Amidst the glut of glam bands in the ‘80s, Maiden were thinking-man’s metal – each of their songs told a story or delivered a message. And I completely idolized phenomenal bassist Steve Harris, who wrote many of Maiden’s best songs and played his bass as a lead instrument, giving the band a large chunk of its distinctive sound.
So it was with equal parts excitement and apprehension that I sat down to watch Iron Maiden: Flight 666…
Excitement: I was going to see a lot of what goes on with Maiden backstage and on the road (something the notoriously private band never allowed in their heyday).
Apprehension: Would they still enthrall me with their metallic, musical storytelling like they did in my youth?
• It’s January 2008, and Iron Maiden is about to embark on the first leg of their Somewhere Back in Time tour. The goal: 21 cities, in 12 countries, on four continents…in six weeks.
• How will they accomplish this? By flying the band, crew, and gear on their own private 757 – with lead singer Bruce Dickinson, a licensed pilot, at the helm.
• Flight 666 is essentially one continuous ride-along – lots of cameras trailing the band members from one destination to another, interspersed with concert footage from the various stops on the tour.
• Directors Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen (Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey) capture the energy and sheer scope of Maiden’s international crowds – thousands of people singing and jumping in unison to songs whose lyrics they probably don’t understand. (Concert crowds in other countries put U.S. crowds to shame in terms of unified participation.)
• While it’s true that watching a concert on TV is nowhere near the same as seeing it live, the film does a commendable job of making you feel like a crowd member at each of Maiden’s shows. The energy levels of the concerts are through the roof, and the band’s musicianship is still as tight as it was 20 years ago.
• Some of the stage sets, and the costumes worn by Dickinson, may seem a bit Spinal Tap-y to the uninitiated, but for Maiden fans it’s all as serious as a heart attack.
• Also in the Spinal Tap vein: During a golf game between shows, drummer Nicko McBrain suffers the most un-metal of injuries: a welt on his wrist from a rogue golf ball.
• Songs performed in the film: “Aces High,” 2 Minutes to Midnight,” “The Number of The Beast,” “The Trooper,” “Can I Play with Madness,” “Powerslave,” “Run to the Hills,” “Heaven Can Wait,” “Fear of the Dark,” “Iron Maiden,” “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name.”
• All you ‘80s metalheads, pay attention to the backstage scene at Maiden’s L.A. show. It’s a who’s who of metal, including Ronnie James Dio, Kerry King (Slayer), Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave), Lars Ulrich (Metallica), Scott Ian (Anthrax), Vinny Appice (Dio, Black Sabbath), and of all people, WWE superstar Chris Jericho. (HA! I just checked Jericho’s Twitter page, and one hour ago he tweeted, no kidding: “Listening to Rime of the Ancient Mariner with my three kids and everybody is rocking! No Wiggles in this house!”)
Iron Maiden: Flight 666 is an eye-opener for fans and novices alike. And 23 years later, Adrian Smith’s solo on “Wasted Years” still gives me goosebumps (3:10 mark).
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Will your kids want to watch it?• If they’re interested in discovering new music – music that’s new to them, at least – here’s your chance to give them a Maiden education. (Also see my playlist below.)
• However, that education may need to be limited to the playlist if your kids are pre-teens. While I watched the edited version of Flight 666 on VH1, apparently there is a bit of offensive language and a handful of scenes unsuitable for young ones. See the IMDb's parents guide for details.
Will your FilmMother like it?An appreciation of metal will probably help your FilmMother enjoy Flight 666 more, but it’s still an engrossing documentary aside from the music. If you’re a Maiden fan, maybe it’ll help give her insight as to why.
Essential “Maiden 101” Playlist:*
“Running Free” (from Iron Maiden)**
“Wrathchild” (from Killers)**
“The Number of the Beast” (from The Number of the Beast)
“Run to the Hills” (from The Number of the Beast)
“Hallowed Be Thy Name” (from The Number of the Beast)
“Flight of Icarus” (from Piece of Mind)
“The Trooper” (from Piece of Mind)
“Aces High” (from Powerslave)
“2 Minutes to Midnight” (from Powerslave)
“Powerslave” (from Powerslave)
“Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (from Powerslave)
“Wasted Years” (from Somewhere in Time)
“Can I Play With Madness” (from Seventh Son of a Seventh Son)
* Yes, Maiden fans, there are many other great songs beyond this. This is just a primer for newbies.
** With original vocalist Paul Di’Anno
Iron Maiden: Flight 666
* Directors: Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen
* Screenwriters: Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen
* Stars: Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Janick Gers, Nicko McBrain
* MPAA Rating: N/A
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