Touring In The 2020’s

The past few years have been hard on everyone and every aspect of life, and that certainly includes music. It was impossible for bands to tour in 2020 and even in 2021 tours were on a much more limited basis, both in availability and capacity. 2022 saw touring come back in full force, though venue closures and other factors have altered the landscape.

And yes, ticket prices are more expensive now than they were before the pandemic. I don’t have a data-driven point to make here, but I’m pretty sure anyone who attended shows before 2020 and after 2020 can attest to the steep increase in ticket prices.

But today’s post doesn’t concern the fans’ side of the equation. It isn’t just more expensive to go see a show – it’s more expensive to put one on. And that has been throwing a wrench in the works of a lot of acts as they try to recover from the lost year of 2020.

A quick check of music news from any genre will find a now common headline – “Tour canceled due to logistical issues.” I recall that both Anthrax and Stryper called off European tours last year, citing the costs associated with gigging. And those are just two names common to my site – this has gone on across music as a whole, affecting absolutely everyone. While tours are still happening, it’s concerning to see veteran names like Anthrax and Stryper on a list of bands calling it off due to cost.

Putting on a tour involves a lot of expenses, and those prices were huge in 2021, just like everywhere else. Fuel costs were a massive concern and possibly high enough to derail a tour all on their own. A band’s crew has to be paid, and there are less available crew after the pandemic, a lot of folks had to switch careers to get by. That leaves the remaining ones at a premium.

And just like for us at home, everything else was more expensive – food, basic consumables, what have you. All those expenses snowballed to a point that made bands throw in the towel on heading out to tour.

In the pandemic climate of counting every dollar, venues have added a brutal twist – some venues are now demanding a cut of bands’ merch sales. Not only does a band have to absorb the higher costs of touring, they also have to part with a cut of the one thing that actually brings them some decent money. And with the idea now out there, this insidious idea probably won’t go away.

It all becomes a grind perhaps too much to bear for a musical act. As we’ve all known for quite some time now, the way for an act to make money is through touring. Album sales haven’t been much in years and record label deals keep bands from the money anyway. Streaming famously pays squat to anyone but those who get billions of plays. Being on the road is where the money is, or at least was.

In some respects, the issues of high-cost touring may wind down some. Prices are on a general decline and the economic forecast is at least decent in that regard. Shifting employment trends may lead more people into the road crew, helping that shortage. And more money in consumer pockets is more opportunity for acts to tour in front of them.

2020 and the pandemic obviously hit the live music scene very hard, in fact halting it for awhile. And the return to touring has been full of obstacles, some insurmountable at times. Sure, ticket prices are higher and there entities to blame for that, we all know who they are. But the musicians can’t catch a break either, and being unable to earn money on the road threatens the very ecosystem of music. I don’t know if a doomsday scenario is imminent in this case, but the struggles of the touring musician at all levels of success are a cause for concern.

Tales From The Stage – Iron Maiden 2013

Today I’m gonna go somewhere back in time to what is now astonishingly nine years ago. I first saw Iron Maiden in 2000, now in 2022 I’ve seen them four times. The concert I detail today was my second time seeing them.

Maiden were touring a retro set this time around – it was based on the 1988 Maiden England tour. The set lists between 1988 and 2013 would differ a bit, I’ll get into that below. I was personally very excited for this one – while Maiden alternate between “legacy” sets and current material a fair bit, this tour was paying homage to my favorite era of the band.

The show was in what used to be called the Sprint Center in Kansas City. For those unaware of the “unique” geography of Middle America, Kansas City is partially in the state of Kansas but a lot of it is in Missouri, and arguably the most significant stuff. (The same is true for St. Louis – a lot of it is in Missouri but a part is in Illinois). And to continue with the unimportant trivia, the Sprint Center is now known as the T-Mobile Center because Sprint and T-Mobile merged a few years ago.

