Bruce Dickinson @ MTelus – 23 March 2022

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Bruce Dickinson in Montreal

“A great man is a torch in the darkness, a beacon in superstition’s night, an inspiration and a prophecy.” – Robert Green Ingersoll

I stood a mere few feet from the man responsible for my love of music this evening. It wasn’t the first time Bruce Dickinson and I have shared a room, and I can’t imagine it will be the last either. On this night, however, the setting was quite unlike any of the previous evenings I have spent gazing up at the one and only Bruce Dickinson – tonight was a far more intimate affair, and one I vow not to be soon forgotten.

I was but seven years old the first time I heard Bruce Dickinson wail into a microphone, and although that tale is best suited for another time, I will say that the musical adventure that has been my life was a direct result of the day I drove my Grandmother bonkers until she relented and bought me my first album – Iron Maiden’s The Number Of The Beast. I didn’t know the band at all, but as a child, I was obsessed with drawing, and as soon as I set eyes on that now-legendary album artwork, I wanted to recreate it. Ultimately, it would be the music on that recording that had the greater effect on me.

Tonight, Bruce Dickinson was in town, to speak to the people of Montreal about his life and times. Dickinson is a man that has achieved much while coming from nothing. A self-man man, if you will, who despite his lifelong disregard for authority, has found success in all manner of things.

His parents quite literally abandoned him as a child, to join the circus. Leaving him in the care of an auntie and eventually leading him to a posh English private school, where he naturally felt out of place, discovered Deep Purple and eventually found himself being expelled for urinating in the headmaster’s green beans. Which, were consumed, much to Dickinson’s delight.

Before getting the boot though, Dickinson discovered music – by purposely avoiding the church choir, where he was labelled as unable to sing or hold a note, stealing a set of bongos and proclaiming his love for the drums. Formed not one, but two bands, both of which featuring would-be musicians who didn’t actually own any instruments, nor had they any knowledge or skills with said instruments, but why should that get in the way of such a thing.

Dickinson continues weaving his yarns about his college days, brief experimenting with drugs, spending his college’s arts budget, which was foolishly placed in his hands, on an Ian Gillan concert, into his joining of his first professional band – Samson.

To the diehard Iron Maiden fan, much of this information probably wasn’t new, but hearing it firsthand, from the horse’s mouth and in the manner in which Dickinson is able to carry himself, was like being mesmerized into drinking the kool-aid and joining a cult.

Although Dickinson has toured the world more times than I can possibly count and has played to audiences both tiny and massive beyond belief (Rock In Rio, in Brazil in 1985, is believed to be one of the largest crowds to ever gather for a concert) – I was still aghast at how well the man reacts with an audience. Unbelievably suave and at ease, Dickinson took control of the night, held everyone’s attention in an unrelenting storytelling session. And after nearly three hours of chatter, not one person in attendance wanted to get up and leave. I hesitated myself, wondering if this was the sort of affair where an encore may be possible. Turns out, it isn’t, but it would have been most welcomed.

What I wasn’t expecting, at all, was the comedy aspect that Dickinson is able to attribute to his tales. Whether from his fantastic impersonations of fellow Iron Maiden members Steve Harris and especially Nicko McBrain – to the ludicrous stories that have helped shaped Dickinson into the wonderful man that he is. Even his tribulations and battles with throat cancer brought about fits of laughter in the way he told them, and if a person can get a reaction like that from such hardship, it speaks volumes to that person’s true character.

Seriously – his piss-taking of McBrain was glorious and the highlight of the night. It gave new life to the band so many of us love and have loved for decades, to hear personal stories, that bring them down from the golden halls of Valhalla and humanize them as the human beings they really are – just people. His mockery of Gravesend, in England’s South-west, was particularly amusing, having grown up not very far from the area myself – and I’ll never again look at a Canada goose without thinking of Dickinson; but you really needed to be there to know why that is. I couldn’t do the story justice and wouldn’t want to try.

Being in the company of such a giant was exhilarating. He didn’t sing, unless you count a few bars from Let It Be by The Beatles, yet he held my complete attention for the entirety of his set, and for those three hours, I couldn’t think of any other place I would have rather been. Bruce Dickinson is a treasure and I feel honoured to have once again shared an evening with him.

Forever, Up The Irons!

Review & photos – Kieron Yates

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