POP MUSIC REVIEW : MAIDEN FULFILLS TEEN DREAM
Time for a heavy-metal multiple-choice quiz.
To be really good--that is, appeal to a predominantly middle-class white teen-age male crowd--a heavy-metal band must:
A) Strut cockily and strike ridiculous poses.
B) Sing offensively misogynous lines like “Gonna shoot you full of love.”
C) Show little sense of humor.
D) Play long, pointless solos.
E) All of the above.
The correct choice is frequently “E,” but Monday at the Long Beach Arena the answer was Iron Maiden. Opening a three-night stand, the English quintet avoided all these metal touchstones and still made the crowd scream for more.
Crowd reaction is not normally a good way to judge one of these metal arena shows. After all, this was the kind of crowd that not only applauded a drum solo, it applauded one played by a roadie. Before the concert began. Behind the big black curtain.
But when it came to this Iron Maiden show, the kids were right.
From the time it hit the stage beneath giant inflated spaceships and amid fiery explosions to the time it played its final thudding note, Iron Maiden offered up the classic teen myth and sci-fi fantasies with music that favored skills over frills, all accompanied by spectacular lighting and special effects.
To put it in metal vernacular, Maiden delivered, dude!
There isn’t a lot of originality in what the band does--numerous song titles are borrowed from other sources (“Phantom of the Opera,” “Heaven Can Wait,” “Stranger in a Strange Land”) and its music is basically just old Deep Purple goosed with some Motorhead fury.
And the recycled subject matter is corny by definition, but it’s offered with a minimum of ponderousness and pomposity. Anyway, better “Blade Runner” and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” as inspiration than the muddle-headed sword, sorcery and Satan stuff that continues to dominate much of the genre.
Who in this crowd wouldn’t be entertained by the appearance of a 13-foot-tall replica of the band’s android mascot, Eddie? Not impressed? Then how about the 20 -foot-tall head of Eddie that rose from the floor and lifted the drum stand high into the air?
The generally high-energy music was consistently accomplished and surprisingly direct. The songs were often long but never seemed interminable, and a few of them even showed a good deal of song-craft, with memorable hooks and sing-along choruses. And when it came time for guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith to step out for a solo segment, they played real music rather than merely demonstrating their dexterity.
While there’s no sense of self-consciously trying to set a good example, Iron Maiden leaves out the gratuitous sex and violence so common in metal. Singer Bruce Dickinson even made a point of twice lecturing a pair of pugnacious patrons mixing it up near the stage.
“People at Iron Maiden shows don’t fight,” he said, without a preachy tone. “If you want to fight (go) outside and do it.”
And on top of all this, Maiden showed the good taste not to include a drum solo in its set.
There was a drum solo during the Vinnie Vincent Invasion’s opening set, however. There were also several go-nowhere solos that made you wonder if guitarist Vincent is tone-deaf. Or maybe he just can’t hear through his Tina Turner-ish hair.
And yes, singer Mark Slaughter, who has an incredibly irritating voice that sounds like Robert Plant on helium, not only sang “Gonna shoot you full of love,” but he also fired a water pistol as he did so.
But the band’s worst offense was that it was boring. C’mon guys, show a little imagination!