The show was on a Saturday and it’s also important to note that Maiden had not played in Missouri for 13 years at this point – exactly the last time I saw them. The Sprint Center is located near a fairly large entertainment district in KC and the place was electric hours before the show. We had a few adult beverages in the area with a legion of people in Maiden gear before heading into the arena.

One other minor note about the venue – I’ve seen Maiden twice now in this same arena and both times the place was top-notch at getting people into the venue in a timely fashion. This point will come in handy in the future when I get into the time I saw Maiden in a different city with a much less capable entry mechanism. But no such issues in KC.

Most any show has an opening act, and Iron Maiden brought a doozy for this tour – Megadeth were the support for this tour. It made for a stellar tour package but did raise an interesting question – what exactly were Megadeth going to play in an opening slot? They have more than enough material to air out a two hour headline set, so what did they go for in slot an hour or less?

They stuck to the hits, of course. All but one of their nine songs came from their classic run of albums from 1986 through 1992. The lone exception was Kingmaker, from their just-released Super Collider. The album is regarded as a flop in the Megadeth lexicon, though Kingmaker is cited as a highlight track. The song worked fine in their set and I wasn’t bothered by it. The classics played were fantastic and Megadeth was in fine form. Somewhat sadly, to date this still marks the only time I’ve seen them live.

With the crowd ready to go, Iron Maiden took the stage. It was sheer joy after the day-long party outside the arena and Megadeth’s opening set. As mentioned before, the set was a retro offering. The set list closely mimicked the 1988 Maiden England tour list, with a few exceptions. We did not get Killers, Heaven Can Wait or Die With Your Boots On in 2013. Instead two songs from Fear Of The Dark were thrown in – Afraid To Shoot Strangers, and the ever-present title track. I would have personally rather had the old songs in but I wasn’t put off too bad by the decision.

Overall the set was fantastic and it was a trip through the highlights of Maiden’s career. The Maiden England set is a de facto greatest hits, omitting the reunion stuff but hitting on the band’s classic era when they were in top form. The set naturally included many of Maiden’s hit songs, including The Trooper and Number Of The Beast, alongside Wasted Years, 2 Minutes To Midnight, Run To The Hills and Aces High in the encore.

The real highlight of a Maiden England retrospective is the focus on stuff from Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, which was the current album when the original Maiden England tour was rolling along. The 2013 edition featured five songs from that album, including the opening salvo of Moonchild and Can I Play With Madness? Hearing the title track toward the end of the set was a massive highlight and the band went all out for that presentation. This is a set with no real valleys, but hearing Seventh Son live was the definite peak.

The Seventh Son… love was not over with the title track. Maiden brought The Evil That Men Do out in the encore and that was a massive highlight. I was just a hair too young to see the band live on the original tour when this first came out, but here was my chance all these years later to hear it in concert and it was spectacular. Hearing all of this stuff from way back when was a massive treat, I never expected this kind of a set with the way Maiden have leaned hard into the new material in the reunion era.

There were a few “hidden gems” in the set, in a manner of speaking. They were songs played on the original tour but the band saw fit to bring them back and play them in 2013. Most fans wouldn’t have bet on hearing these songs in the reunion era. The Phantom Of The Opera was played for the first time in a long time, and The Clairvoyant was part of the Seventh Son love fest.

But the true jewel of the evening was The Prisoner. This cut from The Number Of The Beast has been one of the more underrated gems of the Maiden lexicon and I was over the moon to get to hear it live. This was again another chance to live in an era I wasn’t originally able to participate in.

The September 2013 concert is a very special one in my memory. It was my second time seeing my favorite band live. A whole bunch of my friends from town made the trek too, I’ve honestly never been in such a huge place with so many familiar faces. The pre-party before the show was something to behold, with Maiden fans of all ages converging and celebrating this massive event. And while it’s hard to ignore the first time I saw them when I wonder what my favorite show of all time was, this one is certainly a contender. Can’t go wrong when your favorite band does a retrospective tour of their golden era. I always have been someone searching for his wasted year, but I did get to live one of my golden ones.

