This was my second concert ever, just a few months after seeing Superjoint Ritual at L’Amour in Brooklyn just two months earlier, but this was my first ever arena concert – and goddamn what a way to start! A few months earlier my cousin Mike asked me if I wanted to see Motorhead, Dio and Iron Maiden at Madison Square Garden in July. Now…I understood Maiden and even Dio playing at the Garden. But Motorhead? Yeah they have such a loyal following but they never held the stature of Maiden in ticket or even album sales. Either way I knew it would be amazing to hear a band THAT LOUD in the Garden. So do I want to go? Um…yeah!
I don’t really remember off the top of my head what my day was like leading into heading out to my cousin’s apartment but I do remember just thinking to myself “holy shit I’m seeing Iron Fucking Maiden tonight!” I’d been a growing fan since my senior year of high school, probably being the only one in my high school that even liked Maiden, or any real metal for that matter. I had heard “The Number Of The Beast” and “Run To The Hills” but once I heard “The Trooper” on WSOU one afternoon I was sold! Then Mike called me to let me know that he’d need an extra $50 when I got to his place because he was able to upgrade our seats and we’d now be right at the second row. How the hell did do that? Well…he wouldn’t tell me. Whatever. So I got to his place in the Superjoint Ritual t-shirt I bought at their L’Amour show, green cargo shorts and my boots, gave him the $50 and to the bus we went.
We got there and the place was the best mix of scalpers and some of the sickest battle jackets I’ve ever seen. When we walked inside my old friend Joe was doing security, and he definitely came in handy later. Motorhead were already playing when Mike and I got to our seats. Come to think of it I now get mixed emotions when thinking of any Motorhead show I’ve seen, mostly because of Lemmy’s health these days. Between him and Keith Richards why the hell is it that Keith was the one that did heroin and he appears to be doing better than Lemmy? Loud? Yeah…ok. Imagine their volume…especially Lemmy’s bass…but now it’s in an arena where you’re now blasting the ears of over 20,000 people. That whole set was an explosion. And from where wee were seated we were right at Lemmy’s side to the stage – the way it should always be! And Mikey Dee’s bassdrums went right through me and my cousin like a second heartbeat. Mike was not really a Motorhead fan but at that moment he definitely got a rush from the sensation of Mikey’s bassdrums. Their set list was filled with songs ranging from their entire catalog, from their biggest songs to their least known. It was my first time hearing their Ramones tribute song, simply called “Ramones”, “Sacrifice”, “Over The Top”, which Lemmy appropriately dedicated to himself, and then I finally heard them play “Overkill”. I’d heard Metallica’s cover of it five years earlier as did everybody else in the world but to hear THEM do it was the single greatest point in the setlist. After they got off stage I almost didn’t care about Maiden!
Dio was next. They were still on tour for their most recent CD, Killing The Dragon, the title track of which they even opened up with. This was to be my first of three times seeing Ronnie James Dio in concert – all three times with my cousin Mike no less! – and my first impression of the guy made me laugh so hard. I mean I never realized how short this guy was, first off. He came out wearing this black silk outfit, I mean black pants flaring out at the bottom and this black short sleeve shirt, decorated with a glitter cross. Now don’t get me wrong, he was amazing! His voice was so powerful on this night, just a few years before being diagnosed with the stomach cancer that eventually took him from us. I still miss him so much. But I know I wasn’t the only one that night wondering if he took dance lessons from a stripper either! In fact when I began my second year in college a little over a month later THAT was what my other friends who were there and I were talking about more so than even the music! He shook his ass and swiveled his hips way too good here.
Craig Goldy was back on guitar, replacing Doug Aldrich who left after Killing The Dragon to join Whitesnake…yeah I was confused about that myself. Why would anyone leave ANY band for Whitesnake?? I sure wouldn’t! Craig was damn good on guitar as he played through this setlist, which Ronnie himself dubbed “Title Track Night”, even though they still brought out “Rainbow In The Dark”. So while we were obviously going to hear “Holy Diver” and “The Last In Line” at some point they band also broke into “Heaven and Hell” to close his set.
Maiden…oh, Maiden. When the time came for the band to come on the lights went out and you almost immediately heard those now-infamous lines from Vincent Price about the number of the beast. We were about halfway through it when nearly everyone in the band minus Bruce Dickinson ran on stage ready to go. I just knew he was behind that crazy ass elaborate stage they had going on, and I predicted he’d probably not show himself until the band kicked in. After Vincent Price finished speaking Dave Murray started chugging away at the beginning of “The Number of The Beast”. You heard Bruce hit that scream….still no sign of him..the next verse kicks in…there he is!! In pure Michael Jackson style he was catapulted from beneath a platform on the stage and right away began jumping down the step with the energy of someone half his age. The whole band are playing away like their lives depended on it and this motherfucker is doing Olympic style hurdles over the onstage monitors while singing and not even screwing up a single note. He was in his mid-forties at this point – show me a younger front man from this time period that could do that shit too!
Oh right – the music! It was a trip hearing THREE guitarists playing an assload of classics originally performed by just two. Right after the first song finished Bruce just yells out in his high pitched wail “THE TROOPEEEEEERRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!” and all three guitarists broke in to the song that made me a Maiden fan for good. Bruce goes away for a minute while the crowd of 20,000 hears Janick, Dave and Adrian pull off a sick three part harmony before he comes back out in an army outfit. NICE! I really wish I could find footage of this show but I can’t because they did a bunch of classics, “Die With Your Boots On”, “Revelations”, “The Clairvoyant” (not one of my favorites). Then Bruce gave a speech about how the band didn’t give a shit about record sales our how we heard their music so long as we heard it, before playing “Wildest Dreams” off of their then-forth coming CD Dance Of Death, telling everyone to take it “…and download it to all your friends!”. Oh Bruce, you funny guy, you. The show ended with the encore, “Run To The Hills”, which I really wanted to do for other reasons when the show was done. But I cane say that this was one of THE best concerts I’ve ever been to.
After the show was done Mike and I waited for my friend Joe to get out so we could go home on the ferry together. I’d love to know how the fuck we wound up walking to the train with this weird looking gay couple, one of the two guys talking to me, randomly switching subjects from why James Hetfield had to go to rehab to how his boyfriend’s family was the cause of his ulcers. Right… While on the train I saw some in shape looking guy with this nasty looking chubby chick with John Lennon’s signature tattooed on the back of her neck. Once we got off the ferry Joe drove us both home, which was a hell of a lot better than possibly taking the bus that late at night. That next morning I felt fuckin’ pumped! I woke up a lot earlier than I should’ve and hit the gym before going to work. Getting of the bus from work I recognized this chick with a John Lennon tattoo on her neck – it was the chubby chick from the train. “You were at the show last night”, I said. So we spoke for a minute until she said the words that made me think she lost her fuckin’ mind: “Motorhead SSSUCKED!” WHAT?!?! Bitch have lost your fuckin’ mind?!?!?! Oh it gets better: “Lemmy looked like he was sucking a dick the way he had his microphone positioned too!”. I have to admit, I did find that part a bit funny…but sucked?? I can happily say I haven’t seen her since!