Part 1- Pre-production to Poland.
Dear reader, welcome to the wonderful, weird and occasionally
wacky world of the mighty Iron Maiden, on the road.
I’m writing this first part of the diary in my hotel room
in Katowice, Poland. As I write, we’ve just travelled for
about 27 hours on “Das Bus”, from the Download Festival,
held at Donington Park, to lovely, sunny Poland. Some of the crew
have gone off to Auschwitz to have a look around. Mind you, after
more than a day on a crew bus, it may seem like a little light relief
I’m getting ahead of myself, however.
November, 2002. A dark, cloudy day in England. I have just returned
from Europe with “Riverdance”, here forthwith referred
to as “that pack of spud-munching cloggers” (please,
if you’d done the tour, there’s no way you could take
offence at that, even if you were Irish). By the way, is it true
that if Ireland is for the Irish, is Peckham for the peckish? I
I am sitting at home, with my three little girls, (or coven, as
may be) running riot, sitting riot, or just plain dribbling all
over me. The phone rings. An unholy silence falls over the room,
like a cloak of darkness. The children whimper and look to me for
guidance and support. Yes, it’s Dicky Bell on the phone.
I answer it. “Brennan…. It’s on”. Actually,
that’s not entirely accurate. What he actually said was “Brennnnnnnnannnannnannn”.
He never can quite slam on the brakes quite quickly enough when
it comes to my name. We talk, I listen, I talk, he laughs, demonically.
“How much? Ha ha ha”. Wage negotiations over, then.
So, a festival tour of Europe is being set up, with an American
shed tour being pencilled in for the summer. I am told to design
a rig that will accommodate all of the above. In fact, most of the
basic outlines have been spinning around in my head since the last
tour, “Brave New World” in 2000.
So, we cut to January 2003. A dark, cloudy day in England. I, however,
don’t give a flying toss, ‘cos I’m in Australia
with the above-mentioned cloggers!! Brilliant time, wonderful country,
great people, and two weeks off in the middle of it! As it happens,
my fabulous wife is paying for me to fly up to Cairns, and all points
North, to do my PADI course. More of that later, perhaps.
Thanks to the modern technology of laptops, modems, e-mail, fax
machines, telephone charge cards, and even Tipp-ex, a rig is designed,
budgets fought over, discussions had and meetings planned. Houston,
we are green to go.
March 2003. Back in Blighty. Meetings with Dicky Bell, Maiden’s
legendary Production Manager (now Pre-Production, cos he doesn’t
actually do the touring any more) are held. Meetings with Alan Chesters,
the set designer, and meetings with Dave Ridgway, Managing Director
of Neg Earth Lights, the lighting supply company for the band since
I’ve been with them, and a great company. Ideas, budgets and
logistics are thrown about, numbers crunched and small toys thrown
out of prams, until, finally, a deal is stuck.
We are booked into Nottingham’s Ice Arena for Production
Rehearsals. We only have four days, which is incredibly tight for
a production of this size, but we have a fabulous crew, who work
their bollocks off to make it happen. Alan’s set is a bit
of a corker. It has all of the “usual” Maiden elements,
but there are a few elements, which are new to the band.
The first part of the tour is based around the new, Best Of…
compilation, “Edward the Great”. The set is therefore
covered with illustrations of virtually every Eddie (their omnipresent
mascot) you could think of. “The Trooper”, “Powerslave”,
“Somewhere in Time”; they’re all here. I must
confess that I am quite proud of two little elements of the design.
We have three scrims, bungeed within my three lighting boxes. I
thought of them, I did. Me. Myself. Wow. The second bit I only noticed
a few days later. We have a backdrop, based on the “Bring
Your Daughter” single cover. There is a pub “chalkboard
of fayre” nailed to one side of the drop. Alan uses small
details like this occasionally for little in-jokes. A lot of the
crew are listed on the drop, including “Torchy and the black-outs”.
Torchy being a nickname of mine. Me Myself. Big, fat, hairy deal,
I hear you cry. Whatever.
The main visual difference is the 40’ diameter arch truss
that is used to frame the seven illustrated drapes. Drapes are hugely
important to the band, and this arch gives a fresh look to some
old favourite Eddies. Alan also suggested using a series of Chroma-banks,
placed on top of the stage set, in order to de-lineate the set.
I don’t think anyone was entirely convinced by them at first,
but we went with Alan’s faith, and dammit, they worked! Fortunately
for me, I had Jonathan Armstrong (or Leggy, as he is known throughout
the industry), on my lighting crew. He had used these Banks before,
and was absolutely indispensable in making them work, not only physically,
but within the confines of the show. Bless you, mate.
All of the other “traditional” Maiden elements are
still there, however. The moving trusses, the backdrops, the 350
par cans and, of course, Eddie.
We have two on this part of the tour. The walking Eddie is a 13-foot
tall beauty, decked out in full “Edward the Great” regalia.
The big Eddie is a real monster, in just about every sense of the
word!! He is the head and shoulders taken from the tour poster.
With lights in his eyes, and an opening brain case, he is flown
on four inverted motors and comes up from behind the stage set.
