I was in 8th grade when I was first really introduced to Iron Maiden. I can remember that spring clear as day, as I was changing radio stations for the first time and really beginning to explore music in a new way. The two songs that stood out the most during that transition were Iron Maiden’s “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.” It was in that moment, at 14 years old, that my musical interests were cemented for life.
Immediately following this discovery, I began making regular trips to the store to pick up new CD’s. Note to all the younger folks here, the Columbia House deal was also a killer way to begin your music collection. What was it, 8 CD’s for $.01? Yeah, that was real, and we had no streaming services back then either. Anyway, I began my Maiden voyage with ‘The Number of the Beast’ and ‘Somewhere in Time.’ From there, it quickly snowballed into a full catalog collection.
The biggest challenge of a metalhead in that day (1994), was that so many of the generation’s bands were in various states of limbo. Bruce Dickinson had left Iron Maiden a few years earlier. Rob Halford had left Judas Priest. Vince Neil had left Mötley Crüe. Fortunately, this was all remedied in the years to come, but what a tumultuous time to be deep diving into heavy metal.
Dickinson later rejoined Iron Maiden in 1999 and they’ve put out six incredible albums and toured the world seemingly non-stop (with a slight COVID pause) ever since. In that time, I’ve been fortunate to see them roughly a dozen times and cover a few tours for this very magazine. With that in mind, it’s probably not too surprising that I would be intent to cover Dickinson’s spoken word tour when it came through town.
Stripped down to the simplest presentation, Bruce Dickinson took the stage with nothing but a slideshow projected behind him to assist as he narrated his life story to the fans in attendance. The crowd rose to their feet and cheered as soon as Dickinson had entered the stage and began.
He spent the first two hours of the evening talking us through his life story, essentially narrating us through his 2017 autobiography ‘What Does This Button Do?” Still, hearing Bruce tell us his journey was where the real magic of this evening lay. It’s no surprise to any Maiden fans that Bruce is an exceptional storyteller and incredibly animated night after night on stage. That very energy that we all love about his performances as the lead singer of Iron Maiden was very much on display during his speaking tour.
Early into the evening, a bat was seen flying a round the auditorium. Dickinson did an admirable job of carrying on with the show while ignoring the bat for most of the evening, but it was an opportunity too good to pass up, as he referenced an old rivalry from when Maiden toured on Ozzfest back in 2005.
“It’s been sent by Sharon Osbourne.”
Early on in the evening, Bruce discussed how he originally wanted to be a drummer:
“Drumming is Tourette’s for the soul.”
In reference to a consultation that Dickinson had with his doctor upon hearing his cancer diagnosis
“You’re never an alcoholic if you drink less than your doctor.”
While discussing some of the inner-workings of Iron Maiden:
“That’s why god invented bass players; to talk to drummers.”
After the first two hours, Dickinson paused the show for a 20-minute intermission while he stepped off-stage to review some questions from the audience that were submitted ahead of the show. Upson return, he spent the remaining 45 minutes reading and answering several questions, including some of the following:
Much of what you sing about is a telling of history and stories. Do you picture these stories playing out in your head as you sing them?
“Yes, I do. I close my eyes and get a mental image. Sometimes it’s like a movie, sometimes it’s like an imaginary video playing in my head.”
Any insight on working with the Chinese officials (in reference to Iron Maiden’s trip to China to perform in Beijing back in 2016.
“Quite frankly, I don’t want to fucking go there again in my life!” “I thought it was a thoroughly unpleasant regime. The quicker they can get rid of it, the better.”
Did you ever play pranks on the rest of the band with Air Force One (Fake turbulence or nose dives)?
“No! No! No! Unfortunately, I was quite dull and professional.”
Who’s your favorite celebrity of famous person that you’ve been lucky enough to meet?
Bruce told a detailed story of meeting Johnny Cash back in 1983 at the Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario. He described running into Cash backstage.
“Suddenly, this apparition walks out…and it was Johnny Cash.”
He describes cash asking Bruce for an autograph for his daughter, who was a big fan of Iron Maiden. Cash concluded by pulling out and handing an autographed 8x10 for Bruce in return.
This evening spanned a total of three hours and was an absolute blast. Dickinson is such an entertainer and has countless stories to tell. I hope that this tour and his autobiography that much of this material is drawn on is just the first of many, in-between Iron Maiden tours, of course.
As with any great show, this is one that has mass appeal, far beyond just the most hardcore Iron Maiden fans, thought I’m sure it helps. I’d encourage anyone to check this out and bring someone else along. You’ll have plenty of laughs and lots of material to talk about after the show!