Gentlemen and Ladies


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About 3 weeks ago I put on a pair of jeans that I hadn’t worn for many months and found a £10 note in the back pocket that I didn’t know I had. This is one of those moments when the gods of karma took some time out from throwing curve balls at me and therefore a sense of satisfaction washed over me as their backs were temporarily turned.A small piece of radiant joy was allowed into my life which lasted right up to the time when I spend it. And even after I had spent it, that warm, fuzzy, happy feeling still lingered around like the smell of an expensive perfume as I enjoyed my “free” pint as well as well as the process of buying a lotto ticket. While In the queue to buy the ticket, I was already planning what I was going to buy with my jackpot win and and even what treats I would get for family and friends such as cars and nice holidays and by the time I got to the front of the line I had even planned what I’d wear to the Aston Martin showroom when picking up my new DB9. Sadly the Karma gods turned their attention back in my direction, and at the precise moment that I told the cashier that I wanted a lucky dip ticket,the lotto machine decided to spew out the worst 6 numbers in the history of lotto. Still, as Monty Python once famously said I decided to look on the bright side of life and still believing myself to be in possession of free money I went home and logged onto ITunes to see if the were any new albums I wanted to buy. It was while I was searching through the lists that I remembered that I had some change left over from a voucher that my kids had got me for my birthday a few weeks ago and after just a few moments my attention was drawn to the most recent album by Volbeat which was released earlier this year.

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I was first introduced to Volbeat a year or so ago when from out of nowhere Cally downloaded the song “A warriors call” and played it a few days running in the car on the way to work. I won’t lie, whilst I liked the song and thought that it was good, it didn’t really register much of a high score on my musical wowometer and although I too downloaded it, it rarely if at all got played either at home or in the car. Then,a few months ago at download 2013 we noticed that they were playing the zippo encore stage on the first day and although we had to endure “Europe” in order to get a good spot in the crowd, we were perfectly placed by the time they came on. My only complaint about their set that day was that it was over far too quickly. Fresh from seeing that show we got our tickets for their concert at the Brixton Academy so I thought it might be a good idea to use some of the money on my voucher to download their newest cd and the one that they are currently touring, namely “Outlaw gentlemen and shady ladies” and it has to be said that with the exception of my recent trip to Rome, I’ve not stopped listening to it and more to the point, when I haven’t being listening to it I’ve been missing it something rotten so the time has come to actually tell you exactly what I think of it.

Wikipedia list Volbeats influences as a cross between rock n roll, rockabilly and heavy metal which is totally spot on. It also lists another influence as schlager music which I must confess to knowing nothing about except to say that when I googled it it basically seems to be a kind of Scandinavian folk music centred around sweet love songs and a melancholy sound, which is again spot on as here we have a record which in some places is heavy enough to not sound sound out of place on some of the mid 80’s albums from Metallica but delivered with a classy, melodic and powerful style which is dripping with melody. The opening track is an acoustic almost flamenco mood setter which actually does little to tip you off about what’s still to come except that it sets the tone for the harmonious 55 minutes that’s still to come. First track proper is ‘pearl hart’ which DOES set the tone for the album as within 20 seconds this song tells you everything you need to know about the rest of the album. If I overuse the words melodic,heavy and classy during this review then please forgive me but it does have to be said that this song is dripping with all three and isn’t even the best track on the album. ‘The nameless one’ is next up and picks up where pearl hart left off with power chords a plenty. What you notice fairly on with this band is that although it’s not a revolutionary sound that they have got, they certainly do have a distinctive sounding lead vocalist in Michael Poulsen. His effortless vocal style draws you into the songs with an almost haunting quality. ‘Dead but rising’ is up next and is one of the two most ‘Metal’ songs on the album and a great big heavy slab of metal it is too. like the rest of the songs, it seems to change direction throughout the three and a half minutes that it lasts you start from a metal sound and end up in a rock n roll middle and climax.

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The chances of turning on a radio and hearing any of these songs is slightly less than bugger all which is a crime worthy of a reconstruction on crimewatch which given that what volbeat have managed to do here, is produce a record which mainstream radio as well as the music tv channels could play on rotation. Given that at least three songs here are so radio friendly, enough to be played and yet systematically ignored,annoys me to my core and these songs are ‘Cape of our hero’ ‘My body’ and my personal favourite ‘ Lola Montez’. Or do I like ‘My body’ the most? Oh I don’t know. Picking a favourite song from these three is is a bit like being asked to decide which of my children I like the most. Please please please do not just take my word for it, download one of these three songs and see for yourself. You owe it to yourself to do so, you need a bit of this album in your life. Part rock,part metal and with a rich melody,these are the three stand out songs which deserve better than being hidden away in the middle of the record, just don’t expect it to hear them anytime soon on a radio. ‘Room24’ is back to the metal theme and in parts would be as at home on a 90’s Megadeth album as it is on this record. Featuring, as it does, searing operatic vocals as well as a heavy yet melodic rhythm throughout and in fact this is probably the most metal section of the whole album as ‘The hangmans body count’ will make you want to start a circle pit in your living room/train/car depending on where you’re listening to it. These songs follow Volbeats blueprint of alternating between slow and moody and on to powerful and fast, and If you’re sweating buckets from the moshing and running around,pray to god that they don’t follow it up with ‘Black Bart’ because that’ll be a whole 10 minutes of lunacy for you to absorb.

