Concert Review – Iron Maiden (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 08/10/2019)

Who’s ready for another night of Iron Maiden and their ass-kicking Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019 in Toronto?

INTRODUCTION: “No FTTB nor The Raven Age for you”

As I wasn’t selected for the First To The Barrier experience by the Iron Maiden Fan Club for the second night of the one and only Iron Maiden in Toronto at the always pleasant Budweiser Stage, and as a few friends invited me to a BBQ with lots of beer and metal music before the concert, let’s say that I “had to” miss the opening act THE RAVEN AGE, which in the end was more than good for me because watching their concert in full from the first row on Friday wasn’t what we can call a very entertaining experience. If you were there on the second day and saw The Raven Age, I’m pretty sure it was the exact same thing as the previous night, with the same band’s lineup, the same setlist, and the same confusing sonority. However, if you missed The Raven Age both days you can take a look at how their concert was by clicking HERE.

IRON MAIDEN

Just like what happened on Friday, 15 thousand fans from the most diverse countries such as Australia, Peru, India, Brazil, El Salvador, Germany, Colombia, Sweden and so on (including WWE badass superstar and a true metalhead Erick Rowan, whose real name is Joseph Ruud) were gathered together at the Budweiser Stage at around 9pm to enjoy another round of classics by the one and only IRON MAIDEN, once again as part of their Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019. Their setlist was the absolute same as Friday, of course, but because I wasn’t so close to the stage let’s say I was able to move more, to jump up and down a lot more, and to have a much more complete view of the stage, including Janick Gers who I must confess I couldn’t see much on the previous night. I was really tired from the previous day and I thought I was going to take it easy on Saturday, but you know what? As soon as Doctor Doctor started playing on the speakers, it was pure madness one more time.

As I mentioned, this time I could enjoy their full stage without having to force my neck up, right or left too much, and my neck is very thankful for that. The whole band was on fire as usual, with Dave and Adrian delivering their traditional crisp and crystal clear riffs and solos while Steve was the beast incarnate on stage. How can he do that? He doesn’t stop smashing his bass chords, singing, running around the stage and jumping up and down not even for a single second, and he’s already 63 years old! It’s absolutely impressive, reminding me why I admire and respect his work and passion for Iron Maiden so much. It’s always a pleasure to watch him play The Trooper, “galloping” his bass as if he was riding a horse into the battlefield, and his endless energy while screaming the famous “Oooh! Ooo-oooo-oooh!” together with the crowd during Fear of the Dark. After another superb and impeccable performance by Bruce, Steve & Co. was over (and this time Bruce’s flame thrower worked during Flight of Icarus), I started thinking how boring the world of music will be without Iron Maiden when they call it quits, but that’s something we don’t need to worry about at least for the next few years, as Bruce himself promised they’ll return to Toronto, most probably after the release of their upcoming studio album. I wish I could attend more concerts from their current tour, but for obvious reasons like time and money, for now I’ll have to  content with two nights in Toronto I’ll never forget. UP THE IRONS!

Setlist
Transylvania
Doctor Doctor (UFO song)
Churchill’s Speech
Aces High
Where Eagles Dare
2 Minutes to Midnight
The Clansman
The Trooper
Revelations
For the Greater Good of God
The Wicker Man
Sign of the Cross
Flight of Icarus
Fear of the Dark
The Number of the Beast
Iron Maiden

Encore:
The Evil That Men Do
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Run to the Hills
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Monty Python song)

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Steve Harris – bass
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Janick Gers – guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums

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Concert Review – Iron Maiden (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 08/09/2019)

How about witnessing the almighty Iron Maiden and their Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019 from the best spot of the Budweiser Stage in Toronto on a perfect summer day?

