Apr 25, 2012

Higher On Maiden (Iron Maiden tribute band) grins at Dimapur

How Iron Maiden and Ugly Eddie grinned at Dimapur (in Nagaland, dude)

Al Ngullie

You could almost sense sweet old ugly Eddie grin frantically in irrefutable approval at his protégés for grabbing big, bad Dimapur by the throat and slamming it to the floor, just to demonstrate how a truly international tribute band performs like. That’s exactly what you get even when you have to pay Rs. 100 to a concert to listen to exactly the same songs played exactly as you always hear on your CD at home. 

But, an unidentified wise man once said, ‘the CD ain’t no singer, ain’t no player, Dude.’ Iron Maiden’s original tribute band, Higher-On Maiden, did just than and more, on the chilly night of December 17 at Dimapur District Sports Complex stadium. 

Majestic, masculine and classic, Iron Maiden’s legacy couldn’t be in more trustworthy hands than Higher-On Maiden’s, led by a charismatic Big Dickinson. Backed by performers whose knack at their instruments went far beyond ‘talented’ (calling them ‘talented’ would be such a shameful understatement) the band bulldozed through the long-waiting fans in the stadium. 

(Photo: Dunno, it was on the artiste's website so we took it and published it in MEx)
For a show that was scheduled to commence by 3 PM, well, the Nagas’ rich old cultural tradition of late arrival was affirmed yet again – the show began somewhere around 6:45 PM. Mind-numbing sound checks, more sound checks and even more sound checks. By the time the show got off centuries behind schedule, the fans were already dizzy, wearied and malnourished and almost half-dying after having to use all sorts of expletives as a medium of communication to express their grievances across to the organizers.

Finally, around 6pm the show got off – sadly, to two hugely mediocre, unidentified opening bands. And the bad sound added to the woes of both the performers and fans alike. This meant that the gathered Dimapur fans had to keep contented with songs that had no “vocals” or bob their heads to a number in the middle of which they suddenly realize the guitar is missing from the music. The agony stretched on for hours. That’s when the customary Naga spirit kicked in – someone started to sing ‘Happy Birthday.’ The  entire crowd joined in – and they sung in all genuine gusto  only irritated fans possess.The agony stretched on. Numbers ranging from AC/DC to Lady Gaga came and went. 'Where’s is Iron Maiden?’ some began to think loudly. Then someone started  a ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas.’ Anyone outside the stadium must have  thought the Christmas programme  inside the stadium was big.

The Troopers to the Rescue
Just when all hopes seem headed for kaput, the band of the night stormed in. Right from the word ‘go’ Big Dickinson led the charge into the crowd by announcing Iron Maiden’s 1984 whooper, yes, ‘Aces High.’ If they played behind a curtain, not even the fussiest of Dimapur's rock fans would have doubted that the song was being played by Bruce Dickenson and his legendary lot. ‘Aces High’, ‘The Evil That Men Do’ and of course, one of the most celebrated anthems in the rock world, ‘The Trooper', from Iron Maiden’s 1983 album Piece of Mind. There was no stopping the band (and the sound sounded  so  superb) as the exceedingly charismatic and eerily Bruce Dickinson-like Big Dickenson led the band from the front. Higher-On Maiden ploughed in, ploughed out; bulldozed in and broke out at whim –and the fans rejoiced.

How to Build a Pyramid for Iron Maiden 
But as party-poppers go, the sound system made sure to make it known that it was still around. “Would you please f---ing give me more on the speaker?” the singer demanded when one of the outputs decided to play proxy. “When we played Manipur, they were crazy; they were louder – you gotta f---ing work harder; they were louder than you!” Dickenson shouted to the crowd. Fans rejoiced. The bulldozing resumed. ‘Children of the Damned’ followed by one of year 1984’s biggest hits on the Billboard Chart, the top 20# ‘2 minutes to midnight’. Dimapur stadium was the vocalist on all the hits. In the joyful chaos and noise, one question hung on every face there at the stadium – 'how are they  able  to  sing, play and perform so  exactly like Iron Maiden…?' That’s what a real-time tribute band does in other countries, dude. That’s why they are not called “cover bands,” they are called ‘tribute bands,’ you could hear someone say. 
(Photo:Yupangnenla Longkumer) 

The fans celebrated the gift of noise. Men would be men – they actively engaged in heavy construction activities. They built pyramids and took down standing structures as Higher-On Maiden played. One young, shirtless fan somehow managed to crawl and scramble to the top of his friends’ shoulders and stood up in triumph – only to find him-self facing the wrong direction, away from the stage. Muttering every alphabet style that starts with the letter 'F,' the crumbling fan climbed all over again. Thankfully this time he faced the stage to salute Eddie's helpers.  Those incapacitated by high bottled spirits concentrated more demolishing the air from the ground level. 

Memories and the Years

One of the highlights of the band’s performance was ‘Wasted Years,’one of Heavy Metal’s most cherished anthems.  Almost  every fan at the stadium, fingers and hands in the air, sang along with Adrain Smith’s 1986 hit. This Reporter turned around to see a man of  about 40-45 years holding his fingers up in the great tradition of rock and singing along with the chorus. Then the man wiped his eyes and sniffled into a handkerchief before resuming his singing along with ‘Wasted Years.’ When Iron Maiden was at its peak decades ago, this tearful man must have been a younger fan too. Perhaps Iron Maiden was the idol of his youth. At the time of filing this report, Dimapur stadium was still quivering as Iron Maiden hit it hard and harder with each hit. Smash hit, in fact. 

(Published in The Morung Express, December 17, 2011)

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