Δευτέρα 18 Ιουλίου 2022

Iron Maiden, the legacy of flares, Greek c#unts, rusty metal and the rebel youth.

 written by Andreas Andreou

"Α c#nt with a f#cking flare. I’m gonna sing, you f#cking cocksucker, you Greek c#nt. I’m gonna f#cking sing. F#ck you".

I am a huge fan of The Boys series and the third season that recently ended was awesome. Billy Butcher (portrayed by actor Karl Urban) is a favourite character in the sick and bloody, adult-only TV series, using strong language. The above mentioned quote could be easily one of his, if he was a singer in the show. But he is not, he is just a guy who wants to kill the supes.

That quote though came from Bruce Dickinson in the recent Iron Maiden show at Olympic Stadium in Athens, Greece (July 16, 2022). A huge football stadium with thousands of people: Heavy Metal fans, Iron Maiden fans, and people who went there just for "check-in", like thousands more in big shows no matter what the music genre is. I've done it also when Eros Ramazzotti played in Patra, Greece, in 2006. I don't even know more than 5 of his songs, I just happened to be there, and I don't really remember why and how, probably someone invited me or I was just curious? In the recent Iron Maiden show, there were also a few thousand "Eros Ramazzotti" fans, just like me, the "Iron Maiden" fan that happened to be in one of his shows. That's what's happening in huge stadium shows with brand bands and artists, no matter what the music genre is. Name them Iron Maiden, Metallica, U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Madonna, AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Pink Floyd, Scorpions, Bruce Springsteen, Lady Gaga, Guns N’ Roses, Adele, The Rolling Stones, whatever. Some people just want to be "there", it's not just a concert, it’s a show for everyone.

So, why did Bruce Dickinson shouted and cursed someone in the Greek audience? There were flares. Lots of them. Just like a few times in open shows, no matter what the music genre is, not only in Greece but everywhere, where the show organizers and their security don't do properly their job, and don't check the visitors and the paying customers. I've been in shows and festivals in Greece, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Bulgaria, and I've seen it sometimes here and there. I’ve been a visitor, a guest with a backstage pass, or I’ve worked in a few of them, so I guess I know it from different views. It’s not like Greece where things are more (let’s say) "loose" but I’ve seen insane things elsewhere too in Europe. They’re not just as "often" as in Greece. However, I know many people from aboard that sometimes like this "looseness" and the trip, and really enjoy local shows and festivals. But that’s another side of the coin.

There's a history with Bruce Dickinson in Greece and we know he doesn't like flares, even if the official Iron Maiden social media posted photos with flares (I guess they look impressive in photos, right?) and you can also see flares in their famous "Fear of the Dark" official live video from Donington Park, even in the same song at the En Vivo! DVD (2012), meaning it can happen anywhere, anytime, even in official Iron Maiden releases, no matter how they try to avoid these images. Sometimes, they’re just there and you can’t hide them all the time. That's not something new, that's not happening only in Greece, it can happen anywhere, where the show organizers and their security don't do properly their job. If security does properly the job, flares won't enter the venue, the arena or the stadium, no matter where it's located in the world. Well, it appears that in Greece the security is not as good as elsewhere or the Greeks have found adventurous ways to hide stuff. 

One day before (July 15, 2022) Judas Priest also performed in another location in Release Athens Festival and during "Painkiller" there were flares everywhere while Rob Halford was singing his heart out, never complained, enjoyed every minute and you could see the look of happiness and accomplishment in his face. He thanked us all and left the stage like a Metal God. If you're far away or watching a video, flares and smoke look really impressive, you can't deny that. If you're close, that could be dangerous, we all know that, too. But we also need to mention that the Release Athens Festival was nearly perfect and no one really complained. You can also find excellent gigs and festivals in Greece, just ask a few of the bands that have been here. Many of them love to be here.