INTRODUCTION: First To The Barrier

Thousands of fans from all over the world, a perfect sunny day, a lot of (overpriced) beer, and another memorable performance by the unparalleled Iron Maiden at the Budweiser Stage to shake the foundations of our beloved city of Toronto. That would have already been a damn good summary of the night if I hadn’t been one of the 40 lucky bastards (plus one guest each) from the Iron Maiden Fan Club who were chosen to get into the venue before the rest of the crowd and bag the best spot at the barrier, which is obviously right at the front. That’s what’s called the FIRST TO THE BARRIER (or FTTB if you’re a fan of acronyms) experience, a fun but quite exhausting adventure as you have to be there at the venue several hours before the concert starts, most of the time without food or anything to drink, and if you move or try to go to the washroom you simply lose your spot and all that effort will be in vain.

Fortunately, I can say I’m good at standing for hours waiting for a concert to start without eating or drinking anything, and all I can say is that the whole experience was more than amazing. What an unforgettable night in another celebration of classic Heavy Metal, where all fans had the chance to not only sing and scream lots of classic together with the band, but a night where we were also able to make new friends, uniting our metal universe even more. Even if you’re not part of the Iron Maiden Fan Club, you can try to be someone’s guest by asking people on Facebook’s FTTB Public Group if they have a spare available when the band takes your city by storm. That’s totally worth it, and that’s how I met a very nice Maidenmaniac who drove hours from Montreal wearing his Aces High pilot hat to join me a couple of feet from the stage from around 5pm until the end of the show.

OPENING ACT: THE RAVEN AGE

Let’s say the only part of the day that wasn’t exactly fun was having to endure British Melodic Groove Metal act THE RAVEN AGE’s performance in full from the first row without having the option to simply ignore them and go grab a beer. Formed in 2009, this London, England-based band has just released a new album named Conspiracy, featuring new vocalist Matt James, who joined the band in 2018. I’m not going to say it was a bad concert, but I think due to the fact those boys are still trying to find their core essence, playing a confused mix of Power, Thrash, Death and Heavy Metal with Hard Rock and even Southern Rock, it was tough to follow them and to actually enjoy their concert. There were a few good moments, though, like the opening song Betrayal of the Mind and the closing tune Angel in Disgrace, especially the last one as it was the heaviest and most detailed of their setlist, but overall it wasn’t the warmup I was expecting for the main attraction of the night. And believe me, standing there for almost one hour listening to something you don’t really enjoy was not what we can call a nice experience. On a side note, both guitarists Dan Wright and George Harris (and yes, he is Steve Harris’ son) are quite talented and have a great future in heavy music. Just maybe not with The Raven Age, unless they stop trying to sound like a generic version of Trivium or Avenged Sevenfold and find their own sound in the future.

Setlist
Bloom of the Poison Seed
Betrayal of the Mind
Promised Land
Surrogate
The Day the World Stood Still
The Face that Launched a Thousand Ships
Fleur De Lis
Grave of the Fireflies
Seventh Heaven
Angel in Disgrace

Band members
Matt James – vocals
Dan Wright – guitar
George Harris – guitar
Matt Cox – bass
Jai Patel – drums

IRON MAIDEN

Finally after a short break, when it was around 9pm, the almighty IRON MAIDEN hit the stage to stun us all with their flawless Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019, obviously inspired by their successful mobile game Legacy of the Beast (don’t forget you can also follow the game’s official Facebook page for news, updates and other shenanigans). As a matter of fact, the short and sweet video showing scenes from the game and several of its versions of our beloved Eddie (most of them already available as Legacy of the Beast Figurines), while the classic instrumental tune Transylvania was playing in the background, was more than enough to warm up our senses for the metallic hurricane that was about to start, but we all needed of course to sing in unison UFO’s all-time classic Doctor Doctor and scream the spoken words from Churchill’s Speech to properly invite Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Janick Gers and Nicko McBrain to crush our minds with my favorite Iron Maiden song of all time, the one and only Aces High, while a giant airplane was “flying” above their heads.

