Iron Maiden's stage act is not just about the music: it's about presentation, visual and aural ecstasy, and the whole nine yards, writes RAKESH MEHAROne never would have believed it possible. From impossible logistics to economic non-viability, there were dozens of reasons for things not to work. And yet, Eddie treads the soil on namma Bengalooru for the first time later this evening. For metal fans in the city, it seems almost too good to be true. Indeed, some fans like Jagan Shaam, who plays guitar for local band Wax, are still half-expecting the whole episode to turn out to be a big, bad joke. "I am completely thrilled. But I can't believe it till I actually see them in the flesh and blood on stage."
First of its kindThey, international metal act Iron Maiden, are performing at Palace Grounds this evening at what has been dubbed Edd-Fest, the first-of-its-kind concert that will reportedly use the full 20 tonnes of equipment that the band uses around the world. What this translates to is giant 60 ft by 40 ft backdrops, battleground props including a giant tank with a rotating turret and a walk-on Eddie (the band's mascot), 14 ft. tall. For Sujay Harthi, singer for the band Bhoomi, this is a much-awaited stage show, despite him having watched Maiden live in the U.S., twice within the span of a week. "I still feel like a kid waiting for his first ice cream. I remember the first time I watched them perform. Before them I had seen many other bands like Megadeth and Queensryche, and all the acts who performed in Bangalore like Sting and Roger Waters. And the difference between Indian and international acts was clearly visible in all of them. But Iron Maiden made all of these other bands look like college kids. I spent the entire two hours with my jaw dropped down on the floor, and I didn't know what hit me throughout the concert."
Palpable excitementFor others, who haven't seen the band perform before, the excitement is even more palpable. Over the last week, much talk of greeting the band at the airport and practically stalking them during their stay in Bangalore has been going around. And fans like Rohit Chaturvedi of Kryptos, who trips and stumbles ecstatically over all his words every time he talks about Maiden, will do anything to get that front row space, including camp at Palace Grounds almost from sun-up. In fact, if things have worked for Rohit as planned, one might see him with his mates right now, zealously guarding his space at the front of the row right now, hours before the concert has started. "I bought my ticket on the first day that they were on sale. And I ran around Planet M screaming that I had got the ticket. And that was just for getting the ticket." There will be those that wonder what all the excitement is about. And the reasons come up fifteen to a dozen almost as soon as the indignation that such a question is being asked has died down. For Rohit, it's their incredible energy on stage. "At all of their concerts, the band opening for them is usually a bunch of young really energetic guys. But Maiden's high-energy, theatrical stage act always puts them to shame. Even at their age these guys run around all over stage non-stop, and the response they get from the crowd is incredible." For others, it's their musicality. "They defy the usual stereotype of metal, that it's just noise. Maiden catches your attention from the word go, with its incredible leads, harmonies, lyrics and dramatic theatrical stage act. If you're open to the music, you'll be hooked onto it from the first time you listen to the band," says Sujay.
Important milestoneEven for music lovers that aren't die-hard Maiden fans, this concert is an important milestone since it represents the first time that a proper live act of the same standard as international performances is being done in Bangalore. Arfaaz, drummer for Galeej Gurus and Maximum Pudding, feels that the compromises most bands have to make in terms of local sound, a stripped-down stage set up and so on is what keeps many international acts away. "With a band like Maiden, you can't stick to what is provided locally. What sets them apart from smaller, local acts is the focus on presentation, the blend of aural and visual ecstasy. It's not just a bunch of musicians on stage, it's important to provide the whole package." One thing about the scale of the event that many like Arfaaz aren't pleased with though is the fact that three other bands will be opening for Iron Maiden, Parikrama, the Lauren Harris band (fronted by the daughter of Maiden's own Steve Harris) and the winners of the 2007 Campus Rock Idols competition, F.t.N. "Having three opening bands will take too much out of the audience. It should only be one." While Arfaaz is all for that one band having been F.t.N. many metalheads haven't been at all happy with that choice.Musicians like Kishan (who plays for bands including Bhoomi and Demonic Resurrection) hope that both the Indian bands manage to put up a good stage act for all of Indian rock music's sake. "This will affect the overall image of Indian rock music, because let's face it, it is Maiden. So both the Indian bands have to match up in terms of music quality."Irrespective of how things pan out, most music fans in the city, metalheads or otherwise, are sure of one thing — that this will be a night to remember. (The gates of the Palace Grounds, where the performance is scheduled this evening, will be open from 3 p.m. onwards)