Iron Maiden At The Battle Of San Bernardino At San Manuel Amphitheater
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By Jamie Harvey
It was as if my car had been transformed into a DeLorean and I had been transported back to the late '80s as I fought traffic to San Bernardino, Calif., on Sept. 13 for the Battle Of San Bernardino. The show was sure to be epic as it featured a lineup my metalhead elders always reminisce about: Overkill, Testament, Anthrax, Megadeth, and Iron Maiden.
My day started with Testament playing as the raging sun began to fall behind the stage. Frontman Chuck Billy, guitarist Alex Skolnick and drummer Gene Hoglan served as the perfect introduction, easing me into the loud, hot and wild environment.
Anthrax continued the night and as darkness fell they reminded us to remember our fallen metal heroes as they played with backdrops of Ronnie James Dio and Dimebag Darrell. Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian pointed out the massive crowd and I turned to a sea of arms in the air that stretched for what seemed like miles, as well as a stream of smoke from a fire someone set on the lawn.
Not only was it Friday the 13th, but it was also Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine's birthday, both of which seemed to give Mustaine's signature snarl and the band's over-the-top moves extra oomph during their set.
This was my first time seeing Iron Maiden, one of the most important bands in metal history. From the moment the show began, it was easy to see why. Everything about the show was over-the-top, from the two-level stage and the backdrop that changed with every song to the pyrotechnics that were synchronized to the music. As Bruce Dickinson's voice echoed over the tens of thousands of people, shouting, "Can I play with madness," it was one of those moments where I felt like I was going to indeed lose my mind.
"2 Minutes To Midnight" is probably my favorite Maiden song, and that's when I got over the shock and awe of the production and realized how loudly everyone was singing along. It seemed even the most tough-looking metalheads had been transported to their teenage years with posters of Maiden on their bedroom walls and pressing rewind on their Powerslave cassette tape. "The Trooper" had Dickinson making one of many costume changes, waving a huge British flag from the second tier of the stage. At this point I was hit with a feeling that I hadn't experienced in a long time: I wanted be a rock star when I grew up. Iron Maiden made it look like the best job in the world.
As the beginning of "The Number Of The Beast" began, I was reminded that this was my 666th “music adventure” I’ve attended over the course of writing my blog.
As the ubiquitous “Run To The Hills” began Dickinson shouted, "Scream for me San Bernardino!" to a deafening roar. Even knowing this is an evolved version of a show they've been performing to millions of fans all over the world for decades, it felt fresh and exciting for my maiden voyage on flight 666.
"Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son" was the highlight of the night for me; the 10-minute song and its accompanying show were a true odyssey. I felt like I was watching an opera performed by action heroes on the set of an '80s fantasy film.
"Aces High" began the encore, as the crowd started to savor the final moments of the evening. As their final notes echoed across the amphitheater, sending us all back into the real world, I sang to myself, "I'm running free ... yeah ... I'm running free!" And one day, I'm pretty sure I will tell someone younger than me: "Oh yeah, this show was pretty good, but have you ever heard of the Battle Of San Bernardino? Now that was a show."
To catch Iron Maiden in a city near you, click here for tour dates.
"Can I Play With Madness"
"2 Minutes To Midnight"
"Afraid To Shoot Strangers"
"The Number Of The Beast"
"Phantom Of The Opera"
"Run To The Hills"
"Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son"
"Fear Of The Dark"
"The Evil That Men Do"
(Jamie Harvey lives in Los Angeles and is the rock community blogger for GRAMMY.com. She has attended and written about more than 500 shows since 2007. You can follow her musical adventures at www.hardrockchick.com.)