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There are many light and shade moments here. It’s not just a fist pumping, heavy metal record, it’s also a rock record, and a rock n roll record too. Its the kind of album that rewards you for getting into rock in the first place. Rock fans are often derided for their tastes but this is a record that we can stick under the noses of those that sneer and show them what they’re missing. Although numbered in their millions, metal fans are still massively out numbered by their musical counterparts who regard us as being a bit odd or brainless but this is an album of high quality and intelligence that should prove them all wrong. This album should be a standard bearer for the genre, it should be held aloft as an example of what a group of four rock musicians can produce. Normally I’d be wanting to keep it quiet and keep it just for us, but actually it deserves more than that. It deserves to be raved about and hopefully this come across in what I’m saying. This deserves to have a much bigger audience and exposure to a mainstream audience, who like me need a bit of Volbeat in their lives. Unlike the £10 note that I found in my pocket which gave me a few hours of satisfaction, this album is going to give me a lifetime of enjoyment. It’s too early to say stuff like “It’s in my all time top 10 records” because there should be a 5 year wait before any album could be considered for such an accolade but I very much expect that it will be. So after finishing reading this, open up your iTunes, spotify or whatever platform you use for listening and downloading and do the following. Listen to and then buy ‘Lola Montez’.If you don’t like it then not only is there something wrong with you, but also thank you for reading up to this point but goodbye and see you next time. If however you like it, move on and buy ‘My Body’ and then message me saying thank you. Then buy the album, it’s called ‘Outlaw gentlemen and shady ladies’.Simple as that. It will set you back about £10 but you don’t wait until you find a tenner in an old pair of jeans before doing so. So do it now. You’ll thank me for it.

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One night in London


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I want to ask you a question. How much would you pay for a second hand T-shirt? Nothing? £5? Well I’m not sure if I’d buy one at all but at the end of this post I’ll tell you the street value of an Iron maiden event shirt that’s been soaked in beer and sweat for about 5 hours and I’m pretty confident that the answer may surprise you.

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When I set out to write my weekly blogs about 11 months ago, I did so wanting to write about the things that I know about but at the same time not wanting it to just be filled with posts regarding my passion for Iron Maiden. Since the start I have written a review of Steve Harris’s first solo album and a review of the show I saw in June and left it at that because I didn’t and still don’t want it just to become a fan blog and I have a determination to write about other stuff that goes on in my life outside of maiden. My post ‘One night in Paris’ is the review of the show that we saw over in France in the beginning of June and given that the shows at download and the O2 in London were the same, I don’t want to simply re do a gig review.So today’s post is not simply about the show or indeed my views of it which, let’s face it, are hardly ever going to ever be unbiased. What I do want to try to write about this week is the passion,determination and loyalty that surrounds this band from the perspective of their fans of which I am of course one. A couple of examples of this I witnessed first hand in Paris on 5th June this year. We flew out of Luton on the very first flight of the day at 6am but even though we arrived at the airport at about 4.15 am there were already a number of fans already in the bar in the departure lounge and many more joined us for the flight out and most of us all seemed to be sat together on the aircraft.I later discovered that there were 4 other flights leaving London that morning for Paris that were taking maiden fans over for the show. Before flying out I had noticed that the fan club members were planning a meet up at the trocadero for a group photo so we decided to pop along to see if we could gatecrash it and get in some pictures. At the designated time there must have been getting on for 50 fans that had travelled in from the UK as well as fans from Canada, South America and other European locations too. Other meets were organised for the Eiffel tower as well as other parts of Paris. One of the guys we got talking to was telling us that he had been there since the previous day and the night before had been drinking in a bar with both Nicko (drums) and Janick (guitar) and when I asked if they had got photos he simply said no, they wern’t doing photos and if anyone tried to get silly they would protect the band from them. So here you have a situation where your heroes and yourself can just chill out with some beers with the upmost of mutual respect. The band give their fans a sense of being real and accessible and in return the fans protect them from the press and unwanted intrusion. He also went on to tell us about his global travels watching the band play in Australia, India and Japan and how he arranges his work and social life around the tours.

