim and it’s show time. The set opens with the album opener “This is my god” and mirrors the album track listing on songs 2 and 3 and for a while it does seem like the band are working very hard to get the vibe going. It must be hard for the rest of the band as the clear focus of the crowd is on Steve Harris and as he runs around the tiny stage in his time honoured fashion, the attention of the crowd follows him much in the same way as the crowd follow the ball in a tennis match and as soon as he stops still for a second a hundred or so camera flash bulbs go off and so it continues for the night. So with the band having worked hard to build up a head of steam it seems odd that they then play 2 unfamiliar songs and for a few minutes all the hard work and momentum is lost. I’d go as far as to say that Steve Harris carries this lot live and without him there would be little reason to be there. But as my attention begins to wander, “The chosen ones” is introduced and we’re back on track and the room begins to respond to something familiar for two more songs until, infuriatingly, yet more unfamiliar songs arrive, and so it continues. The British lion album features 10 songs and all but 1 are played tonight and of course if we weren’t to be here for just about an hour there has to be other songs played but it does feel like each time they have the crowd onside it falls a little flat, but having said that the songs are delivered with power, precision and energy by all the band. Richard Taylor’s vocals are good and and he never fails to hit the high notes and both David Hawkins and Grahame Leslie deliver the goods on twin lead and rhythm guitars while Simon Dawson looks in perpetual pain from song one while he drums furiously, driving the band at a fast pace through all the songs.
So would I go back again? Well the answer is probably not, and certainly not while I can still go and see Maiden on tour every second year or so. I don’t think that the body of work this band can produce will be enough to see them succeed past where they are and had they not got the draw that is Steve Harris in the band they would probably not be doing a tour of this size and its unlikely that i’d be there to watch it. But having said that it was a greatly enjoyable night, where I got to see my hero as well as a great up and coming band in Zico chain and I’d suggest you try out their stuff for yourself.