A great concert, a great band and a great venue. The concert-band? Perhaps the greatest heavy metal band in the world (a small notch higher than Metallica?), Iron Maiden! The venue? The beautiful Villa Manin, located just a hop, skip and a jump from Udine. The venue was chosen specifically by the band and by bass guitarist Steve Harris, who also happens to be a history buff: the villa is also famous for having once hosted for a night Napoleon Bonaparte.
As part of their worldwide 36-city, 13-country “Final Frontier World Tour”, the 30 year-old band (their only gig in Italy at the Villa Manin came exactly 30 years after their very first appearance in the Bel Paese), Maiden entertained 12,000 die-hard and very passionate heavy metal fans from all walks of life (including the elderly!) who came from all over Europe for this sold-out concert (65% of those fans hailed from outside of Italy. Indeed a good promo for local promoters and tourism folks).
The day of the concert started off in a rather particular manner as the band’s exceptionally versatile and athletic lead singer, Bruce Dickinson, just happens to also be a commercial airline pilot. “Air Bruce” touched down at the nearby Trieste airport aboard the Boeing 757 “Ed Force One”. Some of the passengers also included Maiden fans who had paid for both the trip and the concert at the Villa Manin. Just how many bands out there can say that they actually have their own singer who flies them around the world (to have an idea a must viewing is Maiden’s 2008 “Flight 666” DVD world tour which covered 50,000 miles in 23 concerts on 5 continents with the entire band, crew and material aboard “Ed Force One”, including Dickinson himself as the flight’s pilot)?
After having landed around lunchtime, there was 52 year-old “Air Bruce” at 8:30 pm literally leaping from atop of the two speakers positioned at his feet with an airborne jumping-Jack-style kick which was reminiscent of an old Bruce Lee movie as he belted out the opening lyrics to “The Wickerman”. Not content with just flying and singing around the stage, Dickinson also climbed up the stage’s scaffolding like a monkey! And not to be outdone by this great front-man, his fellow mates Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Janick Gers and drummer Nicko McBrain added their own personal touch of musical mayhem to the show, especially Gers who pranced and danced along to his own music (and loyally wearing what else but an Iron Maiden t-shirt!) while drummer McBrain pounded away on his legendary and humongous drum set.
That song was followed by Iron Maiden classics such as “Fear Of The Dark”, “The Number Of The Beast” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name”. Maiden also presented fans with “El Dorado” which is taken from their very latest album, “The Final Frontier”. All-in-all, a total of some 20 songs were played. Sadly though for Maiden veterans five of their most famous and epic songs were not played: “Run To The Hills”, “Can I Play With Madness”, “Hell Is From Here To Eternity”, “Powerslave” and “The Trooper”. Nevertheless, their show was exceptionally entertaining and they topped it off with a tribute to perhaps the world’s greatest comedy group (after the Marx Bros.), Monty Python: as they walked off the stage the cute Eric Idle tune, “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” blared from the speakers! As Python fans worldwide (like yours truly) know, that song is from perhaps their greatest movie ever made, the 1978 “Life Of Brian”. One great final song to cap off one great rock and roll evening!