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And then there are the shows. As a fellow fan pointed out to me the other day, there’s almost no point in trying to explain to the uninitiated just exactly what going to an Iron maiden concert is like because unless you have actually been to one, you’ll never really be able to understand what it’s like. When I try to tell someone about the energy from the band, the lights show or the huge wall of flames that erupt regularly from all parts of the stage set, I get people smiling at me in an attempt to pretend that they are either interested or impressed when deep down you know they don’t care one bit. It’s in many ways a bit like trying to convince someone that you have seen a ghost but you know they don’t believe you or a bit like telling a friend that your in love but that the words you use don’t really convey enough of the emotion that you feel. I’ve seen 19 Iron maiden shows over the years and each one has been just that… A show, an event almost. Heavy metal is the kind a music that makes me want to run around like a lunatic,to head bang to or jump up and down to. It makes me drive faster, makes my heart beat quicker and makes me feel alive. It gets me out of my sensible everyday professional hang ups where I have to be grown up and mature and it it allows me to escape reality. It also doesn’t judge me, it doesn’t tell me what I should wear or sneer at me should I not have the right label on.

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Maiden have also managed to write many of the most iconic metal songs since the genre burst on to the scene all those years ago. They led from the front when the new wave of British heavy metal burst out of punk out in the late 70’s along with Def Leppard and Diamond Head. In order to get noticed in those days you had to graft hard and build up a following over many months and years of touring simply to get noticed. Having a nice haircut or a deal with a clothing company would not sell you a million albums as it does now, so back then you had to graft and keep grafting in the hope that it would bring the success you craved for. You also needed to keep writing quality songs in order to keep your growing fan base happy and so it was that in 1980 after having been formed in one way or another since the mid 70’s and having built up a reputation for brilliant shows,maidens first single actually made it into the charts and when they were asked to do top of the tops,they agreed to do it only on the basis that they could perform it live. Only Queen had ever done that before. Their determination to do things their way and on their terms matched the mindset of their fans and of metal fans in general who usually stand on the fringes of polite society getting looked at oddly due to their long hair and tattoos, but who themselves are determined to maintain a look that matches those of the bands that they follow. So with Maiden what you have is a marriage of convenience between band and fans, both of whom share the same determination to stick to their roots and beliefs but who are also very loyal to each other. This loyalty comes in many forms but for me it stands out when you consider that they have never ‘sold out’ or become corporate and never chased a deal with a jeans company just to make a few quid. But more importantly musically they have never significantly changed their sound and they continue to tour the world doing what they do, keeping the old fan base happy while picking up new younger fans along the way.

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On this tour I saw for myself just what being an Iron Maiden fan means to the fans and the lengths they go to in order to see the band perform. The best example of this that I have is a guy called Adam who answered an advert I posted on the maiden fan forum on their website. I had bought 4 tickets for the show in London on Sunday but due to holidays clashing and babies being due most of our chums were unable to make it, so I put an advert on the site to see if anyone wanted to buy it. Adam saw my ad and asked if it was still available to which I said yes and then he tells me that subject to flights he would like it. Flights? I asked. “Yes” he said “I’m from Stockholm so need to check out flights and accommodation”. An hour later and on nothing more than my say so he messages me on Facebook and says “right I’m there, 3500 kr lighter in the wallet but definitely coming”. Then when we finally met up at the arena he happily helped two of our party get the two remaining first to the barrier wristbands that we were missing so that we could get right to the front.Adam went on to tell me that he had been to 14 of the 32 European dates that the band had done on this leg of the tour as well as having travelled to North America last year for many of the those shows too. And he wasn’t alone either as many of the people who were around us on Sunday were on first name terms with each other and while addressing the audience from the stage, Bruce (vocals) announced that he could see “several familiar faces”.Also impromptu Facebook pages sprung up since the announcement of the London shows where total strangers arranged to meet for beers and group photos on show day to make new friends and share tour stories.

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When you wear your maiden t-shirt you belong to something much bigger than simply an audience. You could be anywhere in the world and if a fellow fan see’s that your a fan too you will almost certainly soon find yourself in a bar sharing a beer and discussing your favourite songs with them. This doesn’t happen with any another band that that I’ve ever been to see. From a marketing point of view it’s probably true to say that Metallica are the biggest grossing metal band at the moment and have been for some time but Metallica are always on the coat tails of maiden when it come to the devotion of the fans, quality of the shows and in my humble opinion the music too. One of the best things about watching legends like Iron Maiden is that they are living legends, still selling out arenas, stadiums and festivals around the world. When people talk about the pioneers/creators of the genre they quickly talk about the style and the influence that Maiden have had in their field since starting to get noticed way back in the late 70’s early 80’s. When you look at those pioneers now, most of them have gone only to be referred to as legends and although people of a certain age will always talk of Zeppelin or sabbath with a kind of nostalgic sense of superiority, its worth pointing out that maiden are still going, still touring the world and still appealing to new audiences all over the world. And still getting bigger. You can actually still see these legends in action.

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I’d love to finish this off by telling you or begging you to go and witness them for yourself but I’d rather you didn’t. I’d rather curiosity didn’t get the better of you and I’d rather you didn’t turn up at the show just to see what all the fuss was about. I’ve worn the colours for nearly 30 years, I’ve been on the end of the butt of many jokes about liking metal and there are a whole bunch of people I could name right here right now who have judged me because of it but I won’t. I’m a better person than that. So despite the fact that I KNOW you would have the experience of your life at a maiden show I’d like you keep away. I’d like it to remain the case that like Paris, Download and London this year as well as all the other shows since the first at Hammersmith odeon on 4th November 1986 it’s just me and the hundreds of thousands of my blood brothers going to see them. It’s our secret.

