Went and saw Iron Maiden at Madison Square Garden, with Dio and Motorhead opening up. The last time I saw Dio was also at the Garden, but he was headlining, with Accept opening. That was in 1986. Times have changed; he doesn’t have a robot dragon shooting lasers from its eyes anymore.

Motorhead were great, though slightly sloppy and almost painfully loud. When they began playing, the house was only half-full, so their sound was roaring and bouncing off the concrete. They played nine songs in 40 minutes—”We Are Motorhead,” “No Class,” “Metropolis,” “Doctor Rock,” “RAMONES,” “Killed By Death,” “Sacrifice” (with drum solo), “Ace Of Spades” and “Overkill” (the long version). A fast, tight, punishing set. Shame they didn’t play anything from Hammered; it’s a great album. Go buy it, you fuckers.

Dio got a little more time than Motorhead, maybe an hour. I don’t much like Dio. When I saw him in 1986, I was actually there to see Accept, who I really liked at the time (I was 14). I like his four big songs, all of which he played—”The Last In Line,” “Rainbow In The Dark,” “Holy Diver” and “Heaven and Hell” (yeah, it’s a Sabbath tune, but it’s from when he was their singer, so if he wants to steal it for his gigs, he certainly should—it’s not like Ozzy sings it). He played three or four other songs, none of which were particularly memorable, and his drummer also took a solo, which was very annoying, as it concluded with said drummer playing along to the fanfare from some really pompous, militaristic orchestral piece which I’d know the name of if I wasn’t such an uneducated metalhead thug.

Finally, around 10 PM, Iron Maiden hit stage, and I mean hit. They opened with “The Number Of The Beast,” and I was on my feet screaming with everybody else. I can’t believe I still know every word of that song.

The band was insanely tight, and Bruce Dickinson is a truly great frontman—he was all over the stage, jumping over the monitors, running around on top of the amps and stage backdrops, waving giant British flags during “The Trooper,” really giving a performance no one should expect from a guy in his late 40s. The band has three guitarists now (Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Jannick Gers), which really fills out their sound. They played a mix of classic and newer material, including one new song, “Wildest Dreams,” which is from the forthcoming album and sounds okay. The album won’t disappoint anybody, but it won’t change the world of metal the way their really great mid-80s stuff did.

What was disappointing was “The Clansman,” a song from one of the two albums Maiden released while Dickinson was out of the band. It was bloated and boring (acoustic interludes), and they shouldn’t make him sing substandard material he wasn’t around for. That spot in the set could have been filled by “Powerslave” or “Can I Play With Madness.” (Or maybe both—”The Clansman” isn’t just boring, it’s long.)

Other than that, though, the show was one of the best I’ve seen in awhile. Much better than seeing Ministry a few months ago. It’s funny—when I first arrived, I was kind of scoffing at some of the older folks in the crowd. You can look at people sometimes and pinpoint the exact year when they gave up trying to be hip, because they still dress like it’s that year. For a lot of people in the crowd last night, hipness ceased somewhere around 1988 (the year Maiden released Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, their last consensus classic album).

But I stopped laughing pretty quickly, because, well,

1) Iron Maiden totally rocked the fucking walls down, and

2) I was there, too, standing up screaming along with “Revelations” and “The Number Of The Beast” and “The Trooper” and all the rest.

I, too, am a metalhead, and I love to hear great old metal tunes. So who the fuck am I to criticize a guy in his late 30s who has no idea who The Black Dahlia Murder is, or Orthrelm, or even Immortal, but who really wants to go see Iron Maiden and rock the fuck out? Nobody, that’s who.

I still didn’t drop $35 on a T-shirt, though. I’m a grown-ass man, as Cedric the Entertainer would say, and $35 is a lot of damn money. For that same $35, I can buy remastered CDs of Powerslave and The Number Of The Beast, and you know what? Sometime in the next month or so, I probably will.

Today’s CDs:

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, A Night In Tunisia
Dexter Gordon, Daddy Plays The Horn
Hawkwind, In Search Of Space
Motorhead, Bomber
Origin, Informis Infinitas Inhumanitas
Nicholas Payton, Sonic Trance
Sonny Sharrock, Black Woman
Archie Shepp and the Full Moon Ensemble, Live In Antibes
Vader, Revelations
Yes, Tales From Topographic Oceans