No easily found footage from the show I went to, but here’s some stuff from both bands that year.

Iron Maiden – The Songs Unplayed Live (Part Two)

Yesterday I ran through the first handful of albums of Iron Maiden’s career, and specifically discussed the songs they haven’t played live. The basis of this info comes from this recent Loudwire article. Today I’ll finish the exercise, picking up with the reunion era records.

Brave New World

2 songs unplayed – The Nomad and The Thin Line Between Love And Hate

Maiden did not mess around when Brave New World came out – they toured this album all over the place and made sure everyone heard most of it live. They played a bit over half of it when I saw them on the tour, and all told we’re left with only two unplayed tracks.

Way back when I first started this blog I did a post where I talked a bunch about a lot of my “firsts” with Iron Maiden, that post is here.

I like both of these songs, but I’m not betting on them getting played live in the future. I don’t think there’s any big push for them to get in a set list. Now I do think, of any album the band might choose to play live in its entirety, that Brave New World would be very high in consideration. It was a massive rush when Iron Maiden returned to glory and conquered a new decade, and the album still stands as a reunion era favorite. I don’t really think it will happen, but the possibility is there.

Brave New World was my Album of the Week pick back in June, have a gander at that here.

Dance Of Death

5 songs unplayed

Montsegur

Gates Of Tomorrow

New Frontier

Face In The Sand

Age Of Innocence

We have another list full of songs and, for the most part, a fairly non-shocking collection. I think Montsegur is a cool song but I can understand it not being aired out live. Gates, Frontier and Innocence are all kind of second-tier songs, if not perhaps even lower. I know they have their fans and none of the songs bother me by any means, but man, they ain’t playing any of that.

But then we have the case of Face In The Sand. I will die on this hill – this is Iron Maiden’s most underrated song. It outshines even the excellent Judas Be My Guide, which I discussed yesterday. The quiet intro lifts into this slamming epic that condemns humanity of its own sins. I was shocked that it wasn’t included in the Dance Of Death tour cycle and sadly, it sits unplayed to this day. And it will never be played, I fear, unless I win a huge jackpot and hire Maiden to play my birthday party or something.

We can skip the 2006 A Matter Of Life And Death, as Maiden played the entire album live in its tour cycle. Sadly, no official live album came of it, and I guess the band learned that fan interest only goes so far – plenty of paying customers at shows weren’t all that into it. I think it’s cool they did it, and they still put a major emphasis on a new album when they tour it, but this one kind of bit them in the ass. But that’s not relevant here, so it’s on to 2010.

The Final Frontier

Five songs unplayed

Mother Of Mercy

The Alchemist

Isle Of Avalon

Starblind

The Man Who Would Be King

We have half of an album here, an album that sits very under the radar in terms of Maiden records but gets some quiet accolades for a handful of tracks. And actually, a few of them are here. Isle Of Avalon is a bit of a Maiden departure where they seem to fully embrace some Rush influences and is a very excellent tune, but sadly it didn’t hit the stage. Starblind is another one that’s maybe just behind the album’s two big epics The Talisman and Where The Wild Wind Blows, but is very good in its own right. The others aren’t quite as good, though I’ll cop to personally being one of the apparent very few fans of Mother Of Mercy. I’m very, very alone in that regard. Very low odds of any of these seeing play in the future.

The Book Of Souls

Four songs unplayed – Where The River Runs Deep, Shadows Of The Valley, The Man Of Sorrows and Empire Of The Clouds

These are all pretty logical omissions. I do like Where The River Runs Deep but it’s outshined by other songs. Shadows and Sorrows are very much secondary tracks from the album that a fair few consider to be bloated anyway. And Empire Of The Clouds is 18 freaking minutes long. So, of anything, it’ll probably be the one to get played sometime.

