BRUCE DICKINSON – An Evening With Bruce Dickinson, 03/30/22, Kitchener, Centre In the Square
By Dr. Kathryn Ladano
On the evening of Wednesday March 30th, I headed over to the Centre in the Square with my good friend Dave to check out “An Evening with Bruce Dickinson”. Dave bought two tickets to the show as soon as they went on sale months ago and asked if I’d like to come. While I’m admittedly not an Iron Maiden expert, I did grow up listening to the band via my brother (Mike LeBrain) and was aware of all of their albums and singles throughout the 80’s. I spent a lot of time watching Iron Maiden videos on Much Music and I recall when I was in grade 3 or 4 being asked what my favourite song was and answering “Aces High”. No one had any clue what I was talking about. I have a lot of nostalgia for that time and when I was a kid I knew all of the members of Iron Maiden by name and instrument, and of course I was very much in awe of Bruce Dickinson. So when I had the opportunity to learn more about him and hear some of his stories, I was keen to take advantage of that.
When Dave and I arrived at the theatre, we were in row X on the orchestra level – the last row on the floor. The audience size wasn’t as big as I was expecting and shortly after we arrived an usher came by and asked us if we’d like to move up to row L – we said yes! I don’t think the theatre was even half full, but I liked that – especially in COVID times when about 75% of the audience was unmasked and I’m admittedly wary of getting sick. It also obviously gave us a much better view. The show started exactly at 7:30 PM. I had the impression through the whole show that Bruce Dickinson had meticulously timed everything. The show didn’t even start a minute late. The intermission was exactly at 9:05 PM. The length of the intermission was exactly 25 minutes – that sort of thing.
The show was in two sets. The first set was Bruce telling stories from throughout his life and the second set was strictly for audience questions. From start to finish, the show was a full 3 hours in length. It all started with Bruce coming on stage with the backdrop of a (very) old picture of him alongside a picture of his great uncle Frank. He started the evening by telling us about his uncle Frank, a WWII pilot and a huge influence on his life and interests. He also proceeded to tell us that in the image of him, he’d put blue crayon on his upper lip to make him look older. Right from the start you could tell that Bruce was extremely energetic and was going to give us everything he had. He was frequently bouncing around the stage – this wasn’t the kind of show where he sat on a stool and just talked the whole time (there was a stool there for him, and he never used it). He also came out with a beer – I suspect it was a “Trooper” beer – and enjoyed sipping that throughout his show.
While I was expecting him to speak primarily about Iron Maiden, he actually didn’t do a whole lot of this. He started out talking about his early days and how his parents sent him to “public school” – which we learned is essentially the equivalent of “private school” in North America. It was here that he started to get into music – originally wanting to be a drummer. His first band’s singer didn’t exactly work (a choir singer with an operatic approach), so Bruce switched over to vocals after a short time. I found his discussions about singing and the use of his voice to be the most interesting. Apparently when he started with Iron Maiden he was strongly encouraged to push his voice farther – to extend his range and use his falsetto voice and to really establish his own unique vocal timbre. He claimed that he really didn’t like the sound of his voice at first when he did this but gradually adapted to it. As a musician and teacher myself, I’m constantly trying to encourage my students to push outside of their comfort zone in this way, so I found his experience with this quite interesting. One other thing about his voice that was interesting to hear is that his voice, like everyone’s, has changed with age. He describes his as being deeper and rougher now, and he actually likes the sound of his voice better now than he did when he was younger. He feels the vocal changes that have come with age have allowed him to do things with his voice now that he couldn’t do before. This was really refreshing to hear because so many other singers have essentially lost their singing voices with age. Bruce Dickinson’s is just getting better.
Bruce spent a good chunk of time talking about the early days before Iron Maiden. He had pictures and stories from one of these bands, “Samson”. He told humorous stories of going to a gun shop in the UK and seeing a plastic Canada Goose statue which he had to purchase. He then proceeded to tape it to the roof of their car as they toured north to Scotland, and as he explained it, with pot smoke streaming out of the windows. No one ever stopped them! During this time he explained that he was already friends with the guys in Iron Maiden. When they needed a new singer they asked him and the rest is history. He told some funny stories about how at the start, he loved being in the centre of the stage, but Iron Maiden’s bassist, Steve Harris, also liked taking that spot at certain times during the show – so there were some battles in the early years for the prime spot on stage (apparently their original singer would set himself up off to the side and not right in the centre of the stage, so this wasn’t a problem for the band previously).
We heard about Bruce Dickinson’s battle with cancer – which he won. Apparently he never lost any hair on his head, but he lost all of his beard hair – and almost all at the same time. We heard stories of him being at a restaurant and his plate filling up with beard hair. We also heard stories about when he met the Queen and Prince Phillip. They both asked him “and what do you do?”. The Queen seemed to have no idea who he was or what heavy metal music was. Bruce spent a good deal of time talking about flying planes and we learned that he was not the first member of Iron Maiden to learn to fly – that was actually Nicko McBrain.
I also really enjoyed his talk about beer. Apparently Bruce Dickinson is the biggest beer fan in Iron Maiden. The band was asked by a winery if they would like to create an Iron Maiden wine and the band said no, because well, that seems like an odd fit. It was this, however, that gave Bruce the idea to create an Iron Maiden beer instead. If you can believe it, every single brewery that he approached with the idea turned it down except for Robinson’s brewery. Bruce was primarily involved in the process of creating the legendary “Trooper” beer, which they had for sale at the show. We learned a lot about the process of creating that beer and also that there are Trooper breweries in several different countries – and each country has its own unique Trooper flavour that isn’t available anywhere else. I’m hoping that a Canadian Trooper brewery crops up at some point.
When the intermission arrived, the video for Iron Maiden’s song, “Writing on the Wall” was shown. At this point I had to temporarily leave the theatre because as someone with post-concussion syndrome, my head started to feel like it was going to explode as soon as the music started. For anyone else though, I’m sure the experience of this song being played through the Centre in the Square sound system, along with the video on the huge screen would have been something pretty special.
There are far too many stories to try to summarize in one review, but I found the evening to be really enjoyable. Bruce Dickinson is a great showman – he displays such passion for his life and career and I feel that we more than got our money’s worth. Kitchener was the final stop on this tour. He did inform us that he was travelling to LA at 8 AM the following day to start working on a new solo album and this summer Iron Maiden will start their “Legacy of the Beast Tour”. Unfortunately there are no stops in Kitchener. Overall, a great show!