Iron Maiden @ The O2, 28/5/17

Another weekend, another event. I and a friend were actually pencilled in for this long before last week’s and one next week.

When I saw Megadeth a couple of years ago, it was a day after the Bataclan shooting in Paris and I was nervous: I was seeing an American heavy metal band in Wembley Arena. It turned out fine though; in fact I was quite happy about given a quick frisk in security, given that people of my look are the guilty parties.

Now I was seeing Iron Maiden after the Ariana Grande bombing in the more closer Manchester. Some artists cancelled their dates and venues even allowed customers to get refunds for active shows. I wasn’t put off though, because I had come to realise that attending an event immediately after a terror attack is likely the safest time because of the alert. The O2 always had security machines to pass through but now I saw more police on patrols than usual.

This was the first time I attended a ticketless event – ticketless because Maiden did an honourable move to prevent touting where you could only attend with photo ID and the card you purchased with. Unfortunately, my card had been replaced because of use at a suspected compromised cash machine, and I forgot I needed that old card for Maiden before I scissored it up. I worked out that email confirmation would help me out but it wasn’t too clear where to go, but I was sorted out at the box office. And I was not alone as there were at least 30 others who didn’t have a valid card for various reasons.

We sat down just in time for the end of support band Shinedown, and as support bands go they were just another generic one. All I remember of them was fists in the air.

40 mins later, Maiden come on. Or, first, there was a little video of their mascot Eddie in some sort of Doom-game like-thing. Then the lights came up on their Mayan-themed stage (because recent The Book of Souls album is framed that way) and they went through mostly new songs with some older classics.

It has to be known that I’m not a huge Maiden fan. I mainly tagged along because a friend not usually in to concerts wanted to go and he turned it into a late birthday present for me. I prefer their energetic earlier stuff (Powerslave is my favourite album, I love every track on that) and think their longer, mid-paced, proggier stuff of recent times can sometimes test my patience (consider that my favourite type of metal is the more zesty American thrash). But as a whole package I thought it was a great show. It was very theatrical and you know you’re having fun when it seems like you haven’t had enough.

Singer Bruce Dickinson ended with a little speech about Manchester, pointing out that there are lunatics all over the world (Trump was quite emphasised) and that the house of Maiden is welcome to all (whatever colour, religion, sexuality or other persuasion) who come in peace. You could argue that it was schmaltzy but it was a good way of saying that if you give in to fear and you buy into division, we’re all doomed. Apparently, there were more people at this show than on the sold-out first London night.

Set list here. Also check out this fan vid of the song Powerslave live from there.

PS: WordPress informs me that this blog has reached its 10th anniversary. It’s limped along in recent years, but it’s alive.

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Omid Djalili @ Hammersmith Apollo, 20/5/17

I don’t frequently see live comedy (any time I’ve been, including this, has been at someone else’s expense) but whenever I do I always think ‘why don’t I go more’? They’re often cheaper than musical events and you walk away just as entertained, and also a little less tired.

Omid is a British-Iranian comedian who is very visible in that he’s appeared in films and TV. One almost risqué quality of his material is that much of it is race-based – but not racist. His contemporary David Baddiel points out that he gets away with it because of his innocent naiveté (there’s no malice and he makes fun of himself too), and most likely because of his ethnicity. I once heard Omid describe himself as an adopted (South) Asian. And why wouldn’t we take him in when we’re happy for him to be a representative?

The 90min support slot was admirably supported by Boothby Graffoe with his guitar, and Omid’s jokes covered Trump, Brexit (yes, I found his anti-Brexit stuff funny) and any other thing that’s currently or timelessly topical. I would be interested in buying any possible DVD for this Shmuck for a Night tour – in which the Apollo was the closing date.

Going back to the material. I remember liking some comedy when growing up that was in hindsight racist. Why? Though race-based material can often be low-brow, it can still be funny. My thought process on viewing such things is “yes, this is a stereotype, and it’s even exaggerated. I find it funny not because I hate myself or that who is being targeted, but just because it’s an observation that can be used to entertain and not necessarily be malicious.” The problem only is in the intent of the comedian (Bernard Manning, for example, was pretty funny, but it seems quite clear that he genuinely believed other ethnicities are inferior). You could even have a fan that misinterprets what Omid says, but given that his liberal-left leanings are obvious in his other material there probably won’t be many of those.

And I don’t think being white disallows you from good-hearted race-based material. Al Murray pulls it off very successfully with his xenophobic Pub Landlord character.

There was even what could be seen as a sexist joke from Omid – but all the women were laughing. I remember in the 90s that there was a backlash against anything that could be seen as prejudicial, but I think the balance is just right with comedy at the moment: Be funny, by whatever means. But don’t be cruel.

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On another note, the historian Tom Holland followed-up his previous documentary on the genesis of Islam with one that examined ISIS and the genocide of Yazidis. I didn’t watch this one. I thought the other one was fine, but on deciphering that he places human tragedies in ranking order rather than equally, I now find him a bit suspect, in terms of his conclusions rather than his research.