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I posed a question at the start about a t-shirt and here’s the reason why. When were leaving the O2 on Sunday my friend Mike was approached by a couple who went on to explain to him that they had finished their honeymoon in London that day and that going to see maiden was the icing on their marital cake but like many of the other concert goers that night, the merchandise stalls had sold out of the event shirt. Now you should know that the event shirts are unique to the show and cannot be bought afterwards, they are like badges of honour that can only be obtained at the show. What makes them unique is that the back of the shirt has the date of the show on it and although they can be bought through official stores on maidens website they cannot be bought with the tour date on the back which makes the event shirt a desirable piece of kit. The honeymooners wanted the shirt as a souvenir of the “pinnacle of their honeymoon” and had picked out Mike as he was the same build as the husband. Bear in mind this shirt was covered in much beer and sweat and for reasons that I won’t go into, it had also been very firmly pressed into the floor of the arena by over officious security despite the fact that Mike was still in it at the time.

He got £60 for it. And I think he got the rough end of the deal too.

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Me and Paul Frost from Zico Chain who was kind enough not to run away when I asked him for a photo.

One night in Paris


It has always been an ambition of mine to travel abroad to catch an Iron maiden show and as their only scheduled UK show this year is at the download festival, the time was right to see if we could get tickets to another show elsewhere in Europe. Paris was the obvious choice as it’s just a short flight away, and having previously done a day trip there just 18 months ago, we figured that we would be able find our way around easily enough. So armed with a pair of tickets, a change of clothes and a toothbrush each, we set off for Luton airport at stupidoclock in the morning on Wednesday for the first flight out of the day. When we arrived at the departure lounge there were already about 20 or so fans there at the bar, all wearing their maiden t-shirts and waiting impatiently to board the same plane.Before travelling I had noticed on the website that there was due to be a planned meet up at the Trocadero on the day of the show, so after arriving and having had breakfast al fresco on the champs élysées, we made our way up there to join them for a photo shoot. When we got there, we were greeted with the sight of about 40 people already gathered with their flags and banners,many of which had come from the UK, but there were also fans that had travelled from Poland, Canada, Brazil and even New Zealand. Many of them were also going on to other shows after Paris, with one having taken a few weeks off work to go to their shows in Switzerland, Poland and Sweeden. I’d been aware of how dedicated some people are about this band, but when you see it in action like this it’s pretty incredible. But after the photos were taken we had a hotel to find and many pre gig beers to drink, so it was time to head to head off and do what we came here for.

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The tickets we had were for unreserved seating meaning that nobody had an allocated seat which in turn meant that when we finally got in to the arena, thousands of people ran straight past the bars and merchandising stalls in order to get the best vantage point possible. Then only after the best possible seats had been found were we able to reserve them and go off and get the beers in before sitting back down to watch the support band Voodoo six. It must be a tall order supporting maiden. Imagine the situation, you’re an established band with many albums and some good songs in your back catalogue, but you know that virtually all of the 20,000 people watching you are here for someone else.This is something that must have been picked up by singer Luke Purdie when he asked the crowd who they were here to see and 20,000 voices screamed back “Maiden” to which he rather crestfallingly replied “ay, well your in the right place”. Don’t get me wrong, they were ok but nothing special. They have a new album out called ‘Songs to invade countries to’ but decided to play just 2songs from this album and 4 from their past, including my personal favourite ‘Long way from home’. The one good thing about not having allocated seating is that the venue was full when voodoo six played as opposed to in the UK where most support bands play to a less than half full arena as most of the crowd are still in the bar. After voodoo six finished the usual set change took place and the crowd amused themselves with a succession of Mexican waves around the arena and prolonged chants of “maiden..maiden” and before long the unmistakeable opening chords of UFO’s ‘Doctor doctor’ rang out signalling the start of the main event. The atmosphere was now definitely at fever pitch and finally, at long last, and after months of planning, the house lights go off, the video screens spring to life and the intro to ‘Moonchild’ plays out.