If one will consider the Iron Maiden show as a fiasco (I don't, I was lucky to be in a good spot), you can blame Dickinson, you can blame the guys with the flares, but the most important thing one should blame is the lack of proper security and the organization that allowed everything within the stadium. It is funny to see people that during the economic crisis, managed to gather 80 and 90 EUR to see Iron Maiden, and they blame the kids with the flares ruining their evening. They see the tree but they missed the forest. Most of them couldn’t even see the stage because the ticket they bought didn’t match the position they paid, or the setting wasn’t good, people fainted because they were cramped in half of the stadium on the back while others were relaxed in the front, food and drinks were expensive, and security was there just not to allow people move from their area, and make sure they won’t bring beers from outside in the stadium. However, you could even bring guns within the stadium and no one would check you. But still, "the flares bothered Dickinson blah blah blah, he was right blah blah".

The Iron Maiden show of the Legacy of the Beast Tour 2022 was similar with the previous Legacy of the Beast Tour 2018. The difference is that they didn't perform "The Evil That Men Do", "The Wickerman", "For the Greater Good of God", "Where Eagles Dare" and "2 Minutes to Midnight", adding in their place "Blood Brothers" and three songs from the last studio album, Senjutsu. The 2022 setlist was: Senjutsu, Stratego, The Writing on the Wall, Revelations, Blood Brothers, Sign of the Cross, Flight of Icarus, Fear of the Dark, Hallowed Be Thy Name, The Number of the Beast, Iron Maiden, The Trooper, The Clansman, Run to the Hills, Aces High.

The beginning of the show was impressive even if the opening song that was very well performed doesn't really work as a show opener. However, "The Writing on the Wall" sounded better than the album version something that Maiden have done in the past too, with songs such as "No More Lies". Adrian Smith always had a cooler-than-your-favourite-guitarist stage presence but that day he didn’t really had it, but let me tell you that a cool solo part in a song like "The Writing on the Wall" - even if that song is one of the many non-top Maiden cuts - sounds better than the best songs of many other bands. When the three new songs ended, the "legacy" part took over and we can't really complain about the performance and the sound quality, they're professionals and know what to do, it’s an entertainment company now, while every move on stage is prepared beforehand. A few songs were played slower in favor of both frontman Bruce Dickinson (aged 63) and drummer Nicko McBrain (aged 70) but it didn't really matter because they all delivered and Dickinson is an iconic frontman, one of the greatest ever. One might say that McBrain lost a few drum fills or he just make a couple of songs simpler but I don’t think many people noticed that. The setlist lacked of faster and shorter songs with Maiden choosing a few longer numbers of their huge catalogue but it really worked with the show and the changing of the stage sets. During "Flight of Icarus", one of the highlights of the night, Dickinson appeared with a flamethrower on stage and flares also appeared in the audience. When "Fear of the Dark" followed, the whole stadium was singing and more flares appeared here and there. And when "The Number of the Beast" started, Dickinson also started," What did I see? Α cunt with a fucking flare. I’m gonna sing, you fucking cocksucker, you Greek cunt. I’m gonna fucking sing. Fuck you", leaving the stage for a while and the rest of the band tried to keep going. Of course the song was fucked up, Dickinson wasn't synchronized and kept doing gestures against that "Greek cunt". From that point on, the rest of the show was colder. Songs like "The Trooper" and "Aces High" are Everest-high classics but everything sounded cold, at least where I was standing with my friends. Dickinson kept doing a few gestures against "Greek cunts" during the rest of the set and if you were closer you could understand by the look of his face something that doesn’t fit in his status but all of the band members kept going with professionalism, even if there was a lack of passion on stage during the last songs.

So, "Greek cunt"? Imagine being in an open air festival in Germany or USA, and there is a random British band (not Iron Maiden), the security doesn't do very well the job they're paid for and a few flares will appear from hot-bloodied fans, and then, this random British band starts cursing, "you fucking German cunt", "American fucking cunt, fuck you" and all those offensive words we were using sometimes as teenagers just for the shock value. How would it sound if it wasn't Iron Maiden? Does it make any difference because it is Iron Maiden? I've seen that it does from many fanboys that don't bother but what would happen if there was any kind of riot from Greek fans that would be furious? I’ve seen people throwing bottles on stage because they didn’t like the band, imagine a professional, paying artist, starting cursing you. Can you imagine Maiden playing in Israel and Dickinson yelling "Israeli cunt"?

