Maiden in California

Friday the 13th couldn’t have been more intense and exciting in San Bernardino this year as the British legends of metal themselves Iron Maiden headlined the last show date in the US for the Maiden England tour, which hit the San Manuel Amphitheatre this month, following a stellar array of other big metal bands like Megadeth, Anthrax, and Testament, and awesome warm-up bands Warbringer, Overkill, and Sabaton. I, being the biggest of Maiden fans, had the golden opportunity to see them live for my second time, and they just completely ran the show fulfilling every bit of anticipation and excitement attendees had been holding onto for so long, putting on a tremendous performance with stage antics and pyrotechnics to complement the show and encompass everything within the world of Maiden.

Walking along the Amphitheatre, hugely excited fans await in the boiling heat ready to let out all their metal rage in a day filled with some of the best metal acts to date. Maiden shirts just fill the entire setting of fans with unique varieties from different tours, albums, singles, etc., showing how everyone was ready to hear just about anything from the bands historic discography. People chanted for Maiden hours before they even started, you could tell the show would not disappoint.

First band to play was a thrash band called Warbringer, a band my friend Omar actually knew somewhat personally having played with them just a couple years ago. Watching on in reminiscence, we stood along by the second stage where they had performed followed by the second band Overkill, another heavy metal band with quite a following and years of playing in their repertoire. Warbringer and Overkill both got the audience pumped and quite early in the day too, it was 2 pm and the mosh-pits were already in full throttle. The area around the second stage began to fill up as the two bands got things started, then everything moved onto the main stage where all hell was soon to be broken loose.

Swedish heavy metal band Sabaton opened up the main stage as the seats and pits were just slowly starting to fill up. Playing with a more family-friendly metal vibe, the band played songs to attribute Viking metal styling with some chant work along with hard pounding guitars. By the time they finished, Testament and Anthrax followed up, and fans start to truly feel the excitement of metal they all came to enjoy.

Testament threw down a hard set, starting up the mosh pits even up in the lawn seating, getting fans riled up. Anthrax followed quickly and opened up with “Caught in a Mosh”, blowing up the entire crowd in a heat of excitement and head-banging, starting the first huge mosh pit. Anthrax put on a great show being one of the hardest hitting bands to play that day, getting the crowd the most pumped up during the early afternoon, playing the classic songs all fans love such as “Indians”, “I Am the Law”, and even doing a cover of AC/DC’s “T.N.T” which really got fans to stand up and shout.

The night was young, the fans were already pumped up enough and Megadeth came out in a blazing glory opening up with a fan-favorite “Hangar 18” and yells commenced as the band began to shred solos and dominate the fast paced bass drum action. Screens behind the band threw up visuals to complement their set perfectly, with images of red warning flashes and political warfare-themed scenes to go with their topical songs such as “Holy Wars”, “Kingmaker”, and “Peace Sells”. Megadeth played classic songs intensifying everything that is heavy metal to the fans, keeping the head-banging alive and well– and on lead singer/guitarist Dave Mustaine’s birthday nonetheless. The band annihilated their set in the name of adoration from and for their fans, and to get everyone as excited as possible for the final act of the day, Iron Maiden.

The stage started off with low lights and looks of awe as the crowd awaited the bands entrance and any glimpses of what the first song to be played will be. Soon enough the beginning recording to “Moonchild” started and fans began losing it as the song intensely warmed up getting higher and higher until it kicked in and the band came out in an explosive, epic intro, playing hard, loud and as viscous as always. Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and Janick Gers all destroy their duties on guitar providing their harmonic solo duets and trade-offs, each with their own added taste to each solo and song throughout the set.

Bassist Steve Harris and drummer Nicko McBrain worked together as they always have to create tremendous bass and drum complements, following in each other’s steps with each and every galloping rhythm, as if your own heart beat went along with the songs and felt the monstrous power of Maiden in all their metal glory. Atop the rhythmically astounding bass and drums, heavy power chords and shredding, came lead singer Bruce Dickinson to add that ultimate heavy metal accent and singing capability needed to make it all come together, with perfect screams and beautiful tempos all throughout the set and along with the best stage antics–running all up and down the stage, changing wardrobe for different songs, and even waving the British flag around for the whole crowd to engulf in the band’s presence and livelihood.

Maiden played vintage songs like “Number of the Beast”, “Can I Play with Madness”, “Fear of the Dark”, “The Trooper”, “Iron Maiden”, “Wasted Years”, and “The Evil That Men Do”. The crowd could not have been more excited to hear all their songs through the night, and sang along to just about all of them. Playing hard, vigorously, and even putting on beautiful performances in songs like “Afraid to Shoot Strangers”, which was one of my personal favorites of the night.

Though all past their younger years, each member stayed up delivering the best they could possibly give, and being that it’s Iron Maiden, it really was the best. The band closed and came out with an encore of “Aces High” and finally ended it all with “Running Free”, as singer Dickinson gave his farewells and fans applauded on an overall great day for the presence of metal in California.