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With the full pyro display letting go in one glorious moment, there they are, charging to the front of the stage and working the crowd from the very first second.This band never EVER puts in just a ‘standard’ shift and never fails to deliver, and in return the crowd never fails to become delirious and this crowd is certainly no different.Take lead singer Bruce Dickinson for example; before the first song has finished he has already ran across the gangways at the back of the stage and covered every bit of the main stage too and bearing in mind that at the age of 55 he is the youngest member of the band, his athleticism virtually defies belief. ‘Moonchild’ gives way to ‘Can I play with Madness’ and it’s clear that this is going to be a set full of sing-a-long maiden classics, maidenoke if you like. ‘The prisoner’,One of my personal favourites followed next and i’ve already sung myself hoarse but this is just non stop now and the pace hardly drops when Janick Gers leads us straight from that into ‘2minutes to midnight’ which over the years has become a great live song, much better than it ever sounded on ‘Powerslave’. And finally a short break while Bruce, in fluent French, talks to the crowd and gets everyone to sing Happy Birthday to drummer and lunatic Nicko Mcbrain who’s 61st it is today. 61?really? This guys spends 3 nights a week for 6 months of a year keeping time for one of quickest metal bands around. Unbelievable. Many of maidens songs have either a fantasy or a war theme behind them and the song ‘Afraid to seek strangers’ comes next with its haunting melody,telling the story of a soldier during the first gulf war conflict who spends the night before going over the top, questioning the morality of what he is going to have to do. I absolutely adore this song. Lyrically thought provoking and musically stunning,it’s a real highlight of the night for me and its one of 3 songs being played that I have only had the pleasure of seeing live once before. Then with all the house lights down, the stage backdrops change and probably the most noticeable metal image ever appears, and within a few seconds as does one of metals finest tunes, ‘The trooper’. Maybe it’s just my imagination but it always seems to get one of the best receptions of the night, even on a night when the hits keep coming. Of course when I say hits I do of course mean hits within the metal scene and not actually chart hits. The strange thing with British radio is that despite being happy to play all sorts of crap and nonsense, there’s very little airplay given over to maiden in any way, but despite that,8 of the songs played tonight have been top 10 singles and the album that this tour is based around was a UK number 1. Their last studio album debuted at number 1 in 28 different counties, and taking into account live albums and dvd’s, Wikipedia puts their global sales at upto 100million. Imagine how many that could have been if radio had of got behind them.

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Still, back to the show. ‘number of the beast’ marks the halfway point before the highlight of the show arrived in the shape of ‘phantom of the opera’. I’ve only managed to see this song played once and that was at my very first show and I’ve waited since 1986 to hear it again. If I was ever on desert island discs and was told to bring only 1 maiden song it would be a hard choice between this, ‘The clansman’ or ‘Hallowed be they name’ but I would choose phantom on every occasion. It’s everything that heavy metal is, should be,and what iron maiden stand for: fast, powerful and melodic. The trip to Paris cost a fortune but was worth it for just this song alone. Continuing the maidenoke theme and with my lungs at bursting point through singing, ‘run to the hills’ is next up and Eddie makes his appearance dressed as general Custer, followed by ‘wasted years’ and it’s fair to say I’m in seventh heaven at this point. Talking of the number 7, ‘seventh son of a seventh son’ is next up. As an album song I never really rated this, I always saw it as a poor relation to ‘rhyme of the ancient mariner’ but not anymore. The intricacies of this song and the vocal challenge it poses are stunning but Bruce is majorly on form tonight and despite it being over 12 minutes long it’s over all too soon. ‘the clairvoyant’ provides yet another chance to jump up and down like a lunatic and ‘fear of the dark’ allows for more sing-along-a-maiden before ‘iron maiden’ closes the set. But only temporarily.

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As we’re waiting for the encore to start, Churchill’s speech heralds ‘aces high’ and the band appear from behind a curtain of fire and pyro as though it’s the start of the show all over again and not the 15th song of the night. By now we’re just shy of 2hours since it all began but the band cover every every inch of the stage, whipping the crowd into even more of a frenzy, so much so that for the first time of the night a circle pit starts at the front swallowing up all the crowd surfers and the faint hearted. ‘The evil that men do’ surprisingly provides the most pyro of the evening with every flame thrower going off during the song before the most spectacular indoor explosions I’ve ever seen go off at the end. ‘ Running free’ provides the audience with one last chance to “scream your guts out” and of course 20,000 mad Frenchmen plus me do just that. Then, that’s it. They’re gone. The house lights stay off just long enough to hint at another encore but it’s just not meant to be and end up leaving the arena to monty pythons ‘ Always look on the bright side of life’

So a life times ambition achieved and what a way to do it. This is the greatest set I’ve seen maiden play and to have had the chance to go to another country to see it first hand makes me feel very privileged indeed.You might be reading this and not be a maiden fan or even a metal/rock fan but here’s the thing: Maiden deserve massive respect. They have built this career over nearly 40 years of hard work and determination and without any media help and just word of mouth to pass the message on. They have played gigs to 30,000 people in countries where they don’t even have a record label, such is the power of their fan base and their spreading of the maiden word. I was wearing my new maiden T-shirt the following day when we were walking through a posh part of the centre of Paris near the opera house, when a guy who was sitting at one of the posh pavement restaurants saw me walking past and shouted “MAIDEN” at the top of his voice at me before giving me the horns. I was at Twickenham in 2008 watching maiden play to a stadium full to the brim of 60,000 fans and had just the best day ever and this experience in Paris will rank along side it as one of the best musical days of my life.

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I’m in there somewhere! With 20,000 of my best mates.

