Back to JB's for the first time in 2009! Last time was a bit of a let down, as for various reasons (including Dudley fireworks night and seemingly no advertising at all from the venue) we might as well have played to an empty room. Hopefully this time around would be more fulfilling!
I had another lazy Saturday morning and wandered down to the train station in the early afternoon. I had arranged to meet up with Nicko "...and a hen in it's late forties!" McBrain Jnr at London Euston just before 3pm, so there was no rush.
The journey begins I...
One overground train, one underground train and one cup of coffee later I met with the aforementioned tubthumper by the departure board. According to Multimap.com (endorsed by Dave Hurry) the nearest railway station to the venue was Tipton, though I doubt there's much in it between that and Dudley Port. Nevertheless, Tipton was our final destination. After an uneventful trip to Brum and twenty minutes stuck still at Birmingham New Street (THIS is Birmingham New Street....oh God, that place is a level of the inferno unto itself) we finally arrived at Tipton and summoned a limousine to whisk us to the venue.
The journey continues I...
After being accosted by a hairy drug and booze fuelled hobo (and receiving the news that the rest of the band were some distance away), myself and McBrain wandered up to the nearest drinking hole for a crafty pint. I hadn't managed to have me pint of Guinness en route, so I made up for lost time in The Fellows. Nothing like a glass of the black stuff to cure what ails ya. I love Guinness. Have you ever noticed?
We sauntered back to the venue to find the Yorkshire contingent had just pulled up, and the load in commenced. Adrian "I really am sh*t, aren't I?" Swift had hired another spectacular Selectadrive chariot for the journey. If you're ever in need of a hire vehicle in Hull, there's none finer. As gear was carted to and fro, Mister Bruce "jizz on yer tits" Dugginson regaled us with stories of a recent trip to Ireland (particularly focused on the octogenarian fumblings of the couple in the hotel room next door.....oooh, Matron!). The missing member turned up (with two kids in tow) and soundcheck followed. A quick (and fairly unsuccessful) run through of Innocent Exile ensured it's absence from the setlist, with 22 Acacia Avenue slipping in to take it's place. Support was provided by the boys from Disarm Goliath, quite possibly our favourite support band ever! Have a look on the interweb for 'em - they are so metal, it hurts. We had a chat with bandleader Steve about trips to the United States and what the most inspiring Judas Priest song titles are, and then it was time for a bit of dinner. Four of us selected the pub, while Speed "taking your granny down to Devon" Harris took himself and his clan down to Maccy D's.
Over lasagne, curry and scampi we mused on the evening to come. None of us were hopeful of a good turnout, as the venue had yet again omitted us from their gig list. We're advertised a week before a show these days. There's nothing we can do to stop our venues from shooting themselves in the foot like that, but it's massively frustrating. I personally was quite depressed by the prospect of the audience here at JB's continuing to dwindle, given that it was the site of my first gig with this band and, on that night, was RAMMED. Still, the show must go on and we zoomed back to the dressing room.
Disarm Goliath were already stripping the wallpaper for miles around with their thunderous jams, while us Hi-On's prepared to take the stage. Some more members of the Speed Harris family tree arrived, excited to see their uncle in a wig (well, who wouldn't be?). Brief looks out the stage door revealed a gradually filling room. A bigger audience than last time arrived, which was a bit more inspiring but I was still miserable as sin before we went on. Oddly enough, I always end up enjoying gigs more when I'm massively fed up before I go on. Nowhere to go but up, I suppose!
The first few bars of Moonchild hit, and I realised that I'd left a pleccy wedged between the strings at the end of the neck. Clever! The Evil That Men Do was storming, and The Prisoner also went quite well apart from one Brown Chord from yours truly. I don't believe we've treated JBs to that one in recent years, and it sat quite well in what was a "The Number Of The Beast"-heavy set. Die With Your Boots On followed which is always a joy to play. Flash Of The Blade was absolutely mega, with Children, 22 and Run To The Hills continuing the theme of the evening (there's so many strong songs on that record it's hard not to play half of it at every gig). We even pulled out Alexander The Great for JBs, which is something I remember playing at my first gig there in 2005 but I don't believe it's been vaulted out there since. I had a complete brainfart during the sweet harmony in the middle section, but it didn't make many odds - that section has such a great groove to it. Certainly one of the best musical constructs in the Maiden arsenal, if not a lyrical triumph! Flight of Icarus, The Trooper and Fear of the Dark led us to the usual end of the main set. No Eddie this time sadly, with Mr Eddie "more theatrics?" The 'Ead busy watching Judas Priest somewhere I believe. We encored with Number of the Beast, with Speed's normal count-in replaced with something totally devoid of rhythm that made me crack up and miss me entry. He always tries to throw me off with that one, and for once it worked! Phantom of the Opera was barnstorming as ever, and we rounded off with Hallowed Be Thy Name. Mr Dugginson also suffered from temporary dementia it seemed, as the last line before the instrumental break was replaced by a rather impressive single held note! Superb.
All in all, a damn good performance all round. The temptation is often to sit around and dissect the performance, but on this occasion it was all about relaxing and hanging around. For ages! We all had a pop at the punch machine - having only ever thrown one or two punches in my life my first effort skimmed, but the second was much more respectable. Dugginson decided to attack it with a running headbutt, to the eternal giggle of Nicko Jnr who captured the moment on video.
After grabbing some bevvies to take with us and divvying up the readies, it was goodbye to JBs for the evening. We set off to the Travelodge and parted ways with Mr Harris, who had the drive back to Pembroke ahead of him. Ten minutes later he was the other end of the M4. It's amazing! The remaining quartet settled in the room with a couple of beers and random banter. By this time it was well gone 4am. JB's is an exhausting gig in as much as you're in the venue for around 11 hours, and sometimes more. It goes something like this:
5pm - Arrival and set up (dependent on traffic)
6 or 6.30pm - Soundcheck
7.30pm - Support band arrive and soundcheck
9pm - Doors open
10pm - Support on-stage
11pm - Hi-On Maiden onstage
12.30am ish - Hi-On Maiden offstage
3.30am - Kickout time for punters
4am - Hi-On get paid and leave!
That's usually about how it happens. Not a lot of time for kip, but just about enough to ensure you get home without collapsing from exhaustion. The morning arrived quickly and we resumed our patronage of the Little Chefs that grace our great nation's A roads. Breakfast with afters. Choice!
Tasty dessert I...
We said our goodbyes and I accompanied Master McBrain back to the station where a bus was waiting to whisk us towards Brum. A comfy train ride took us back to London Euston and there we said our goodbyes. I arrived home at 5ish and had a lie down. Then got up on Monday for work! Thoroughly enjoyable (despite the pre-gig depression). Good to see a couple of the old guard at JBs, always a pleasure to see Miss Carmel all sober and sensible...!!! We all enjoyed ourselves onstage and you can't really ask for much more than that.
The journey home I...
III - Home!
Until next time, UP THE IRONS!
Dave "someone else do me nickname" Hurry