Iron Maiden ruled the night in San Bernardino
By Naughty Mickie

The Iron Maiden’s “The Book of Souls” tour came to the Glen Helen Amphitheater in San Bernardino July 1 and, despite the high temperatures, fans were already standing at the front gates by 2 p.m. (the tickets had the concert time as 3 p.m., which actually meant music didn't start until 5). Finally things opened at 3 p.m., but it was slow going as the crowd passed through security, which took away an interesting pile of things not allowed inside- lawn chairs, umbrellas, coolers, and other creature comforts.

I waited in the shade until the lines eased and then made my way through only to discover yet another line to get to my seat. But any place with a vendor was accessible, so lawn tickets holders could stake out a spot, while the rest of us were left to find the sparse shade and large fans that offered a little relief. It was better with some shaved ice, but it was still pretty hot. The seating area opened up some time after 3:30 p.m. and - wouldn't you know it - the only shade was in the pit. But no matter, fans kept themselves amused until things began.

Exodus kicked off what many of us called “Maidenfest,” with muddy sound and no sound at all for lead vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza, but he kept his cool and continued singing with hopes that the sound would be fixed. By the end of the number the sound was all there, but totally off-balance for a few more tunes. The audience was forgiving and cheered loudly when Exodus dedicated “Tempo of the Damned” to the late Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead and later thanked the crowd for 32 years of support.

It was like a broken record when Kamelot took their turn- the sound for singer Tommy Karevik kept going in and out, but unfortunately - unlike Exodus - the issue was never resolved throughout their performance. Karevik not only has a great voice (when you can hear it), but is a quick thinker, as he utilized the audience, getting them to sing with him to “Insomnia,” so his struggles were not as evident. “We’re obviously having a little trouble up here, but we’re going to work through this because this is a rock show,” Karevik said. Kamelot worked hard and persevered and the crowd gave them a warm applause.

At this point people sitting around me were all grumbling about the sound. We had waited 2-3 hours for a show that should have been perfect. OK, we'll give the sound guys a break on the first band, perhaps there was something that they were unable to fix while Exodus was on stage, but after a long break in between bands there's little excuse. My heart went out to all the fans, especially those in the pit, who paid good money for what should have been a great concert. And the people on the lawn, who either couldn't afford or score a better seat, deserved to hear music not mud.

On the lighter side, in between sets my friend observed a young man proudly showing off his Ghost t-shirt to his friends. One of them asked why he bought it in preference to an Iron Maiden shirt. “Maiden was $40, but Ghost was $20,” he replied. He was making a statement in a sea of new Maiden tees.

Ghost came out in their silvery devil masks with vocalist Tobias Forge in his Papa Emirtus bishop getup and, finally, the sound was perfect. Despite their appearance, they were fairly subdued on stage, letting their terrific musicianship drive the energy of their performance. They launched into “Lucifer" to a full house- even the lawn was completely packed. Ghost has that old arena hard rock sound and style, with heavily orchestrated music and lyrics you can clearly understand, along with a light show and plenty of smoke. Surprisingly polite, Forge used only one swear word when speaking with the crowd, which he thanked often. “From the deepest of our hearts and the bottom of mine, thank you for being here today,” Forge said as they concluded their set with “Monstrance Clock.”

The moment we were waiting for arrived with smoke and bursts of flame shooting out of the walls of an amazing Mayan temple from which lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson arose. This was Maidenfest and Iron Maiden was ready to rock. They played a mix of music, new and old, such as 2016’s “If Eternity Should Fail,” 1982’s “Children of the Damned” and 1984’s “Powerslave,” but what was most impressive was their energy and enthusiasm.

After more than 40 years of performing, Maiden can out-concert bands half their age. Dickinson was playful with his band mates, covering guitarist Janick Gers in his Union Jack flag during “The Trooper” and poking Dave Murray with a banana during “Climb Like a Monkey” (Murray finally took the banana and briefly used it to play his guitar). And throughout the show the band jumped, ran and moved like kids all over the stage.

Maiden’s beloved mascot Eddie made his appearance during “The Book of Souls.” He trudged on stage in a loin cloth and armed with an axe, which he used to “battle” Dickinson, who retaliated by pulling out Eddie’s heart. Dickinson ran to the other side of the stage and squeezed the heart, making it drip blood to the crowd’s delight, then teased them as to where he was going to toss it before letting it fly. Some lucky fan in the pit ended up taking home an awesome souvenir!

And I must give kudos to one of the biggest stars of the show- Maiden's set. It was absolutely amazing. Nicko McBrain was at the helm of his drums, which were inset into the main back wall of the temple, shining like a golden idol. The back scrim changed with various Eddie images to accompany each song. And there were posts from which flames spewed into the air to add excitement to the show. The set was really quite impressive, so there was an audible awwww when Dickinson told the crowd that this was the last time it would be seen in San Bernardino, as it was slated for return when the tour concluded to whoever deals with sets for the band and would probably be broken down and reused in some other way.

Sadly, things came to the end... but wait! There's more! Dickinson spoke to the audience at the beginning of the encore, stressing the importance of having compassion for one another, before the band went into "Blood Brothers." For "The Number of the Beast" a huge demon appeared just behind the temple wall.

The 25,000 fans who came to Maidenfest definitely got their money’s worth at this concert, including the kid with the Ghost t-shirt.

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