Some of you may know that Bruce Dickinson and his Skunkworks solo band (including myself on bass) played an unforgettable concert in Sarajevo while the city was under siege in 1994. The story of this has been told in the award-winning documentary film Scream For Me Sarajevo based on the MetalTalk articles I wrote some time ago about my experiences on that show. With that in mind, Bruce’s first return to a concert stage in the city was highly anticipated. The queue to get in stretched around the block, full of excited Metalheads rather oddly going to an orchestral show.
Jon Lord’s Concerto For Group And Orchestra featuring Bruce Dickinson
Sports Hall Mirza Delibasic, Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina – 22 March 2023
Words and Photography: Chris Dale
The concert itself was split into two parts. The first was the late Jon Lord’s Concerto For Group And Orchestra, played in its entirety. In this section, the 80-piece Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, very ably conducted by Paul Mann, played off against the band in quite an extraordinary performance.
The band themselves consisted of Kaitner Z Doka on guitar, Tanya O’Callaghan on bass (recently seen playing with Whitesnake), Bernhard Welz on drums and John O’Hara (of Jethro Tull) on keyboards. Each of them was superb, with John O’Hara authentically recreating Jon Lord’s Hammond and also showing his own virtuosity.
Tanya O’Callaghan was particularly impressive, stamping authority over the groove along with drummer Bernhard Welz (who looked remarkably like Mike Portnoy from The Winery Dogs). During this mostly instrumental section, Bruce stepped up to sing the piece’s sparse vocal parts here and there.
It was certainly an interesting musical journey through key, and rhythmic changes as the orchestra and band battled it out between themselves, sometimes alternating parts and at other times locking into a beautiful flow together. As a dedicated Metalhead myself, I found it fascinating. I’ve never seen anything quite like it before, and for that reason, the performance held my attention throughout.
After a short interval, the second half of the show began. In this section, the band and orchestra performed together, rather than exchanging parts as they had done in the first half, and this was a lot more ROCK!
The setlist was mostly Deep Purple numbers in tribute to Jon Lord, (When A Blind Man Cries, Perfect Strangers, Hush, Pictures Of Home and of course, Smoke On The Water) with the William Blake inspired Jerusalem (which featured on Bruce’s Chemical Wedding solo album) and Bruce’s own hit Tears Of The Dragon added too.
It was Tears Of The Dragon that we had performed in the city back in 1994 that provoked the most ecstatic and emotional reaction from the near sold-out crowd and earned a standing ovation at the end. The dragon wasn’t the only one who shed a few tears in that one. A fair number in the audience around me did too.
However, the best part of the night for me was seeing the pure joy on Bruce’s face as he ripped into the Deep Purple classics. It’s common knowledge that he’s a huge fan, and to say that he did them justice is a massive understatement. He truly ruled them!
Remaining dates on this Jon Lord Concerto tour are below. Tickets are available from https://www.screamforme.com
April 02 – Hala University Palacheho, Olomouc, Czech Republic
April 15 – Vibra, Sao Paulo, Brazil
April 19 – Teatro Positiva, Curitiba, Brazil
April 21 – Vivo Rio, Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
April 25 – Auditorio Araujo Vianna, Porto Alegre, Brazil
The next day, I caught up with Bruce for a chat and to give him a copy of my recent book Inside The Skunkworks Machine, telling the story of the Skunkworks band and the 1994 Sarajevo show from the point of view of the band members, crew, producers and fans.
He had a bit of a giggle at the photos.
Scream For Me Sarajevo
Here are the original Chris Dale Scream For Me Sarajevo articles.
Inside The Skunkworks Machine is available from:
UK – amazon.co.uk
USA – amazon.com
Germany – amazon.de
France – amazon.fr
Italy – amazon.it
Australia – amazon.com.au
Canada – amazon.ca