I shall give away no more for now, but it is proven that, without
doubt, Eddie has a brain. Either that, or King Kong is missing a
testicle. You’ll have to see the show to find out.
By the way, the tour is going around under the rather colourful
moniker of “Give me Ed…’Til I’m Dead”.
Thank God the posters weren’t what was I was expecting, or
possibly dreading. It just doesn’t bear thinking about.
So, six trucks of lighting, PA, set, back line, catering and production
groan their way out of Nottingham, bound for the first of four warm
up shows before the Big D-word. Cue DISASTER NUMBER 1. It’s
a long drive from England to Spain, right? You have just enough
time to get there and have a breather before the mayhem starts,
okay? You don’t expect your bus to get a jammed airline in
the middle of France, causing you to stop for seven hours in the
middle of the French wilderness, until some bloody French mechanic
finally decides to get off his arse, and actually take only 20 minutes
to fix the fucking thing? DO YOU? DO YOU REALLY?
Sorry. I’m okay. Just got a bit tense, there, for a moment.
So, the gigs. At last. Ah, Spanish gigs. The jokes are universal.
Nobody expects the Spanish Electrician. What’s the first thing
a Spanish rigger does when he falls out of the roof? Takes his hands
out of his pockets. Etc., etc. Possibly a little cruel, possibly
not. You’ve been there, you decide. Any way up, La Coruna
was the first gig. I must state, here and now, that I have a most
brilliant lighting crew out with me at the moment. They are a real
collection of disparate individuals, and not one of them conforming
to the 70’s- style pre-conception of “the roadie”.
And funny, too.
For a first gig, with a big rig, the boys were still able to get
onto the bus for a nap by about 5p.m. I’ve been on much smaller
tours where that NEVER happened.
The gig was pretty good for a first one, too. The band were in good
spirits, and played well, if a little rushed. First night nerves,
even for a band of their longevity.
Gig number 2 was in Gijon. A sports hall. With glass walls. And
no blackouts. At all. That’s when you learn whether your pan
and tilts have been lined up properly!!! Went well, though. The
band were more relaxed, and I was able to do some tweaking to the
show during the day.
After a really nice and relaxed day in Toulouse, France, we did
to Zenith shows. The first in Toulouse, the second in Toulon. I
love the Zenith circuit. Firstly, it’s not in Spain (only
joking, my little Latinate buddies), the stage spaces are good,
the local crew great, and other facilities clean.
The only slight hitch in Toulouse was that the big Eddie got a small
case of nerves. As the black drape was pulled across to reveal his
Eddiness, and he began rising on his four motors, the black started
coming back across. There had been a tiny little technical faux
pas, which I will not go into here and now, but suffice it to say,
Eddie’s appearance was regrettably short-lived!
The next night, however, paid for all. It was brilliant. The band
had well and truly relaxed into the gig, Bruce especially in fine
form, flying around like a loony, with a schoolboy grin plastered
to his face. I was also happy with the look of it for the first
time in the four shows. It was beginning to look how I envisioned
So, success in Spain and France, now to Donington. Looking back
on it, the band again played very well, and the kids loved it, which
is the reason for it all, but I was quite disappointed at the time.
All you LDs out there will know why. An outdoor festival, a smallish
festival rig, God’s big floodlight in the sky until about
five songs from the end. You get my drift. The lights didn’t
cut it until just before the band went off before the encores!!
I’d spent a great programming session with the local Neg Earth
crew, who, once more, were brilliant. Darragh, Roger, Toby, Max
and Rob Gawler were so supportive, it was breath-taking. Rob, especially,
worked like a trooper (ahem) to program the X-spots and PC Beams
with me. I suppose I could have used more open white earlier in
the show, but the brief was, give us the show we normally get, and
let’s face it, who expects England to be sunny at the end
of May!! Ho hum.
Donington was actually more like a summit meeting than a gig, with
lots of friends from various crews appearing out of the woodwork,
left, right and centre. A friend of mine, Rob Coleman, was LD-ing
for “A” on the Scuzz stage. It was actually with Rob
that I went diving in Australia, and he has just agreed to be my
littlest daughter, Caitlin’s, godfather. So you could say
that he is a good friend. Anyway, I went to his stage, and the first
person I saw was a mate of mine called Caio, who had just got the
Sepultura gig. The last time I saw him was in South America, on
one of the local lighting company crews, and we bump into each other
in a field in the middle of England, on his first ever-European
tour! What a great business.
And now, we’re here in Poland. Twenty-seven hours on a bus,
including DISASTER NUMBER 2, where the other bus had its fuel line
fall off, and start pissing diesel all over our bus. Another three
hour delay, but this time at Watford Gap! It gets worse!! France,
okay, but God, no, not Watford.
Tomorrow brings forth the Spodek, with mainly local production.
I shall say no more for now. We shall speak again.
If you read this, and you know me, AND you are nearby when the
tour passes by, come and say hello. It’s always good to see
a friendly face.
Here’s to the next instalment.
“Give me Ed……” what can I say?
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