Friday, July 6, 2012

Alice Cooper and Iron Maiden at Summerfest

HOT and HUMID....

The words I'd describe the night... The temperatures rose to a sweltering 102 degrees while the moisture in the air made the humidity almost unbearable. I was wondering if we were going to make it. Water...the panacea of the gods, was a necessity. Armed with 24 oz refillable bottles of H2O, Tender Heart Bear and I strolled through the gates of Milwaukee's largest music festival, Summerfest. Slapped with Extreme Heat Warning by the National Weather Service, Summerfest provided the means necessary to find relief from the inferno: misting stations, air conditioned buses parked on the grounds and over staffed medical teams ready for emergencies.

It didn't stop us from having a good time... After we met up with good, close friends of ours, we strolled across the scorching asphalt to the Marcus Amphitheater to see Iron Maiden with special guest Alice Cooper. Surprisingly, it was a little cooler inside than I expected it to be. Thank god, for the gentle breezes off of Lake Michigan for some relief. Every little bit counts...

As the clock struck 7:30, the curtain dropped for the opening act, Alice Cooper. Six musicians burst into action, crowding the stage that was already filled by Iron Maiden's super-sized stage. On stage left was Ryan Roxie and Tommy Henrikson, both on the guitars. Filling the other side was the 27 year old blond guitarist Orianthi from Micheal Jackson's band and bassist Chuck Garric. Filling in the skins for Glen Sobel was Jonathan Mover. Where was Alice Cooper, the Master of Macabre himself? Perched high on the right stage pedestal wearing a mechanical spider arms like contraption belting out the words to "Black Widow". A vision of Dr. Oct from Spiderman came into my mind upon seeing this. The theatrics had begun...

The 64 year old rocker roamed across the stage like a confident and seasoned veteran. His conviction and charisma captured my undivided attention. The band, especially Orianthi (I originally thought that was Alice Cooper's daughter, but it ain't) rocked hard, bringing on the retro feel and bringing me back to the '70's. Well, almost... That odd feeling almost left me when we began to notice two young kids more half our age head banging and singing away to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. Thinking I knew a quite a bit about Alice Cooper, these kids knew more!

At this point, I was seriously getting into the show. Although crude at times, the macabre theatrics amazed me. Some of them I guessed would happen. After all, THIS is Alice Cooper, the shock rock king. The snakes, top hats, baton twirling, fake blood, the make up, the costumes, a guillotine and what? A 20 foot Frankenstein! And yes, in Alice Cooper's image... Each had its place among his set of classics- "No More Mr. Nice Guy", "Billion Dollar Babies", "I'm Eighteen", "Poison" and "Hey Stoopid". When the confetti fell on "School's Out" the show was over. I was begging for more....

The setlist:

The Black Widow
Brutal Planet
I'm Eighteen
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Hey Stoopid
Guitar Solo
Billion Dollar Babies
Feed My Frankenstein
Wicked Young Man
I Love the Dead
School's Out

Of course, the stars of the night fell upon the British heavy metal act, Iron Maiden. Maiden roared into the scene back in the '80's, mercilessly annihilating every other metal act out there at the time with their progressive rock like guitar structure and their dark storytelling imagery. With singer Bruce Dickinson soaring vocals and of course, their mummified mascot, "Eddie", the band was indestructible. During the mid '90's Dickinson left the fold and Maiden descended into obscurity with a forgettable singer. Twenty years later, Dickinson is back, along with the addition of a third guitarist, Maiden comes back to life again!

Wrapping the spotlight around tunes mostly culled from their 1988 release, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album, Iron Maiden mainly focused on their earlier work on this tour. Its a wonderful approach, yet it has its flaws. I'll try to explain as I go on....

Bouncing into action, Dickinson takes control of the stage and making it his domain. At the age of 53, his athletic skills are outstanding! He jumps and leaps over stage monitors. He runs around the back stage props like a demon unleashed, jacked up upon adrenaline like a Monster drink junkie. I seriously don't know were his gets his energy from. but it's unbelievable! And that was the beginning of the action...

From the opening bars of the show's first tune, "Moonchild", Steve Harris' rapid fire bass was relentless, thundering the arena into submission. The triple axe threat of the guitar trio, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and newcomer Janick Gers intertwined and weaved through the endless time progressions, laying down maps of emotions, leaving listeners in awe- especially on the show's haunting centerpiece "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son". Driving a pulsating beat, connecting and combining the elements together, drummer extraordinaire Nicko McBrain lays down a solid foundation for the band to stand on... This is a force to be reckoned with!

While of the six piece band was driving a good show, the stage show itself was worth the price of the tickets. A U-shaped stage was set up to the likeness of the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album cover along with a pyrotechnic galore and an elaborate set of props to go with it. Sparkling fireworks on the side and flames in the back, who needs the Forth of July fireworks at this point? It's all here! Along with a 20 foot "Eddie" dressed as a buccaneer dueling with the band and a larger than life "Eddie" similar to the Seventh Son album cover creeping up the back stage adorning flames on his head while holding an unborn "Eddie" still in the womb. Sounds strange, but awesome!

Was this my favorite show ever? No. The Rush show I saw two years ago was much better. The seats I were in wasn't the greatest. I couldn't even get a glimpse of Nicko's drum set. Although Maiden did play many classic tunes like "Run to the Hills" and "The Number of the Beast", I would have preferred to hear "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", "Flight of Icarus" and "Hallowed be thy Name" over "Fear of the Dark" or "Afraid to Shoot Strangers" any day. For the die hard Maiden fans this would work, but me....ehh....

The setlist:

Can I Play With Madness?
The Prisoner
2 Minutes to Midnight
Afraid to Shoot Strangers
The Trooper
The Number of the Beast
Phantom of the Opera
Run to the Hills
Wasted Years
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
The Clairvoyant
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden

Aces High
Evil That Men Do
Running Free

As for the heat, we endured....Grinned and bared it... Got relief on the shuttle bus on the way to our car. The temperature read 89 degrees.

This Saturday is Aerosmith with Cheap Trick....


jedwis said...

Hey Drew...May I say a wonderful piece of writing, you made me feel like I was right there with you...Thanks.

OrbsCorbs said...

Yeah, drew, you ought to write reviews for Rolling Stone. Thanks for the pictures and the prose.

drewzepmeister said...

Thank you guys for the compliments. I really appreciate them.

I'd REALLY love to write, for Rolling Stone and another rock and roll inputs, yet my typing kills are for shit. I use the old one finger approach and that takes HOURS to do. This blog alone took me more than two hours to type up and that doesn't include coming up with a context. Seriously, I'm not sure I'd do well with deadlines. That is the main reason I declined an invitation to write for the Caledonia Patch.