But there is something more with the "cunt" word and that's another issue most people seem to ignore or don’t know. This is not like "malakas" or "asshole". When it comes from a British, it is one of the most offensive and hateful words in the English language. It is pure hate, besides the strong misogynistic overtone. Words like "fuck" or "fucker" have lost their shock value while the "cunt" word is so hateful, offensive and nearly censored, that people in England who will use it in their business environment can lose their job and can be sued. This is not just an offensive word, this is more. Airbourne supported Maiden that day and singer/guitarist Joel O'Keeffe kept saying "malakas" but no one bothered because this is not about political correctness, this is about pure hate coming from the mouth of Bruce Dickinson.

You know what, anything that I am going to write here, anything negative that a random guy from Athens, Berlin, Chicago, London, wherever, will write about Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne and all those legends that shaped the music we're listening to, won't make any difference, won't bother them, we're just dust in the wind that will disappear after a while. Even if we're right. Their impact and history will remain and that's something they achieved but we're also a small, small part of it, with the support over the years, the money we're spending in live shows, the albums and the merchandise. Every time I am seeing Mantas of Venom live, he always mentions on stage that he is there because of us, the fans. Ronnie James Dio was always kind with the fans no matter what could happen below the stage and there are countless more examples. I think that the bands should not forget about it but that’s just my opinion.

A few weeks ago, there was a Greek hip hop artist using the stage name Lex (ΛΕΞ in Greek) where he played a stadium show and gathered 20.000 young people. That show had a cheap ticket of 8 EUR or something, while at the same period there was the show of Manowar that gathered an estimated number of 10.000 people, having of course a much more expensive ticket of 50 EUR. It was then, where another issue came up in the Greek social media comparing the two different music worlds and the audience. That was a wrong comparison since it was two events with a huge ticket price difference and two completely different worlds. That issue though, is not only about Greece but it is worldwide but let's see behind that contrast because it is very important and it is giving many specific answers combined with the Iron Maiden show.

During that contrast between Lex and Manowar, hip hop & rap music with heavy metal, I've read from many Greek metal fans comments like "watch all those young kids and teenagers at the Lex gig - in the heavy metal scene we're just old guys". Those boomers that were complaining about the lack of young people in the metal scene, and compared a Manowar show of an audience mainly 35+ years old with that hip hop event, probably didn't want to notice that in the 20.000 young people event, there were countless flares that turned the night to day. Those old metal fans that justified those kids because they're having fun are the same ones who today are screaming about the "Greek cunt" who brought a flare in a Maiden stadium show of 40.000 people and it bothered Bruce Dickinson. Is this confusion or hypocrisy? Truth to be told, those kids probably don’t give a fuck about you but if you want to complain about the lack of young people in metal live shows, maybe you should just look in the mirror. We’ll go to that later, for now here is a photo of that Lex show and its flaming youth.

Heavy metal has lost the element of danger, the fun, and the reaction against whatever the young people want. The young "Greek cunt" paid 80 and 90 EUR to watch Iron Maiden, a heavy metal band and will headbang, push, yell, enter a mosh pit, do a crowd surfing, even light up a flare in a very rare occasion. Then, the young "Greek cunt" will have an old dude pointing a finger to him because the young kid does his revolution and having fun, just like everyone did a few decades ago when they were below the stage of Black Sabbath, Metallica, Slayer, Motörhead and countless more. When shows had passion and it wasn't just dads sitting their ass on a soft chair, a venue corner or the balcony, complain if someone will go so close to them that will feel a touch...

Is it right to light up a flare in a concert show? I wouldn't do it, probably I never did it even when I was young. If someone does it next to me now, I will go to another place and if it bothers me I will let him know it and kindly ask him to stop. If he doesn't stop you never know how it will end. But I have no problem whatever will happen, nicely or badly. That's life.

Is it right for the artist to start cursing someone in the audience about a flare? I don't find it right but I definitely don't want it to affect the show I paid for. Also, the artist should expect a reply because it is always action-reaction. So, if the artist will do it, he should expect that probably it will be worst. That's life.