Senjutsu

Seven songs unplayed – songs 4 through 10

To date, Iron Maiden have just now been touring after releasing Senjutsu and in fairness the band is completing a long-delayed tour so they put the first 3 songs on the set list and called it good.

The odds that more songs get live time later on are very good. Fan reception was especially solid for the last few tracks and while the album has a fair share of detractors, it seems to have favorable traction among the fanbase at large.

And the odds get even better when Bruce has outlined the group’s desire to play the album in its entirety. Perhaps having learned their lessons from the AMOLAD tour, Bruce said any Senjutsu full airing would be in small venues and for the true die-hards. If that happens, than the album’s entry in this list will be entirely obsolete.

Senjutsu was one of the only times I’ve done a new release album as an Album of the Week and it was in the first month of my blog. In fact, the imminent arrival of the album was one of the reasons I got off my ass and started this blog in the first place. The original post is here.

That does it for the unplayed Iron Maiden live songs. My wishlist would include Alexander The Great, Judas Be My Guide, Face In The Sand and Hell On Earth.

Iron Maiden – The Songs Unplayed Live (Part One)

Today and tomorrow I’m going to run through an interesting list. A few weeks back, Loudwire published a list of all the songs Iron Maiden have not played live. It’s an interesting look at what songs didn’t quite make the cut for a band who is a prolific touring act and I wanted to run through the list and offer some thoughts.

By my very quick and unofficial count (which may not be entirely accurate), Iron Maiden have a total of 175 studio tracks – 174 on albums and one non-album single that is included here. The various B-sides of singles are not included on this and don’t include a ton of legitimate original songs anyway. The total of unplayed songs live on the list is 51, so just a hair under a third of their output.

Maiden have aired every track from 2 of their 17 albums – the 1980 debut, which makes sense as they didn’t have a ton of songs then, and the 2006 record A Matter Of Life And Death, which was played in its entirety on tour. All other albums have at least one track that didn’t get time under the stage lights.

I’ll go through the list as it’s presented, album by album. I’ll leave off after the two Blaze albums today and pick up with the reunion era stuff tomorrow. It’ll likely make this post longer than the second one but it seems like a good place to split the proceedings.

The self-titled debut is not in consideration for this effort, so it’s off to 1981 to start the list.

Killers

One song unplayed – Prodigal Son

The only track from the second album not to see the light of day is Prodigal Son. It’s a logical exclusion from live sets, the song is very, very different from anything else the band have done. I do like the song but yeah, they’re never playing that one, no one would know what the hell was going on.

Since we’re talking about these, here is my post from awhile back when Killers was Album of the Week.

Number Of The Beast

Two songs unplayed – Invaders and Gangland

No real surprises here, neither song is considered terribly strong and I doubt too many people pine for a live airing of either. I don’t mind Invaders but it’s nothing to write home about, while Gangland is honestly kind of weak and a song the band even wishes they hadn’t put on the record. I don’t expect either tune to get the time of day on stage.

Piece Of Mind

Two songs unplayed – Quest For Fire and Sun And Steel

Nothing really shocking here, either. I do like Sun And Steel quite a bit but at this point I don’t ever expect it to be played live. Quest For Fire isn’t really anyone’s favorite track, I don’t personally mind it much but I’m sure it will remain on this list for all time.

Powerslave

Three songs unplayed – The Duellists, Flash Of The Blade and Back In The Village

Maiden truly made hay on the Powerslave album cycle and massive tour, but three of the album’s cuts haven’t been played out. The two sword-fighting songs and the the quasi-sequel to The Prisoner have been omitted from set lists. I wouldn’t mind hearing any of them live, especially Back In The Village, but I’m not really banking on it.

Powerslave was Album of the Week not all that long ago, here’s the post.

Somewhere In Time

Two songs unplayed – Deja Vu and Alexander The Great

Only two songs haven’t made the live cut from this well-regarded album. Deja Vu is a fine song but one I kinda doubt will ever see live play.