That beyond epic start was followed by an avalanche of the band’s old and not-so-old classics, with Where Eagles Dare, The Clansman, The Wicker Man and Flight of Icarus being the highlights of the night for me. By the way, Bruce’s speech before The Clansman was quite fun, where he “complained” about the fact an Australian (Mel Gibson) portrayed one of the most important Scotsmen of all time, Mr. William Wallace. The song was played to perfection, of course, with all 15 thousand fans at the Budweiser Stage screaming “FREEDOM!” together with Bruce & Co. at the top of their lungs (including of course this guy here that’s writing this review). Another memorable and extremely funny moment was when Bruce’s flame thrower just stopped working in the middle of Flight of Icarus, and after blowing raspberries (yes, he did that), why not showing everything he got by beautifully and powerfully screaming “FLY AS HIGH AS THE SUN” to end the song in great fashion? We might not have had Bruce’s flames in our faces, but we got something even better than that, his unique, trademark high-pitched scream piercing our ears and minds.

It was also amazing to witness all fans singing together with the band even the longest and most obscure songs (or maybe not as classic as the others) of their setlist, those being For the Greater Good of God and Sign of the Cross, proving once again not only Iron Maiden’s newest creations are still meaningful and appreciated, but also that it doesn’t really matter how long their songs are, they are never ever tiresome or boring. And what to say about the poetry found in the lyrics for the gorgeous Revelations? I’ll never get tired of witnessing Bruce declaiming those dark and touching lyrics live, no doubt about that. Well, after almost two hours of perfection, with an encore that brought to our avid ears the insanely awesome The Evil That Men Do, Hallowed Be Thy Name and Run to the Hills (needless to say, all three perfectly executed), it was time to enjoy Monty Python’s inspiring hymn Always Look on the Bright Side of Life and get ready to see the boys in action once again on Saturday. Because you know, one Iron Maiden concert is never enough.

Setlist
Transylvania
Doctor Doctor (UFO song)
Churchill’s Speech

Aces High
Where Eagles Dare
2 Minutes to Midnight
The Clansman
The Trooper
Revelations
For the Greater Good of God
The Wicker Man
Sign of the Cross
Flight of Icarus
Fear of the Dark
The Number of the Beast
Iron Maiden

Encore:
The Evil That Men Do
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Run to the Hills
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Monty Python song)

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Steve Harris – bass
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Janick Gers – guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums

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Metal Chick of the Month – Wanda Ortiz

I’ve been looking so long for you now… You won’t get away from my grasp…

As 2019 promises to be another memorable year for Maidenmaniacs from all over the world, especially for the ones that reside in the United States, Canada, Mexico and South America who will have the utmost pleasure of seeing Steve, Bruce & Co. live during their upcoming Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019, there’s nothing better than kicking off our Metal Chick of the Month section with an amazing bass player that truly understands what it means to be part of the legacy (and also continuing our tradition of starting the year with a badass girl on bass guitar, of course). I’m talking about Wanda Ortiz (or Wanda A. Ortiz), the skillful bass player for the all-female tribute band The Iron Maidens (billed as the “World’s Only Female Tribute to Iron Maiden”) under the brilliant stage name of Steph Harris, who’s ready to crush your skull in half to the sound of her thunderous, galloping bass allied to her endless stamina when performing live.

Born on March 27, 1968 in Huntington Beach, a California city southeast of Los Angeles, Wanda first learned to play bass at the early age of nine years old, when the elementary school she attended had a music program that enabled students to sign up and choose an instrument. When she arrived late on the first day of music class, she wound up with a junior-sized double bass, and from that moment on we can say it was “love at first gallop”. In addition to that, while she took lessons on the double bass, also known as an upright bass, Wanda also taught herself how to play electric bass when she was 11 years old in order to play in the school jazz band, and she continued playing bass throughout her school years, eventually earning a Bachelor of Music in Performance (BMus) degree from UCI – University of California, Irvine. One funny thing about Wanda and her relationship with the bass guitar is that, according to Wanda herself, she felt a little sad about her instrument when in high school because she could rarely play the melody, which were the fun parts for her, as she got stuck with simpler lines meant to hold down the beat (in other words, a typical bass line), which despite being very important could get really boring at times. Luckily, she had a friend who told her about bands like Iron Maiden and Rush that really featured bass in their music and, after listening to them, she felt a lot better.

