The Film 2009
- Buy the DVD
Reviewed by R. David Smola
ocumentary filmmakers and metal preservationists Scott McFadyn and Sam Dunn (Metal: A Headbanger's Journey) have scored the ticket of a lifetime by getting the opportunity to witness Iron Maiden’s insane attempt to perform 23 concerts in five continents over a span of 45 days on the first leg of their Somewhere Back in Time tour. They were granted complete access to the band, crew and management as the Maiden family, lead by lead singer and pilot (yep, he flies the band’s fucking plane) Bruce Dickinson, scamper all over the world on Ed Force One, a plane specifically engineered to fly the crew and all 12 tons of stage equipment to Mumbai, Los Angeles, Tokyo and seemingly all other places in which Maiden is still king.
The band is amazingly popular all over the world, but in some South American countries (Chile, for instance), they’re like the Beatles in the ‘60s coming to America, mobbed and hounded by fans that seem to shake and tremor at the mere sight of their rock heroes. This tour featured a 16-song set showcasing the band’s material from 1980-1989, some of which hadn’t been performed in 20 years. The filmmakers do a very good job of giving plenty of camera time to the performances, which is only sensible, because Iron Maiden is a great live band. The guitar work is virtuoso-like; Dickinson is a fabulous showman and Nicko McBrain is a great – no, a fucking great – drummer. The crowds know all the words to every song, whether they’re hits or pulled from deeper in the catalogue, and regardless of the dominant language of the land, the crowds sing every lyric in English. McFadyn and Dunn are definitely fond of the crowd shots as they are present in every performance clip, underscoring the point that the music is not just a passive enjoyment for these people, it’s an intensely important part of their lives. Iron Maiden as a collective unit, from the roadies to Dickinson, seems to understand how important delivering the goods is for these people, and they’re visibly committed to meeting those criteria.
The slices of interviews and moments between shows might be the most satisfying pieces of the movie, however. Nico McBrain eats pizza after every gig. Adrian Smith likes to play tennis on days off, McBrain and Dave Murray like to play golf. Smith likes to warm up for a show playing blues material. Steve Harris is the driving musical force behind the band, writing and tweaking studio material all the time. Dickinson is a never-ending ball of energy, in between singing demanding two-hour sets and flying 757s. The best moment of these scenes includes a disgusted Dickinson reacting to metal disc jockey Eddie Trunk’s suggestion that this tour is a nostalgic one. Although polite, Dickinson makes it clear that this is about delivering this material for an audience who has gotten younger and younger and may not have heard this material. His facial expression is priceless as Trunk plods along, almost clueless to Dickinson’s frustration. An additional disc of concert footage featuring each of the 16 tracks played in a different city is a very cool bonus.
You have to be fan of the music to enjoy this DVD. However, if you want a look at how a successful rock and roll machine operates and innovates to make these shows happen, this is an absolute treasure. I’m sure that the band members are much surlier then presented here, and maybe some of that footage ended up on the cutting room floor, but there is no denying that they are very cool, very genuine, very committed to their fans and their genre. Don’t say this too loud, but while the boys on Flight 666 may be hugely successful rock stars, they also seem to be gentlemen who get the big picture and are committed to their calling – and each other. Oh yeah, and by the way, the music is pretty fucking good too.