BLAZE BAYLEY – Bergen – Hulen
- by J. Nepper
- Posted on 20-05-2013
A few months ago I read that Blaze Bayley would be coming to Bergen, Norway, on May 2 as part of a small Norwegian tour alongside his old "colleague" Paul Di’Anno, the idea basically being that the two former Iron Maiden vocalists would celebrate the music of the aforementioned band by performing different songs off the albums that they were part of making. I was so thrilled by the idea of hearing songs off "The X-Factor" and "Virtual XI" performed live that I literally couldn’t wait to experience Bayley’s performance. I bought the tickets in advance as I didn’t want to take any chances. Hulen in Bergen is not exactly a large venue. It only holds a couple of hundred people or thereabout, but it has a certain charm and atmosphere and I know quite a few people who like attending concerts there.
It’s a well-known fact that many Iron Maiden fans out there aren’t exactly fans of the Blaze-era, but personally I think his work with the band is highly underrated, especially the dark and strangely melancholic piece that is "The X Factor". From my perspective those albums simply require a lot more patience and attention from the listener before they open themselves up fully in all their atmospheric glory. They’re pretty damn moody in my opinion, which is right up my alley. But I digress. I’m not here to try to convince anybody about the quality of those albums. Each to his own.
Was the rainy city of Bergen in for a treat that night during Bayley’s show? Hell yes they were! The band took the stage some time around 10.30 PM and from the look and appearance of Blaze and the entire backing band there was no doubt that they were here to kick our asses six ways from Sunday. While the other musicians grabbed their instruments and got ready to play, Blaze got everybody’s attention by telling the crowd that they and the band should "be good to each other" and that they should "get to know each other" and "get intimate", almost as if he was talking to a lover in some semi-sleazy way, and the people loved that. The band launched straight into "Lord of the Flies" and off we went. I was quite surprised by how good the sound was. It was really powerful and thundering from where we stood and yet it was clear at the same time; one could hear all the instruments and none of them drowned out the others. Also, the backing band was clearly into it and was damn solid and tight from what I could hear. I especially liked the fact that Rick Hagan (drums) and H. Gogstead (bass) were onboard for this tour. They formed part of the Ronnie James Dio tribute band named Southern Cross, who performed in Bergen in November last year, and they did a really good job back then, but they were even better this time around in this particular setting. "Futureal" was up next and the crowd clearly knew this one. "Lightning Strikes Twice" and "Sign of the Cross" followed and both of them were very-well received by the crowd, especially the latter one. The rendition of "Sign of the Cross" was hauntingly beautiful and Blaze delivered some very emotional vocals on top of it. Being one of my favorite songs of all-time, I nearly pissed my pants out of sheer joy when they performed that one. Before I forget, I should point out that all the members of the band were right on the money in terms of hitting all the right notes and being on time and so on. I didn’t detect any mistakes anywhere, so I guess one might say that it was surprisingly tight. Blaze introduced the next song, "Blood on the World’s Hands", as a song that he hadn’t performed for quite some time and that "the lads (i.e. the band members) suggested doing this one". Gogstead’s bass intro sounded phenomenal. Not everybody in the crowd knew this one, but it was a very nice surprise and performed very well. The catchy "When Two Worlds Collide" came next and was followed by the epic "The Clansman", which made everybody go ape-shit and sing along like crazy. "The Clansman" was clearly one of the highlights of the show. Next up was another crowd-pleaser in the shape and form of "Fear of the Dark", which Blaze sang very well in my opinion. It was pretty cool that he picked that song from the Dickinson-era and he said something along the lines of it being a favorite of his. Last song of the night was, not surprisingly, the thundering beast that is "Man on the Edge" delivered with class and aggression, and it was the perfect way of ending the show and leaving people begging for more.
To sum up, the crowd absolutely loved Blaze and pretty much all the songs went down a storm. From my perspective, Blaze himself has rarely sounded better. His voice was very strong and everything was spot on. It sounded to me as if the audience knew most of the lyrics and melody lines, because people either sang or hummed along to all the songs throughout the entire show…and then there were the screamers, of course, who probably weren’t that familiar with "The X-Factor" and "Virtual XI" beforehand, but who nevertheless seemed to totally dig the sounds that were coming from the stage.
On a personal note, it was beyond cool to meet and say hello to Blaze before the show. He came across as a genuine gentleman and one hell of a nice guy. He was totally down to earth and gladly signed a couple of CDs for me and posed for a photo. That is one experience that I will always remember and treasure. I felt so honored and I have to admit that I also felt like a 13-14 year old teenager again. When I started listening to metal music back in 1995 (I was 11 years old back then), Iron Maiden were out there touring in support of "The X Factor" and I can clearly remember walking into a record store in Gothenburg, Sweden, while on vacation there and seeing all these posters and adds for the aforementioned album and, if I recall correctly, the "Man on the Edge" single. "The X Factor" was, in other words, my introduction to Iron Maiden, but, as usual, I digress, and you’re probably growing weary of my personal anecdotes and points of view by now, so I’ll end this concert review by simply stating that the show in Bergen was a night to remember.
Lord of the Flies
Lightning Strikes Twice
Sign of the Cross
Blood on the World`s Hands
When Two Worlds Collide
Fear of the Dark
Man on the Edge