Moving on to her career as a musician, our dauntless bassist, who plays a variety of styles such as Heavy Metal, Hard Rock, Blues and classical music armed with her glitter blue G&L SB-2 bass guitar and her black SB-2 bass guitar on select shows, started playing in a more professional way in 1997, when she joined a California-based Punk Rock/Rock N’ Roll band named Rotten Rod & The Warheads. She was their bassist from 1997 to 2002, having recorded with the band a demo in 1998 titled Practice Bomb (under the eccentric moniker of “Wanda Smart Bomb”), containing songs like Germs and Cruel World. I don’t know about you, but I would love to listen to the music by this fun and electrifying band on any rock n’ roll radio out there. Anyway, while still playing for Rotten Rod & The Warheads, she was also the bassist for Heartache City from 1999 to 2001, with whom she recorded the band’s self-titled album in 2001. I couldn’t find anything online form this band, but if Wanda was their bass player I’m sure their music was at least fun to listen to, right? Furthermore, Wanda was also the bassist for a Huntington Beach-based Rock/Blues band named Field of Vision in 2004, having recorded with them the six-track album FOV that same year, highly influenced by renowned acts such as David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and Velvet Underground. Once again, there’s nothing online about this specific album, but as aforementioned we know from the bottom of our hearts it’s good music we’re talking about. As a matter of fact, in 1998 and 2004, she won the Best Female Bassist award at the Rock City News Awards and, in 2003, she also won the best bassist award at The All Access Music Magazine Awards, proving how talented and focused she has always been as a musician.

In addition to those previous acts and to The Iron Maidens, our ass-kicking bassist also works as a freelance musician in various groups and orchestras in the Southern California area, including The South Coast Symphony as principal bassist since 1996. When asked about how different it is playing for The South Coast Symphony and for The Iron Maidens, if that’s the type of diversity she needs in her playing style, Wanda said that she likes to play classical music just as much as metal, and after playing an upright bass she thinks it keeps her chops up, also saying that it’s like someone who enjoys playing basketball and baseball, two different sports but both fun, which is the same with classical music and metal for her. Moreover, her talent is also recognized by several important brands and companies, being endorsed by BBE Sound, Digitech, Dunlop Manufacturing, G&L Musical Instruments, RotoSound Strings, Schroeder Superior Sound Cabinets, Coffin Case and Monster Energy Drink, and she’s also been in a couple of interesting documentaries recently, those being Hair I Go Again (2016) and the upcoming Rock Is Dead? (2019).

It was in September 2002 when Wanda finally joined The Iron Maidens, remaining with the band ever since and adopting her stage name “Steph Harris” as an obvious reference to Iron Maiden’s iconic bassist and founder Mr. Steve Harris. So far, she has recorded with the band the albums World’s Only Female Tribute to Iron Maiden (2005), Route 666 (2007), The Root of All Evil (2008) and the video Metal Gathering Tour Live in Japan (2010), trying to be as loyal as possible to Iron Maiden’s original sound. In one of her interviews, Wanda said that when she joined the band everyone was just looking for a fun and original side project (there were already several all-female tribute acts for bands like AC/DC in the area), as they all had their own bands and projects, with a goal of playing maybe once or twice a month at some local pubs. However, after the first few shows a lot of people started calling them, with things really kicking off after the band had been together for about a year despite the fact they never took themselves too seriously at that time. As a matter of fact, if there’s one thing they always took very seriously was the music, always trying to replicate the original tones from Iron Maiden the best possible way even with the different instruments they use like Wanda’s bass, which is technically a Fender bass but not the same one used by Steve. If you want to take a good listen at how amazing Wanda and the girls from The Iron Maidens are, simply search for them on YouTube, as there are countless fantastic videos of their live performances such as The Trooper and Die With Your Boots On in California in 2014, or these two full concerts recorded in New York in 2018 and in California in 2013. Also, how about a nice and relaxed interview with the entire band conducted by Grasser Production in 2017 called “15 questions with The Iron Maidens”?

