Right, so let’s pick up when I we left off.
When I decided to go to Berlin to see Black Sabbath, I knew Ross had put me on the guestlist and only expected to get in for free so finding out he was shooting the show and was going to bring me into the photo pit was a pleasant surprise. All of a sudden, there I was, just a meter away from the stage, waiting for the mighty Sabbath to rock out.
At 9pm, an air raid siren blasted through the PA and shortly after the madman screamed: “Let me hear you!”, and the roaring crowd obeyed. Then there were drums, followed by War Pigs’s emblematic opening riff. The black curtain that was covering the stage was raised and so a memorable heavy metal evening began. I was standing in front of the stage, on the right side, taking care of Ross’ gear, which meant I was perfectly positioned to see Toni Iommi shredding the guitar, up close. It was humbling to see him play; always smiling, giving occasional thumbs up and sympathetic nods to the awestruck fans in front of him, their eyes sockets beaming with joy.
That’s probably the only “downside” to be in the photo pit with Ross: I need to behave. It’s not like he would be pissed off if I sing along or cheer every now and then (that’s perfectly fine) but I certainly can’t go nuts as I would if I was behind the fence. You know, I’m suppose to be professional about it. After all, I was in the pit with one of greatest rock photographers ever, I had to keep my cool. It was keep myself from going all metalhead in front of Toni, though. Especially during the guitar solos. Maybe it was because I was aware of how delicate Toni’s health is, maybe I was too self-conscious of the fact that that was probably one of the last shows he would ever play, I don’t know, but there certainly was an extra layer of sentimentality that encouraged me to throw my devil horns in the air and celebrate that glorious moment with rapturous chants. That was hard to restrain.
Joe Perry was at the show too, watching from a side of the stage. After shooting a handful of songs from the pit, Ross joined Joe and I followed, which means I watched Black Sabbath, from the side of the stage, next to Joe Perry. It was only for about 40 seconds but still, I take pride in these little things. Ross, Joe and John (Aerosmith’s tour manager, I think) left shortly before the encore but The Master made sure I was given a Black Sabbath pass to stay on stage after he was gone. He really looked after me this time around, bless him.
I watched most of the show from the left side of the stage, the first time I’m ever on that privileged position, and I have to say: it’s pretty amazing. Not so much because of the whole VIP treatment thing but because of the view you get from there: thousands of fans, singing every word and headbanging to every riff as the sun went down. It was a beautiful thing to behold. I shot a few videos but my hands were too shaky and I wasn’t sure if I was allowed to make videos at all (some bands are bit funny with that) so the result is not particularly exciting, it’s all pretty blurry and doesn’t quite capture the magnificence of the moment. Blame Apple and their shitty phone cameras for it.
After the show was over, I met with Ricky and we left the venue with the last riffs of Paranoid still ringing in our ears. On our way to the Metro station, we stopped to get currywurst and a hot dog, bringing a wonderful evening to a deliciously fatty end.
* * * *
Let’s talk about Copenhell. Considering I spent 90 minutes waiting for the girl at the box office to find my ticket, the name of the festival felt really appropriate. Originally, the idea was to leave the office a bit early, get to the venue, get my pass and go straight to to backstage to meet my friend Andre before Arch Enemy went on stage but things turned out quite differently: I left the office early, got to the venue, spent 30 minutes in line and when I finally got to the ticket window, they told me Arch Enemy hadn’t sent their guestlist yet. “That’s weird”, I thought; it’s 5:30pm, bands have already start playing, the guestlist should have been sent long time ago. However, I step aside and decide to wait a little longer. After a while, I go back into the line and 40 minutes later I’m once again in front of the box office, asking for my pass. “I’m sorry but the band hasn’t sent the guestlist yet, come back later. Or give them a call” said the blonde bitch overseeing the box office. Give the band a call… what a fucking idiot. That’s the whole point of having a guestlist in the first place, to avoid having to ring busy people to let you in.
I decided not to call Andre the first time they said the guestlist was not there because I really didn’t want to be a pain in the arse but after the second time, I thought that reaching out was the best thing to do. I sent him a whatsapp message.
With the phone in my hand, I walked to the blonde bitch who quickly dismisses me with a patronising gesture. I politely asked her to come closer, which she did after rolling her eyes. By now, I just felt like punching the fucker in the face but I remained a gentleman: “Look, I just spoke with Arch Enemy’s tour manager. He says all his guests are in. There SHOULD be a guestlist, somewhere. What don’t have a look again?” She took my ID and 2 minutes later she came back with a wristband: “You were under a different name. Here you go, have fun and sorry for the confusion”. She didn’t said it nicely, though. She was condescending and that really pissed me off. At the moment, I thought of going all bombastic on her but then I thought: “what for?”. She clearly didn’t give a shit and my complain wouldn’t have made a difference so why even bother? Besides, I was getting in for free, that was already good enough, right? I took the bracelet, got in and went to look for Andre backstage. Only that I couldn’t go backstage at all. Turns out that the blond bitch not only made me wait for almost 2 hours but also gave me the wrong fucking wristband. I should have gone bombastic on the useless fucker, after all.
It was too late to go back and ask for the right bracelet so in the end I just decided to give up on meeting Andre and just wandered around before taking my spot in front of the main stage for Iron Maiden. I saw a little bit of Anthrax, who played a nice cover of “TNT”, then saw Arch Enemy, got something to eat (some horrible pork and potatoes thing) and waited for Maiden to take the stage.
This was the first time I had been to Copenhell and I must say, it was LOUD. The stage was small compared to the average size of a festival main stage but the sound was powerful, so much so that I gave up on my spot at the second row and decided to go a bit towards the back instead to avoid having to go to the doctor the day after and say: “doctor, Iron Maiden destroyed my hearing.” If you are an proper Maiden fan, you will know what I’m talking about.
And so, at 9pm, the show started. I managed to prevent myself from looking up the setlist online in advance so I didn’t know exactly how different the song selection from this tour would be from the one they played last year. Turned out to be quite similar to last year’s setlist, only with a few minor changes. I will save you the details because if I get started and go all metal geek on you, this will end up being the longest, most boring blog post on the Internet; just know that after 30 years, Iron Maiden still put up a great show. There was fire, explosions, a walking Eddie and the massive “Seventh Son” Eddie during Iron Maiden, a guy (Michael Kenney, I assume) dressed up as the Phantom of the Opera during the homonymous track, killer guitar solos…the whole shebang, it was fantastic!
I especially noticed a few things on this show: Steve Harris’ bass is sounding better than I have ever heard it before, “Wrathchild” is still an amazingly powerful song, Adrian Smith is giving everyone else in the band a run for their money when it comes to soloing, and Nicko is clearly getting too old to be behind the drums: he’s still better than your average drummer but he was quite sloppy at times. However, when you look at the big picture from a hardcore fan perspective, they still deliver and I will be happy to see them live again whenever I have the chance.
Up the irons.