“And I felt I was in a trance, and my spirit was lifted from me”

Three years and a week ago (it’s been three years?!), I saw one of my favourite bands live. I had started listening to them when I was fifteen (thanks to a newspaper supplement and a friend on a bus), but I only dreamt of ever seeing them for real. Then the impossible happened – they came to India, twice. And I missed both those times, thanks to that period of tedious rote learning and furious scribbling otherwise known as exams.

Imagine my delight when, one November day in the NTU library, Iron Maiden announced their first ever tour to Singapore! The night my friends and I booked those crazy expensive tickets (which we very nearly bought twice the number of), we couldn’t stop yelling with excitement wherever we went.

February 15, 2011 was a long time ago, but there are some images that will remain imprinted in my mind forever:

“SISTIC sucks, SISTIC sucks!”

Waiting outside in the pouring rain for the doors to open. Trying to change into the Iron Maiden t-shirt I’d just bought for an exorbitant sum (a feat complicated by the absence of money in my wallet and a lack of OCBC ATMs at the Stadium MRT). Craning my neck over people’s shoulders at hopeful shouts of “there’s Bruce Dickinson!”. Joining the Polish chap next to me in deriding the ticketing company for their frightful crowd management.

“Olé, olé olé olé; Maiden, Maiden!”

Finally rushing into the cool, dark stadium, everyone trying to get in first (yours truly got held up for a few minutes – I had stuffed my t-shirt into my jeans causing a suspiciously large bulge, which didn’t go unnoticed by security). Running full tilt across the dark stadium to get close to the stage (half the standing area was already occupied!).

Inching forwards during the opening act (that’s Bruce’s son!) to reach the second row. Calling for the band to come and take the stage. Collectively gasping as the back curtain opened, revealing Nicko’s drum kit and Satellite 15’s backdrop of twinkling stars.

“And I danced, and I pranced, and I sang with them!”

Chanting – no, yelling – the lyrics to The Trooper and 2 Minutes to Midnight. Jumping to the melodic mastery of Dance of Death. Headbanging wildly to The Evil That Men Do. Singing, several thousand strong, the entirety of Fear of the Dark, waving lit cellphones in the air. Watching, spellbound, as When the Wild Wind Blows came to life.

“And as I lay there gazing at the sky, my body’s numb and my throat is dry.”

Being squeezed, pushed from all sides, nearly turned to a pulp. Signalling the security guards in front for water. Helping members of the crowd to be lifted over because they had fainted. Hoping that I wouldn’t be one of them. Trying to rest my arms after waving them for an hour, but finding not an inch of space to do so. Looking for the CDs a group of Sri Lankans had handed me to promote their band.

“What did I see? Could I believe that what I saw that night was real and not just fantasy?”

Extraterrestrial Eddie taking the stage with a guitar. Bruce Dickinson, jumping up and throwing off his cap, the sweat of two hours of vocal virtuosity dripping from it. Janick Gers, playing guitar solos behind his head. Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, running across the stage as melodies melted their guitars. Nicko McBrain, thundering along with his signature single bass pedal. And Steve Harris, galloping furiously, the soul of the band alive in his eyes.

Pausing. Staring. Wondering if it was all real.

Believing.

“Face of contentment around in the air.”

Overwhelmed. Walking out, dazed, as the concert ended. Collapsing on the pavement with everyone else, musical magnificence ringing in our ears.

Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier World Tour 2011 Concert Ticket Pen A
The concert ticket, post-concert.

PS: Some people were actually sitting in the stands.