Armageddon With La Vierge de Fer
CoC attends Megadeth and Iron Maiden at the Palais Omnisports de Paris Bercy, France, Thursday 9th September, 1999
by: David Rocher
This major event, in the guise of a heavy metal concert, did seem like a nice way to spend my last evening on earth -- I was at last going to witness what I beheld as the ultimate Iron Maiden line-up live, and on the very day of the Apocalypse (9-9-99) too. After having twice faced the vocal (terrible) uncertainty of Blaze Bailey live, the prospect of this reformation with Bruce Dickinson and riffmaster supreme Adrian Smith was more than mouth-watering -- as hairy pilgrims gathered in their thousands on the steps leading to the temple of Paris Bercy, this outing literally had the somewhat ethereal taste of a religious celebration to honour the gods of Metal.

Before the much-anticipated event of Iron Maiden appearing on stage, though, I gritted my teeth as I psychologically readied myself for an onslaught of some of the most tedious "musical" lameness I could possibly be served that night, and namely Megadeth. Justifiably, I was this anxious, as the four-hour drive to Paris had provided me with the opportunity to hear their infamous last output -- very fittingly named _Risk_ --, which rang to my ears like nothing more than sub-standard, laughably sell-out AOR rock. And this bitter foretaste indeed proved to be more than premonitory...

The lights went out, the 17000 people or so gathered in the POPB roared, and Minideth straight away caught their feet in the rug by dishing out rather unappetising starters in the form of a grey tedious mass of ruminant-friendly sonic sludge, pompously named "Prince of Darkness". With my coldest fears of having to put up with _Risk_ material twice in the same day all coming true, I nevertheless stood my ground, and was soon to be comforted, as the last notes of "Prince of Darkness" faded into nothingness, to be replaced by the biting riffage of Megadeth's high-speed classic "Holy Wars", which they interpreted flawlessly. Mustaine's gang even actually succeeded in having me on my toes as they then carried on with a great rendition of "In My Darkest Hour" -- damn, that felt -good- if anything ever did. And it also quite simply proved that if people remember this great song some thirteen years after it was written, the chances that mere mortals will have fond memories of tracks from _Youthanasia_, _Cryptic Writings_ or _Risk_ in the year 2014 or so are far slighter.

Sadly enough, though, I don't quite recall what happened for the twenty or so minutes after "In My Darkest Hour", as Dave & co. mercilessly and methodically proceeded to bore me out of my failing mind with various "hits" from their last three full-length albums, with a peak of absolute feebleness being reached on a track called "Crush 'Em" -- wow, I hadn't heard anything this gay since The Village People's "San Francisco". To make matters worse, anyway, just as I finally sleepwalked through the thick crowd out towards the merchandising stand, Megaydeth were suddenly submerged by the recollection that they indeed -had- released albums before 1994, and launched themselves into the killer hymn "Peace Sells", which they followed up with the closing "Symphony of Destruction". This all seemed like a lukewarm attempt to get older fans to forgive them, and after this, they saluted and finally cleared off... aaaah, relief.

Well, at least sort of. The tension that was rapidly building up in the air as the numerous roadies prepared the stage for Iron Maiden was incredible, pretty much like a massive thunderstorm builds up on a hot night -- the air was -literally- electric, something I had never witnessed before at any concert, and which definitely didn't occur when "la vierge de fer" were to appear on scene fronted by Blaze Bailey. As a matter of a fact, the atmosphere just got that little bit too electric. I hadn't either ever witnessed such a violent, brainless audience as I beheld at that gig -- the people gathered in the pit started (and for no reason I can possibly fathom) shoving into each other in ways typical of a horde of distressed spongiform bovines a whole fifteen minutes before the lights even went out -- great fun, lads. Anyway, Bercy was suddenly plunged into blackness as a video was played on three large screens, with the aim successfully demonstrating just how (totally un-)interesting the official Iron Maiden game "Ed Hunter" looked and played; it rapidly mutated into a cover version of "Churchill's Speech" spoken by mascot Eddie, as images of Spitfires and Messerschmidts in tight aerial battle on a background of blackened clouds filled the screen. Bang! -- the stage lights went on as the mighty Britons instantly kicked into a very fast interpretation of their 1983 vintage classic "Aces High".

The whole of Iron Maiden's set then unfolded, as I had anticipated, in totally elating ways, although Steve and Bruce definitely fooled no-one about their obviously antagonistic, rancour-ridden relationship. They nevertheless ensured a flawless show that night, as they soared through a selection of fine hymns such as "Wrathchild", "The Trooper" and "2 Minutes to Midnight". Dickinson's incredible vocal exactness rapidly became as incredibly apparent as Bailey's lack of precision was, as he faithfully rendered the decent _X Factor_ opener "Man on the Edge", or as he literally transcended the tribute paid to the legendary figure William Wallace, namely "The Clansman"; graced with Bruce's incredible singing, this was altogether a different track than the one featured on _Virtual XI_, and as Monsieur Dickinson solemnly announced (in French) that Iron Maiden were preparing to record an album next year with their current line-up, I couldn't help but spontaneously salivating all over myself -- definitely a highlight of the forthcoming millennium!

The sextet then pursued their set with "Wasted Years" -- which was sadly the only track off _Somewhere in Time_ that night --, "Powerslave", "Killers", "Fear of the Dark" -- whose intro was chorused by 17000 people, creating one of these awesome spine-tingling moments of atmosphere that metal can craft so well --, before treating the marvelled crowds to the legendary "Phantom of the Opera", followed by "Iron Maiden". All this time, Bruce mathematically proved that, regardless of what talented replacement Iron Maiden could have produced after his solo escapade, walking in his footsteps as a singer and frontman is a task as near to impossible as it gets. In addition to his incredible vocal performance, he continually ran back and forth across the large stage, demonstrating the impressive control he exerted over 17000 fans at the same time -- he merely needed to raise his arms and say the mythical words "Scream for me, Paris!" for the whole room to raise their arms in return and indeed scream for him all they could... this, people, is -power-. Iron Maiden then saluted briefly, and left the stage as the now rather worn-out "encore" gimmick was faithfully played by the attendance... Very unsurprisingly, the six lads reappeared after the crowd had duly chanted their name for two-three minutes or so, and played the inevitable classic "The Number of the Beast", followed by the awesome seven-minute hymn "Hallowed Be thy Name"; they then definitely concluded the show with "Run to the Hills" before leaving the stage. All in all, with the great musicianship (-very- professionally practised by some legendary figures I had long hoped to see), capped off by the supreme sound quality and cool visual paraphernalia articulated around the various songs, Iron Maiden's very mercantile "no, we're not reforming, no way" appearance in Paris was more than simply good.

And in passing, I really had a thought that night for US death-metallers Immolation (despite the fact that I am a proven non-fan of theirs, as Paul Schwarz will willingly testify to!), who were also scheduled to play in Paris that night, and whose attendance, from what I heard, was so low that the gig was called off. Mortals are no competition for gods, I'm afraid...

(article submitted 9/12/1999)

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