Run to the hills

Metal triumphs in Marysville

Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden

Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden

Photo By Tom Angel

Iron Maiden Sleep Train Amphiteatre Sat., Aug. 30, 2003, with Motörhead and Dio.

When metal was at its peak in the ‘80s, I just couldn’t get into it. The music seemed too technical, too suburban, too apolitical. Plus something about all that hair and the tight jeans just turned me right off. It’s like that whole medieval-warrior, Dungeons-and-Dragons thing—way too escapist.

But dude, after seeing Iron Maiden Saturday, I had to rethink the whole thing. Maiden was rad—and not just in an ironic, ha-ha, look-at-those-dorks kind of way. The songs sound way better live than they do on record. Lead singer Bruce Dickinson has that stereotypical cockney rock-star accent, but he’s no dolt. He got respect from the crowd when he told some moshing monkey-men down in the front row to quit pushing people around. I’ve seen that done at dozens of punk shows, but never with the results Dickinson got. After telling them to “Fuck off, I fucking hate you, I’ll buy your fucking records back…,” the moshers sort of melted back into the crowd, averting at least a half-dozen fights.

Dickinson, who makes his “real” living as a commercial airline pilot, also stoked the crowd with rants on song downloading, corporate radio, MTV and the ridiculous idea of playing high-intensity rock at a place called “Sleep Train.”

What came through for me at this show is that, if you overthink metal, it’s like the nerdiest, whitest thing in world. On a purely emotional level, though, the music’s all about triumph. Iron Maiden, with its three-guitar attack and devil-horn pumping lyrics, represents the highest of culture and the lowest of brows—Managing to be menacing and uplifting at the same time.

Dio played second, and although triumphant in its own way, is sort of keyboard metal. Ronnie James can sing, but how does one avoid calling him a short Alice Cooper or a less evil Ozzy?

Motorhead opened the show and was great as always, rocking out a tribute to Joey and Dee Dee Ramone (R.I.P.). It really wasn’t Motorhead’s show, though, as the group played for only a half-hour, leaving out faves like "Jailbait, "Road Crew" and "Reptile"— I don’t think they even played the song "Motorhead." What’s up with that?