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Regarding the songs she likes to play the most from the Iron Maiden vast and rich discography, she said her all-time favorite are Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra), Phantom of the Opera, Powerslave and Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and when questioned if it’s hard for The Iron Maidens to come up with a setlist to please all fans she said it’s not difficult at all because it’s drummer Linda McDonald who keeps track of all places the band plays and what songs they played before, also taking into account her own endurance and the timing for their lead singer to do a costume change, for example, and always focusing on old songs not usually played by Iron Maiden during their current concerts and tours. She was also questioned if she ever struggles with identity, wanting to do her own original material and showcasing it, and she said she doesn’t really have any issues with that, stating that she actually enjoys playing music written by a wide variety of different composers, either metal or orchestral music, and that it doesn’t stop her from writing her own music which she has done before in original bands. Also, when asked if the band has ever had to deal with any issues related to artwork, royalties, cease-and-desists from lawyers or anything like that, she said the band does everything they can to avoid that, but that they were asked to change their logo many years ago (and they did). She complemented by saying that wasn’t a big deal, and she doesn’t think the guys from Iron Maiden were even aware of it; they simply have a good team of people who help look after everything.

Of course, it’s impossible not to talk about her “relationship” with Mr. Steve Harris and his two-fingered galloping bass method. In one of her interviews, Wanda talked about how much Steve Harris and his bass have influenced her taste for music and her playing style, talking about the aforementioned story of her playing only the basic notes while her friends would play the melodies with their violins and violas in high school, but that after listening to the all-time classic Piece of Mind she fell in love with her bass guitar again and never stopped listening to the music by Iron Maiden ever since. Apart from Steve Harris, she also cites Geddy Lee, lead vocalist, bassist, and keyboardist for Canadian Rock titans Rush, and Chris Squire, bassist and founding member of English Progressive Rock band Yes, among her influences, once again showing how much she loves the most intricate, unique and vibrant sounds anyone can extract from a bass guitar. There’s also a price to pay for having Steve Harris as her major influence, and especially for playing Iron Maiden’s music, which comes in the form of fans who believe they can offer her advice on how to perform that material beyond her considerable talent. “Every once in a while, there will be a bass player in the audience. There’s a couple songs that I’ve gotten used to playing it a certain way or maybe a different position, but they’re the same notes, but it’s not the same position (Harris) plays it in. Sometimes I’ll get that, or sometimes I’ll get like, ‘Well, Steve uses two fingers’. Well, okay. Sometimes I’ll hear that. Very rarely though,” said our talented bassist.

Wanda’s first ever Iron Maiden concert happened many years ago during the World Slavery Tour, when according to Wanda herself she didn’t drink anything to avoid having to leave to use the bathroom, as she didn’t want to miss any part of the show (well, it’s the same for me). Years later, Wanda was even able to get to know Iron Maiden in person when Michael Kenney, Steve’s long-time bass tech and the band’s onstage keyboard player, introduced the whole band to them at a concert in Irvine, California. Wanda and the other girls were obviously nervous at first for meeting their idols, but the guys were really friendly to them and down to earth, making the whole experience very pleasant. The only thing that didn’t go as planned was that they weren’t able to give them cookies that they baked specially for them, as their singer left them in her car. I’m pretty sure those cookies were delicious, but you know what was even better than that? The fact that The Iron Maidens were not only able to meet their icons in person for the first time ever, but also that the band led by Mr. Steve Harris supports them, acknowledging their undisputed talent, their passion for metal and their hard work, and that they can rest assured “Steph Harris” and the girls will always represent this more “feminine” and “delicate” side of Eddie with a lot of energy, respect and admiration. Having said that, don’t forget to check Wanda and the girls live whenever they take your city by storm, and of course, as usual… UP THE IRONS!

