An Osbourne spawn and her entourage hurled dozens of eggs at the band during their set, the P.A. system went out in the midst of three of their songs, and, over their introductory music the announcer kept screaming “Ozzy!” All fingers pointed to Sharon Osbourne — Ozzfest impresario and consort of the prince of darkness — as the instigator of the outrage. But Iron Maiden were troopers and played a killer, audience-thrilling set — their final one on the tour. Maiden’s frontman, the fierce, leather-lunged and former fencing champion, Bruce Dickinson, sent off the appreciative crowd with the words: “These fuckin’ colors don’t run.”
“You know what? God bless Sharon,” Maiden guitarist Janick Gers says, warming up to the topic. “I couldn’t live with myself if I turned the P.A. off. I mean, to have Sharon’s daughter go out and give eggs to all her friends and ask them to throw eggs at us and whatever. I knew straight away who it was. When you are on stage and the custard pies fly, you just have to accept that,” Gers admits. He’s a tough guy despite his soft-spoken Yorkshire-lilt, and he is clearly incensed: “Kids paid good money to see a good show and they didn’t want to see people covered in eggs.” And he does believe that justice will be done: “I believe in karma — these things come back.”
The infamous incident inflamed metalheads of all stripes. Internet message boards were full of fury and vows never to attend another Ozzfest. “There is a reason we did the Ozzfest,” Gers explains. “We felt we come and do our own tours and play to people who like Iron Maiden; people on the periphery weren’t hearing Iron Maiden on the radio, and they weren’t seeing us on TV, and they weren’t coming to see us live ’cause there were only the Maiden faithful there filling the halls. The prime reason to do the Ozzfest is that there’d be a lot of young kids there and we’d get to more of the youth of America. We had a great time and had a fantastic reception.”
Maiden have always been a hard-touring band. With a crew of about 45 people and seven trucks, they’ve been around the world in more ways than one, and many more times. And their audiences vary greatly. “In Scandinavia, fans are very, very young, between 10 [and] 15 and then a few older ones toward the back; all of Europe is a quite young audience.” Japanese, Brazilian, and Argentine audiences too. “In America we seem to have a much older audience. I think that is because we don’t get any radio play; the culture in America is very geared toward MTV and MTV is basically advertising for new pairs of jeans that hang off your bottom, it’s not about music. I don’t think that there is any outlet for us in America. We love to play — we don’t play enough for me, I would tour more,” the guitarist says. “We figure we are a great live band and our market is to go out and please people — we don’t get any radio play, we get very little TV, mainly in Europe. It is difficult to get across to people. The only way is to go out and play, go out and see who you are playing to. We go out, we do big tours. This tour is only to Christmas, it’s a small tour by Iron Maiden accounts — only several months, quite a short one.”
Gers may have a point with that karma thing. Maiden’s new release, their 14th studio album, A Matter Of Life And Death, debuted in the Top 10 on the U.S. Billboard chart and in many other countries; it hit number one in Germany and Brazil. Of course, karma may have had an assist; there is yet another metal resurgence afoot these days. That long-lived beast of a genre continually refuses to go gently into that good night. But Maiden’s success may just be due to the fact that they’ve put out a damn good album — their strongest in decades.
– Deena Dasein
To learn about Iron Maiden’s continued quest, pick up the November issue of Illinois Entertainer, available throughout Chicagoland.
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