On Iron Maidens and the power of music

I’ve just finished watching an oldish (8 years) doco about Iron Maiden’s 2008 “Somewhere Back In Time” world tour and it got me reflecting on the wonder that is music.

The 2008 tour was notable for its crazy logistics concept: Iron Maiden actually bought their own Boeing 757, customised it, christened it “Ed Force One” (after their monster mascot), and flew the band, the crew and equipment for a whirlwind 50,000 miles, 45 days, 4 continents, 13 countries, 23 shows, half a million fans show marathon, which would not have been otherwise possible but for their own transport. Oh, and the lead singer, Bruce Dickinson, co-piloted the plane.

Iron Maiden are basically a bunch of lovely (and now elderly) English bogans. There are people far more qualified than me to assess Maiden’s place is the history of metal, but thanks to Dickinson’s polymath tendencies, particularly his interest in literature and history, the band’s lyrics and imagery have always been a cut above the rest (take their 2003 album “Dance of Death” – how many other bands can fit in songs about human cloning, Iraq War, the battle of Passchendaele, and the Cathar Crusade?).

Metal or no metal and bogans or not, watching the band’s around-the-world journey, the concert footage and fan reactions and interactions, it struck me – yet again – what a powerful force, mostly for the good, music can be and often is. You have to watch a documentary like this (it is, by the way, called “Iron Maiden: Flight 666”) or, better still, attend a live performance or two, to appreciate the sheer joy, escape, experience and community that music can bring its fans. Maybe because life can otherwise be quite dark – whether because of the external forces like politics, economy, culture or religion, or because of personal reasons – the moments of sublime pleasure that music offers are priceless. Even when, contra some snobs, that music is heavy metal, and not a Mahler symphony – or, for that matter, contemplating the beauty of a Renoir painting or a timeless novel. Not everyone can appreciate the classics – for most part I don’t – but beauty, meaning, connection, hope can be found in many places. It is a testament to human creativity as well as human variety that they indeed are. Whether it’s life in an oppressive society that stifles your soul, the seemingly inescapable drudgery of everyday existence, a personal tragedy, or a heartbreak, we are all so much richer for the tonic of music.

I’m sorry I missed them when they flew into Brisbane, once again on “Ed Force One”, a few weeks ago. Fortunately, there is always a DVD though, to give me shivers listening to the opening chords of “Wasted Years”.