It’s three months shy of twenty-one years since Iron Maiden played Shepherd’s Bush Empire, tonight’s venue for what could easily have been billed as ‘A Very Special, Thought Provoking and Memorable Evening With Bruce Dickinson’.
An Evening With Bruce Dickinson – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Words: Steve Göldby
Maiden played those two nights in January 2001 because they had just headlined Rock In Rio and couldn’t see to the end of the quarter million strong crowd, so Steve Harris booked his troops into the Empire so they could look their audience in the eye once again.
Support on those very special occasions came courtesy of Dirty Deeds, fronted by Pete Franklin, who tragically and unexpectedly passed away earlier this month. His spirit will always be present in The Empire, and in British Heavy Metal, especially amongst those who managed to survive.
If you’ve digested Bruce’s autobiography, What Does This Button Do? plus the several unauthorised biographies of Maiden’s long-time frontman, you may be forgiven for thinking you know all the stories, and in which case a real treat lies in store for you with this show.
Bruce is a born storyteller and entertainer, as anyone who has followed for any period of time knows, but here he comes into his own and displays yet another skill he has wholly mastered; he’s as good an orator as anyone out there who you may care to name.
Extra layers and added depth are bolted on to certain familiar stories, while a number of previously unheard tales really pique the interest of die-hards and long time followers. A second autobiography appears inevitable, and very welcome it will be too.
Looking very thespian-esque and displaying an abundance of his usual raw energy and enthusiasm, it is clear Bruce’s act is primarily ad-libbed and unscripted. In fact, to call it an act is possibly to do it a disservice as it is heartfelt, warm and intimate, with a serious dose of comic value thrown into the mix for good measure. Wait until you hear the lowdown on Steve Harris’s complicated song-writing procedures, as well as a truly hilarious and authentic impression of Nicko McBrain, all preceded by great stories from the Shots and Samson eras, along with many fabulous gems for the Maiden fanatics, of course.
The show is a two-parter, the first of which overran by some time due to Bruce’s capacity to talk, as well as fence, for England. That’s not a complaint incidentally – this show could have gone on well into the small hours, and the audience would have still been left wanting more, especially given the way Bruce deals with part two. This is a Q&A session that is compiled from question cards filled in by the audience and collated while drinks are being refilled, cigarettes smoked, and COVID-19 tests are being checked to ensure they are up to date.
So after going through the cards for no longer than fifteen minutes, we’re off again, but not before a very special treat is unleashed on the huge video screen. Part two is even more impressive than part one, and the entertainment level never lets up for a second as we are taken through a roller coaster of Heavy Metal and aeronautical high jinks.
There is nothing quite like this anywhere else, simply because there is nobody quite like Bruce Dickinson.
And to cap it all off, there’s a superb and unexpected ending to this glorious celebration of a night, which left the sell-out audience drinking from Bruce’s cup of wisdom true. Let’s hope it’s not too long before we will burn the same again.
Back to the beginning and Bruce started the evening with a story from his birth. Something not many people will not know about him is he really is “not a man born from his mother.”
WBC World Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury utilised exactly that same expression seven days previously, just before he beat Deontay Wilder, his most potent weapon that night being his left jab. Make of that what you will.