Tomorrow night I will be attending my seventh performance of the band Iron Maiden. For as long as I live, Iron Maiden will always be a band that I count among my all-time favorites. I was a late comer to them. When I was around 12 years old and first getting into music, it was right around the same time that they were going through a transitional period, line-up changes, a few weak albums, etc. I had a cassette of "Piece Of Mind" that I played often, but never really explored their music much beyond that. As the years went by, I heard more and more of them and began to appreciate their music more, but it was still a time period when they weren't touring extensively, and when they did it was limited runs in smaller venues. I recall them coming to Phoenix once during that period, playing the Celebrity Theater with Blaze Bayley on lead vocals, but for whatever reason, I didn't go.
It was around this time, however, that they started to affect me a bit more. I had started collecting some of their old LPs and listening to them regularly. I bought a "Best Of" CD that went in to extremely frequent rotation on my stereo at work. At the same time, I had left my punk rock band, Misled, and begun playing with Sea Of Deprivation. Phil and Ben were two of the most talented musicians I had ever played with, so I had my work cut out for me if I wanted to keep up with them. In previous bands, I had always played with a pick, but had decided to change my style to finger picking. The main reason for this was that, although he played guitar in the band, Phil was a phenomenal bass player. One must only listen to his bass work on the Misanthropic 7" for proof. Phil and Ben had a large amount of material already written when I joined the band, and many of the songs had basslines already written in Phil's finger picked style. The only way they would sound right would be if I played them how he did, which meant putting down the pick.
Basically, I trained myself to play a whole new style by playing along to my Iron Maiden records. As I started to get deeper into their music, I discovered one of my all-time favorite players, Steve Harris. I had always known him to be a world-class musician, but really listening to every note the man plays brought my appreciation to the next level. I felt myself developing a whole new relationship with my instrument, and I owe it to Phil Hansford and Steve Harris, two of my biggest musical influences.
It was around this time that Maiden reunited with Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith, released a new album, and went on their first large-scale American tour in years. I got to see them finally in September of 2000, with Queensryche opening. Even from the lawn it was one of the best shows I had ever seen. I've since seen them five more times, and every show was memorable in some way or another. They are always the one band that brings out everyone. It's rare that all of my friends are in the same place at the same time. Funerals and Iron Maiden concerts seem to be the only times. I can't wait to see everyone tomorrow, to revel in this joyous occasion.