Heroes. And villains?


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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

check out ‘ New Romantic’ by Zico chain

The full treatment


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At the age of 18/19 I had three interests in life,the first of which was beer, the second was heavy metal and the third was girls. There was a reason for putting them into that order and that was simply because beer was easily obtainable, heavy metal made me feel like I finally belonged to a group/movement and bringing up the rear ( if you pardon the expression ) was girls because if you were heavily into heavy metal the chances of getting girls were virtually non existent anyway.My only recognisable talents at that time were being able to find a train home from pretty much anywhere whilst pissed, driving an untaxed and uninsured car without getting caught and growing long hair much to my family’s irritation. Fast forward 25 years and teenagers these days seem to fall into 2 very different categories namely the feral youth who are left to roam the streets causing chaos attracting all the headlines and the uber talented who find that all of a sudden once school ends,the world is at their feet and it is a joyous one full of milk and honey.The Treatment fall into the latter category.Massively.

When a normally quite reserved chum of mine suddenly announced on Facebook that he had listened to an album that had blown him away I had to take notice. I had a long car journey to complete the following day and was in the mood to try some new songs so asked him what the stand out tracks were and he told me to download ‘ the doctor’ and ‘ stone cold love’ which I duly did and then forgot all about it. On the way home the following day, having been bored stiff by my day and the radio, I plugged my iPod in and set it to shuffle and was instantly smashed in the face by what turned out to be ‘stone cold love’. So amazed was I by what I has heard that once it ended I replayed it but this time at a proper volume and then played ‘the doctor’ which was also quite frankly stunning. Luckily for me I found myself stuck in the usual Friday rush hour traffic jam where the M1 meets the M25 which allowed me to download the rest of the album.

There is no labouring, mood building introduction with this album. So, ‘Departed’ kicks things off with a confident swagger, and Matt Jones voice makes you sit up and take notice instantly: think Steven Tyler singing with acdc and that’s exactly where we are. Twin guitar harmonies from Tag Grey and Ben Brookland keep to the acdc blueprint coupled with Aerosmith’s power and groove which form the bands sound right from track 1. The aforementioned ‘The Doctor’ continues the theme before a Bon Jovi style,stadium filling chorus of ‘ I Want Love’ beckons in track 3 and It certainly doesn’t stretch the imagination too much to envisage this song on an MTV play list.’Just Tell Me Why’ slows the pace down just a little and has a Led Zeppelin feel to it before ‘ d***k,f**k,f***t’ reverts to type and rocks out with yet another catchy riff and chorus. This album is now reminding me of a little known album I bought I the 90’s by a band called Roxy Blue called ‘Want some?’, Killer riffs, gravel voiced vocals and a swagger and confidence that makes you want to play it loud, over and over again.

‘Nothing to lose but our minds’ is another sing-a-long in a Def Leppard style before ‘shake the Mountain’ arrives sounding like what would happen if ACDC and Guns n Roses collaborated and wrote a killer song together. ‘I fear nothing’ and ‘Winter sun’ are slower paced bassier, zepp style and it’s become clear where their influences have come from, but unlike almost every other wannabes these guys have the talent to match their ambitions.’Lady of the light’ starts in the same way, lulling me into thinking that more of the same is to come and it’s just going to end up as a zepp tribute album but fear not as the best riff of any year arrives and all of a sudden there isn’t enough volume in the world to listen to this with: this is the reason why ears were invented. I had a car once that had more decibels than horsepower and god I wish I still had it so I could drive around while being a bloody nuisance to this riff. I actually found myself air drumming to this while stuck in traffic much to the amusement of the guy next to me! This riff alone is worth the entrance money alone.’Road rocket’ leads the charge round the final bend towards the end of the album,sounding like it could have been on pyromania all those years ago then the aforementioned ‘stone cold love’ which is just the best f*****g song I’ve heard in a very long time.’I will be there’ finishes the album in an almost bluesy rock style packing a killer chorus before a stripped down acoustic version of ‘just tell me why’ which reminds me of Jon Bon Jovi’s ‘ blaze of glory’ which if I’m honest doesn’t add a great deal to the album but if a chilled out way to end it nonetheless. I realise that making references to all these past rock/metal bands compares The Treatment to an age gone by but the truth is far from it. People far more knowledgeable than me will be able to make more current comparisons and here is an album that is very much now in sound if not in influence and it should be judged on that basis.

Calling this a metal album may be unfair as it could put a number of people off buying it but it shouldn’t although Listening to it relentlessly over the last few weeks has actually made me question if this is metal at all. Metal isn’t meant to be commercial and it’s doesn’t always translate to a global audience but this album is a multimillion seller waiting to happen and I can’t remember the last time I discovered a band that ticked everyone of my box’s. If there is any justice in this world they will get massive amounts of air play all over the world, make millions, stay together and make many more albums like this. I would urge you to buy this album.

Oh, and they are all teenagers. Annoying isn’t it.