The Iron Maiden’s Official Facebook page
The Iron Maiden’s Official Instagram
The Iron Maiden’s Official Twitter

“As a bass player, of course, you’re going to be drawn to music more challenging, interesting and fun. I’ve always been an Iron Maiden fan since I was very young. When the band first formed everybody wanted to do something different, something more challenging. Since we all wanted something unique that nobody else was really doing, we thought Iron Maiden would be a good fit. We are all coincidentally huge Iron Maiden fans, so that made it better.” – Wanda Ortiz

Accessories Review – Iron Maiden 2019 Calendar

Are you already on your personal countdown to become part of the legacy on the upcoming Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019?

As there are only a few days left until 2018 comes to its inevitable end, it’s time to get ready for the year that’s about to start with the already classic annual calendar by Heavy Metal titans Iron Maiden, allowing you to properly count the days until Bruce, Steve & Co. take your city by storm with their undisputed Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019. And although the Iron Maiden 2019 Calendar might not be a masterpiece, mainly because the manufacturer, your friendly neighborhood Danilo Promotions Limited, missed a fantastic chance of crafting the entire calendar based on all the different Eddies from their critically-acclaimed, epic mobile game Legacy of the Beast, it’s still a fun piece to add to your collection.

As I said, instead of assigning a distinct (and ass-kicking) Eddie from the game to each month of the calendar, such as the Eternity Eddie, the Vampire Hunter Eddie, the Grim Reaper Eddie or the Samurai Eddie, they decided to take a more conventional path by simply adding pictures of the band members taken during their Legacy of the Beast Tour 2018. The front cover and the photos chosen to be part of the calendar are amazing, no doubt about that, especially the ones from February, April and September, but as a Maidenmaniac I still believe the Eddies would have been a much more suitable choice. Well, we can’t actually complain about that if you take a look at all previous versions, as it seems the manufacturer alternates between an Eddie-themed calendar (like their amazing 2018 edition) and a version containing solely band photos from year to year. Having said that, who knows, maybe next year when the 2020 version of the calendar is released we get all those fancy Eddies from the game, right?

Iron Maiden 2019 Square Global (Multilingual Edition)

Anyway, just like in all previous years, the 2019 calendar dimensions (30.4 x 1.5 x 42.4 cm) and weight (299 g) are quite standard, and you can purchase your copy of it from your regular retailers such as the Iron Maiden webstore, Danilo.com, Amazon (USCanada or UK, for example), and Calendar Club. In addition, don’t forget there’s always the 12 x 12 version of the calendar named Iron Maiden 2019 Square Global (Multilingual Edition) if you prefer that specific format, although I believe it will be hard for anyone to find it online for purchase (it’s sold out in most locations) unless you go for the alternate version with a different front cover sold by BrownTrout. The price of the calendar, that being either the regular A3 version or the 12 x 12, varies depending on where you buy it, but I would say anything between 15 and 20 US Dollars should be fine.

Iron Maiden 2019 Square Global (BrownTrout Version)

In a nutshell, this is another good quality merch released by the one and only Iron Maiden that will certainly please most of their diehard fans (like this guy here who’s writing this review to you right now), also helping them count the days to their upcoming Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019 as already mentioned, especially if you live in North or South America. I’m already on my personal countdown to the two concerts in a row I’m attending here in Toronto, eager to see them performing their all-time classics mixed with some of my favorite “underground” hymns such as Where Eagles Dare, The Clansman, Flight of Icarus, Sign of the Cross and The Wicker Man for the first time after so many years and, as a consequence, becoming part of the legacy together with one of the most important bands not only in the history of metal, but of music in general.

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