But we have a whole other story with Alexander The Great. The album’s closer is an awesome, epic track and this is probably the song that most fans would say they want to hear live. I can only speak from the anecdotal stuff I see in the wild but I think this is the holy grail of unplayed live cuts. I can’t speak as to whether or not it’ll ever make the cut but it’s the first one on the list that I hope does.

Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son

Two songs unplayed – The Prophecy and Only The Good Die Young

I guess no real surprises here, The Prophecy is widely considered the weakest track from this beloved album. I do enjoy Only The Good Die Young but at this point there is little hope of it getting stage time.

No Prayer For The Dying

Three songs unplayed – Fates Warning, Run Silent Run Deep, Mother Russia

Now we’re into the 90’s era, often considered the band’s weakest. This album, which just had its 32nd anniversary on October 1, doesn’t contain the same epic quality of classic Maiden but is still pretty welcoming in its consistency.

And honestly, the three unplayed tracks are some of the better tunes on the record. I always enjoyed Fates Warning, and it’s possible the Run Silent Run Deep would be my number one selection of the album. Mother Russia is a bit different and I can see why they wouldn’t play it live, but it’s a tune I still enjoy. There is no prayer for any of these songs being on a future set list.

Fear Of The Dark

Seven (!) songs unplayed:

Fear Is The Key

Childhood’s End

The Fugitive

Chains Of Misery

The Apparition

Judas Be My Guide

Weekend Warrior

Now that is quite the list. Less than half of this album has gone unplayed in a live setting. A lot of that probably has to do with the turmoil in the band, which would see Bruce Dickinson leave the band just over a year after the album’s release. And only two songs from the album, the title track and Afraid To Shoot Strangers, have been played since the album’s tour cycle.

Looking at the list, I wouldn’t play most of these live either. Honestly there are some of the worst songs the band have recorded on the list. Weekend Warrior is almost celebrated for how bad it is, and The Apparition is never invited to any of my parties. I don’t necessarily mind The Fugitive but it’s not strong enough for a live set. The other songs are goofy thought perhaps inoffensive, I don’t know.

Well, there is one song on this list that is not at all like the others. Judas Be My Guide is an amazing tune, arguably the album’s best and considered by many to be the band’s most underrated song. (My personal pick for that will come up tomorrow, though Judas is an easy number 2). It is a damn shame that the song hasn’t been presented live and, while I don’t expect it, it is a short tune and could be easily accommodated.

The X Factor

Four songs unplayed – Judgment Of Heaven, Look For The Truth, 2 AM, The Unbeliever

We’re now to the Blaze Bayley era of Maiden, while loved by some it was widely considered a disaster for the group, who saw their fortunes sink in the late 1990’s. I have mixed feelings about it which I’ll save for later blog content.

I can’t say I really care if any of these songs were played out or not. Judgment Of Heaven is one I liked, the others kind of sounded a bit samey to me, one of my gripes about this album overall. Bruce has had no problem doing Blaze-era tunes but none of these will likely pass muster.

Virus – single

We now have the curious case of the only non-album, non B-side track Iron Maiden ever did. The song was a new offering for the band’s first greatest hits compilation and then got released as its own single.

And it was never played live, despite being one of the strongest cuts from the Blaze era. The song is different and does throw some people, but I absolutely love it. It, along with a few of the B-sides from The X Factor are honestly the best songs the group did in this time frame.

That said, I doubt Virus ever gets played live by Maiden. It is very much a Blaze Bayley song and I can’t picture Bruce tackling this one. This is one that absolutely should have been played when Blaze was still with the group.

Virtual XI

One song unplayed – Como Estais Amigos

I’ll finish up part one with the second and final Blaze album. Easy enough – only one song wasn’t played and it’s never getting played. Hell, I don’t even mind the song, but yeah, it won’t see stage time.

That wraps up part one of the songs Iron Maiden haven’t played live. I’ll be back tomorrow with part two and the tunes unplayed from the reunion era.