But never forget that it's not just the millionaire, professional singer and the "Greek cunt". If you want my humble opinion, it's all about the rules set by the organizer / promoter and the security paid to do a specific job. If you're paying a ticket to watch a specific show under certain rules and you don't follow them, it's the security's job to solve the problem. Of course it’s each individual’s responsibility as a human being to behave too but we’re not professional gig attenders and sometimes things can get out of hand. The professionals are on stage and the rest are working for the show (security included), so they should take care of such things.

Also, sometimes we tend to forget that this is heavy metal. We were also kids once and I have strong memories of great shows where I travelled many miles sleepless, I was yelling and screaming, and returned home with bruises. I don't regret, I don't forget, I don't want it to change, even if I am not doing it anymore. That's part of my youth and if it never happened to you, I am sorry, but in my opinion your relationship with Heavy Metal is blurry.

If all those things would bother the young Black Sabbath, the young Venom, the young Metallica, even the young Iron Maiden, we wouldn't be here, you wouldn't be here, you would be a Milli Vanilli fan. 


Do you want to know why you don't see many young kids in the heavy metal scene?

Because they're kids, and sometimes kids want to make their brief revolution against normality. You say yes, they say no. You say white, they say black. You say stop, they say fire! This is not bad, this is not a crime and you can't lock them. Unless you want them to be zombies with iPhones stucked in their hands. If Heavy Metal has become completely conservative, younger fans will find somewhere else to do their revolution, as they're doing with the recent example of Lex in Greece. Without promotion and without media, just the word of mouth. Goddamnit, I didn't know this Lex guy one month ago and suddenly he gathered 20.000 young kids in his concert! So there's a huge audience out there pointing the middle finger to dad-rockers and their dinosaur beliefs.

Because many of them can't be related with 60 and 70 year old guys running on a stage holding their breath, and having 40+ year old dudes below the stage pointing the finger to them so they will "behave" like they're in a Frank fuckin' Sinatra nightmare show.

Because many of the 40+ and 50 year old dudes keep saying "there are no good new metal bands". You can't have a new audience if there aren't new metal bands. Young people want to see young musicians too so they can relate to them; their generation. And THERE ARE excellent new metal bands but the boomer with the soft ass will never accept it because he is still living in the past. And as long as we keep saying that heavy metal will die once Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and all those legends will retire, that will happen for them too. And along with those legendary bands, the "old guard of fans" will also die and maybe then, maybe then, a young generation will be free from the boomer bullshit.

Because an "editor" in a magazine, website, whatever, will review a new band of 18-year old kids and see a photo of youngsters dressed up in leather and posing like their idols, playing whatever they want with passion, having a label supporting new blood, and that "editor" just writes whatever it takes just to project himself as a metal omniscient larger than the artists themselves. That is a failure. The boomer attitude that the "old guy" knows better and he can affect everyone's opinion. Bullshit. And that's coming from someone like me, who is 45 years old and works in the music industry.

Because metal music has been an expensive music nowadays. Records are getting expensive, live shows are sky-high expensive and young fans that don't have a work yet, can't keep asking their parents to give them 80 and 90 EUR to see Iron Maiden or 35 EUR to see Accept. They can go only to a few gigs and they can't really buy many albums.

I was not far from a company of high-school kids with flares in the Iron Maiden show. I saw them from distance having the fun of their life, like nothing else mattered. Time seemed to stop for them, they were yelling and smiling. I understand those who were annoyed and they have every right to be annoyed. But that image, for a while, it was a flame that sometimes is missing from life. And from Heavy Metal.

That was intended to be a Facebook post but a few paragraphs were expanded to a bigger feature of more than 3000 words (I did it again…), so it's added in the blog.

I can understand that a few people will disagree, that's fine and healthy, there's no problem with that. But if you believe that your opposite opinion is the correct one, the truth and the only truth, and everyone else is an idiot, then maybe you deserve a curse in a Bruce Dickinson way. Doesn't look nice, huh?

Edit: Meanwhile, a few days later in Germany...

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