Saw Iron Maiden in Antwerp

A spectacular concert is now a story of the past. Since there the Amsterdam show was sold out early, we needed to go to Antwerp to see Iron Maiden on stage, for the third time in my "seen concerts" list.

Iron Maiden on stage in Antwerp
A moment from the one of the best 2-hour periods in lifetime.

Watching a dream on YouTube

The audience goes crazy as a gentle guitar melody fills the concert hall. Then the chords take on the song, connecting to the place where everyone start clapping in the right tempo. Vocals enter: “Doctor doctor please, you know that I’m going fast”… The lyrics were starting probably like this in that version. Goosebumps, rapid breathing in and out, almost tears of joy in the eyes… It’s not because it is the UFO’s song is playing, it is the messenger of the approaching Iron Maiden concert. It’s happening! Everybody sings along as if the song is played live. And finally it finishes, lights are off, cheers of the crowd fills the air. A thrilling intro starts, it’s the theme from the ending credits of the original Blade Runner movie. You know what that means? They will start with something from “Somewhere in Time”, my favourite Iron Maiden album! What if they start with a rare gem, “Stranger in a Strange Land”, which they have not played since the death of Adrian Smith’s father? That would be fantastic!

Then the Blade Runner theme comes to an end with clock ticks, and instead of the band jumping on the stage, intro of “Caught Somewhere in Time” enters, which drives the crowd crazy again. And as the live section after the intro begins while the band runs into stage with fireworks, I change my mind rapidly: “Ok, this is a better opening for an epic concert”. Now the show is officially on! Bruce Dickinson is on the stage with a futuristic piece of sunglasses, still energetic after all these years. Janick Gers and Steve Harris is competing with the singer in the category of who runs on the stage the most. Adrian Smith is the coolest as always, as Dave Murray still smiles constantly. And Nicko McBrain is there with the plush on his drum set.

This is an exciting opening, maybe the best beating the “Flight 666” and recent “Maiden England” tours. My excitement tops when the second song is revealed to be “Stranger in a Strange Land”, that is because I’m a fan of rare Iron Maiden songs. They play it great, I pause the video.

I am convinced

The story above is the summary of my experience after seeing the video shot in the first show of Iron Maiden’s “The Future Past Tour” in Ljubljana. I had already known that the band would visit Amsterdam on July 11th. But I did nothing related to attending to that concert. My hands started trembling with excitement, could we afford it? My wife convinced me that we could afford it, so the search began. Apparently Amsterdam concert was sold out, and there were nothing on Ticketswap. Where was the nearest show? Opened the tour page, checked the dates, and there, Antwerp two days after Amsterdam! Checked the tickets, few left on the side tribune. Well, the viewing angle would probably upset us but I finally bought two tickets for Iron Maiden in Antwerp, costing 168 Euros in total! (excluding the 1-night accommodation and travelling)

An amateur video shot by someone in the audience made me buy tickets from another country. I still cannot believe how appealing this tour is.

Until the concert day I played “Doctor Doctor” by UFO, “Blade Runner (End Titles)” by Vangelis, and “Caught Somewhere in Time” respectively to get in the mood. I watched other videos from the following shows after Ljubljana. I took a sneak peek on the setlist. I listened to “Senjutsu” album once to study the five new songs on the setlist, well, it didn’t catch me. I accepted that these five songs will be my break during the concert. The days gone and finally it was July 13th…

My impressions

Going to another country for the first time while living in the comfortable Netherlands, I noticed that Antwerp was not a comfortable city. The streets didn’t feel safe and friendly other than the old town area. Where we stayed was close to the central train station, and the concert venue Sportpaleis Antwerpen was only a 45-minute walk away. But the route was passing through a male-dominated conservative ghetto. Until the vicinity of the venue, we did not see any “metal pilgrims” on the way with their Iron Maiden t-shirts. But we survived, and arrived at the destination, finding our seat.

Before Iron Maiden, The Raven Age was on the stage. It is the band of George Harris, Steve Harris’ son. I watched them once before, before the Anthrax show in Utrecht in February 2017. Most of the members have changed so far, but the music is still not my type of metal. Yet, it is fun to see a good band live, it sounds different from the studio.

The Raven Age finished their performance, the seats are seated more and more people, the roadies started transforming the stage, until that moment I described at the beginning of this article. I relived all those again, with goosebumps and tears in the eyes, being grateful for the viewing angle being not so bad as I expected. I gave long breaks during the songs from “Senjutsu”, almost got bored as the four of the five songs following “Stranger in a Strange Land” being from that album. I only took photos and videos during “Fear of the Dark”, which I find a bit overrated. I didn’t distract myself with phone other than that, it was like a holy gathering.

The concert finally ended with playing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python on tape as we were walking through the exit stairs. That is the only regret I have, we left the hall too early before that song ended. What was the climax of the show? Definitely the moment in “Alexander the Great” during which Bruce Dickinson hit the gong several times. I still shake with that sound every time I imagine it.

So, that is the story of the third encounter of mine with Iron Maiden. The other two were in Istanbul, in 2011 and 2013. Ten years later, I found them in Antwerp. Long live the band and hopefully we’ll see them again, as my wife already became a fan!

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