Tales From The Stage – Crowbar and Spirit Adrift

Back on Tuesday, July 26th, I took in what was – uh, I guess it’s actually my first metal show since the pandemic. Probably since some time in 2019. Some kind of metalhead I am, right?

Anyway, so I drug my poser ass out to a show. There was no way to ignore this one – Louisiana sludge legends Crowbar were in town and they brought one of doom metal’s hottest current names with them, Spirit Adrift from Texas.

I was all about the show when it was announced, but then the realization set in – it’s a weekday show and I’m in my mid-40’s. It wouldn’t have phased me in my 20’s or even 30’s, but dammit I’m old and cranky and need my sleep. Yes, yes, I know that people older than I do the road warrior shit for shows to much further extremes than me going to a place that’s honestly 2 miles away from my house, but that didn’t stop that weariness and dread from setting in a few hours before the show.

But alas, I manned up and went to the show. Two local acts played – being unable to tell time, I missed the first one. The one I did catch was named Martyaloka, they are a newer act local to Springfield and this was my first exposure to them. They do a very noisy and nasty take on death metal with sludge-like riffs that were very much at home at a Crowbar show. I haven’t been in touch with the local metal scene since the pandemic hit and tore everything apart, I’ll have to keep an ear out for these guys in the future.

It was straight into Spirit Adrift after a quick line change. It does amaze me how quickly even small clubs execute their gear changes now – back in decades past it could take eons for gear to get swapped on stage, now it’s like a Formula One pit crew.

Anyway, Spirit Adrift are a band I’ve been jamming out to the past year or so and I was really excited to see their name on this tour. While plying their trade in doom, this isn’t the slow and downtrodden “everything sucks” kind of doom. Instead it’s a riff-filled journey that hits the right groove and translates very, very well to a live stage.

Spirit Adrift played a great set from songs pulled from their four studio albums and handful of EP’s. There was no “big hit” or anything like that, the group is very consistent and the set was killer from start to finish. The band got their set in despite time running a hair long, but we’re talking a matter of minutes, no Axl Rose drama here to delay anything for hours.

Below is a full set video from a SA performance earlier in the year. I haven’t found any suitable video from this specific tour.

After Spirit Adrift it was on to the main event. Crowbar are celebrating over three decades in existence and continue to pound eardrums with their heavy-as-hell sludge and doom. While never “famous,” Crowbar is known the world over as masters of the metal scene and they retain a solid fanbase after all these years plugging away from coast to coast.

To anyone’s knowledge, Crowbar had never played in Springfield before the show a few weeks back. Kirk Windstein had been through town as a member of Down, but this was the first time Crowbar had been booked here.

Crowbar ran through a career-spanning set, including stuff from their latest album, 2022’s Zero And Below. They are at that point where they have to make some choices, having 12 studio albums to construct a set from.

The band ran through tunes old and new in the death-dealing heat of southwest Missouri in late July. It was stupid hot, both inside and out. I had to duck out once or twice to catch some air but thankfully I remained upright for the set’s duration. Even Louisiana native Kirk Windstein commented on the heat, and it’s something he’s probably used to.

It was a great show from Crowbar and one that the crowd ate up. I’ve noted a lack of energy and movement from Missouri concert crowds over the decades, but the lot at the Crowbar show that night was into it and having a good time. It’s pretty easy stuff to get into when you can literally feel the riffs pounding through you.

Seeing Crowbar and Spirit Adrift was a great way to get back into the show scene, something sorely lacking from life since COVID changed all the rules two years back. (And no, despite being in a small room with a lot of people, I or no one I know fell ill to it or anything else). I might not have caught a ton of sleep that night, but hey, sacrifice is what life is all about. We don’t get a ton of shows our way these days, or at least stuff I’d like to see, so having this one was pretty awesome.

Here is a performance from Crowbar on the next night of the same tour.