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Bryan Adams


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For years now I’ve wanted to go and see a show at the Royal Albert hall but the bands and performers that I like would be very unlikely to perform at such a venue so I thought I’d either have to go to the last night of the proms or wait patiently for the day that Metallica do another s&m show and chose London to do it in but with both unlikely to happen I just accepted that I probably wouldn’t’. So when out of the blue I got an email from ticketmaster showing that Bryan Adams was doing a show there I jumped at the chance especially as it turns out that the show was to be an acoustic unplugged show. I had bought his unplugged album years ago and loved it so the chance to see the show for myself was not to be missed. I’ve seen him a couple of times before at big outdoor shows at Milton Keynes in the early 90’s and then at the old wembley stadium a few years later but this wasn’t to be just a nostalgia trip I was genuinely excited to see what I thought was a one off show. So the credit card was broken out of storage and I managed to find a pair of tickets on Viagogo which despite being in the circle area and being quite expensive I paid up. When they arrived I realised that despite the face value being only £35 I had paid nearly £80 each for them including fees and delivery both me and the seller both felt like I’d been massively mugged. Not only that but I also read online that these shows include just a few of his hits and are padded out by lots of cover versions so despite still looking forward to it I had a few doubts.

Anyway despite the trepidation Monday arrived and we made our way to London for the gig and we arrived in time to have a nice meal and a few beers before the doors opened On top of the obligatory beer and hot dog on the train going up. An hour or so queuing outside in the rain and being constantly harassed by ticket touts dampened spirits a little bit but once the doors opened we quickly found our seats (via the bar of course) and had a bit of time to take in the atmosphere. I had waited years to be sat here and before the lights went down most of the seats were filled and the standing areas around the top of this magnificent venue were full to capacity and before the main event started we watched the stage crew,which consisted of a cameraman and two dwarfs, pushing a flight case across the stage whilst being filmed doing so. All very odd.

Then all of a sudden the lights went out, a cheer went up and Bryan Adams appeared wearing a top hat. The house lights came back on and after a few moments of doffing his hat to his faithful the lights dimmed and the music started with one of his biggest hits ‘run to you followed by ‘its only love’ and my worries that it was going to be a night of covers was over. Hit after hit arrived interspersed by banter and anecdotes and requests from the audience some of which were granted much to the delight of everyone. I have to admit that as I’m not an avid fan I hadn’t heard some of the songs before so can’t claim to remember the whole set list and even he admitted that that some of the set list was “obscure” from his back catalogue but it didn’t matter if you didn’t know them because every single song was flawless and delivered impeccably by a guy who is the consummate performer and possesses just the most incredible voice. In the rock genre its rare to find a performer that can sing powerfully and with perfect diction meaning that during the songs I didn’t know it was still possible to hear all the words. Ally that amazing voice to a performer that is totally at home by his surroundings and perfectly at ease on stage,each song is absolutely nailed without so much as a bum note on his guitar or voice.

Every great gig I’ve ever been to has has a middle section of songs from the ‘greatest hits’ selection and this was no different. An 8 song run of hits started with his biggest ‘ everything I do ( I do it for you)’ and despite 5500 people watching you could have heard a pin drop during this rendition and the atmosphere was was astonishing enough to result in the hairs on my arms and the back of my neck standing up. I can’t recall many other gig moments when I’ve experienced an atmosphere like this and the crowd went mad at the end of it with many rising to their feet and giving him a standing ovation.Barely back in our seats ‘cuts like a knife’ arrived and I began to feel incredibly privileged to be there, ’18 till I die’ picks the pace back up before a request is made for ‘please forgive me’ gets everyone back in their seats again. If anyone ever wants a lesson in how to write a ballad then give Bryan a call.Then the moment everyone had come for. ‘summer of 69’ got everyone back on their feet and at times it was hard to hear Bryan over the crowd but what a moment that was,genuinely a stand out moment in my gig history.Then as if it couldn’t have got better for me he then played ‘heaven’ which acoustically and unplugged is one of my favourite songs. Song after hit song arrived and I sat back content that that all the songs I’d came to hear I had done and was massively content.

‘The only thing that looks good on me is you’ brought the set to an end and everyone was very satisfied indeed but also begging for more and after just a few minutes off stage back he came.’ I need somebody’ and ‘you’ve been a friend to me’ warmed us up for ‘ have you ever really loved a woman’ which acoustically was stunning and the audience sung every word again. 2 hours plus into this show and it showed no signs of ending, his voice showed no signs of waning and despite the last train time getting nearer no one showed any signs of leaving. But sadly the last song was introduced and in order to create even more atmosphere he asked everyone to “turn their phones on and light the place up” and as he sung ‘All for love’ this most famous of venues twinkled under the lights of thousands of mobiles and a magical moment was made.Then after nearly 2 and a half hours and 29 songs it was over.

Every gig I’ve ever been to has had its faults and this one was no different. The volume was at times very low and despite him having a loud and clear singing voice he is very softly spoken and at times it was difficult to hear him and given the volume of the female voices signing along with him it did at times sound a bit like a karaoke event at a W.I. meeting but this is really just nit picking as on the whole this was a gig that will rank highly on my all time best ever list. There was a cameraman filming the events and I really hope that I get the chance to watch a DVD of this show and would strongly advise you to do the same. On the train on the way home I pulled the ticket out of my pocket whilst searching for my travelcard and looked at the face value of it again. £35 per ticket which worked out at just over a pound a song! Even taking into account that I’d paid well over the odds for it from someone online I couldn’t help but think what amazing value it was and far from me being mugged, by giving his ticket up so cheaply he had actually done me a massive favour.

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The X-(ploited) factor


Everyone at some point in their life is asked the question ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ or’what do you want to do when you leave school’ and when i used to get asked these questions id simply say I didn’t know and if I’m honest I still don’t. Like many kids I once dreamed of being an astronaut or a footballer and probably a racing driver and as I got older I wanted to be a guitarist or singer in a rock band. Sadly not only did I not poses the ability to do any of these things I also never really felt strongly enough about pursuing any of them as a career anyway. Consequently I have really just gone where the ebb and flow of life has taken me. I’m most certainly not saying this is right or wrong it’s just how it’s worked for me and therefore I’ve always been slightly envious and jealous of those who have been able to set their own life plan and see it through.

Inevitably the most talented individuals will make it happen for themselves and the cream always rises to the top whether its in business, sport, industry,science or music.Talented people will begin to stand out from the crowd and get further encouraged and promoted and then managed by the best. Businesses court fresh talent, talent scouts would alert sports clubs of talented athletes, a&r men would try and sign bands to record labels and institutions would try to secure the very best scientists to unearth new discoveries. Of course hard work,good fortune and good timing all play a massive part in achieving success and all successful people can identify one or more teachers or managers for whom without them life may well have turned out differently.

Musicians used to form bands and singers would either join them or go it alone and then set about writing material to perform to waiting audiences. Record labels would send their scouts to these clubs to check them out and of course while many got signed most were ignored but those that made it did so on merit and those that didn’t either tried again or gave up.But whereas talent used to be spotted these days it’s farmed. And indeed farmed on a massive scale.Gone are the days where effort was put into going out and finding the next big thing these days arenas are hired,the local population is trawled and from the tens of thousands that are caught in the net a handful are pulled to one side and teased with the notion that they could be the next big thing. The rest are thrown back into the sea but not before the viewing public get to view and ridicule them on tv.

The businessmen who run this tv show know that whilst it might take one scout a lifetime to uncover another Beatles you could very easily uncover a dozen Chesney Hawkes, Michelle McManus or Shane wotisname and therefore rather than break one icon you could make quick money by giving a dozen dreamers their 15 minutes in the spotlight. Worse still is that whilst some of what the X factor turns up is undeniably good the rest is not. Massively not. For every Alexandra Burke there’s a Chico,Wagner, and Johnny Robinson and for every Chico,Wagner and Johnny Robinson there’s an Eva Cassidy who died virtually unknown because record companies would rather make the next boy band than make a star.But bosses know that more people want to watch the circus freaks as well as the boy bands so many talents are left out because the producers know that if they put a whackjob in with the talented ones greater publicity will be achieved and given how we love an underdog they know we will keep voting to keep them in. The more votes means the more profit.

So this really leads me to my main gripe with the the X-factor.These programmes are 0% to do with unearthing talent. 30% of what they do is about selling music and 70% is about making Simon Cowell richer. The acts that get to be on tv during the audition stages are simply there to be ridiculed and laughed at.This is all done to boost publicity through word of mouth which generates an audience which produces ratings.If ratings slip producers resort to sex.We hear of sex between contestants or even sex tapes from the mentors,a vote rigging scandal will surface, a charity donation will be made and Simon himself may allow it to be known that he is stressed out/on pain killers/a sex addict etc etc. Meanwhile the mentors themselves will release books or singles to help line their own pockets because this particular show now only exists to promote its owner and the mentors particularly Tulisa who is currently flogging her autobiography by telling everyone who reads the sun how promiscuous she is . The whole thing stinks.

But in the midst of all of this are a bunch of kids who have their dreams shattered live on tv in front of the nation by a presenter who will drag out the announcement to inflict maximum pain and stress upon them. These are the kids who when asked the question ‘ what do you want to do when you grow up’ reply ‘I wanna be a singer or famous’,they are the ones who unlike me have the balls to at least give it a try and have some direction,put themselves out there to be shot at and judged by a group of people who ,Gary Barlow aside,couldn’t sell out a phone box yet alone an arena and then have the cheek to mime when it comes to their own performance. These kids are made to believe they have massive futures and will become stars forever, fame fortune and glory. Simon will tell them how amazing they are and then quietly drop them a year later when the inevitable sales slump arrives but while the Chesneys,Michelle’s and Shane’s go back to stacking shelves at tescos Simon will buy his new private island.Or jet.