(N) I'm Maiden + XIII @ Fruit, Hull. - 2nd February 2013

By Danielle Partis

Those of you who know me personally, know exactly what's coming. Or at least, think you do. Those of you who don't, let's get you up to speed. 

I am an incomprehensibly massive, Iron Maiden fan. 

So of course, when it was announced that half the members of my favourite local band, Innersylum were going to be forming a tribute to my favourite band of all time, I had to get in on it. A few months prior to this show, I paid the band a visit during one of their practices to see how it was sounded. I entered the room with a meticulous attitude to how everything would sound, and was pleasantly surprised at what I heard. The only qualm I did have at the time, was vocalist Derk's inability to remember lyrics. However, that was just me being picky. 

Gig night finally rolled around, and 300 rabid Iron Maiden fans had forced their way to in to Fruit, a turnout I haven't seen at a local gig in a long time, if ever! Filling in for Pastel Jack, who were forced to drop out due to illness, were local thrash heads XIII, and of course, they were on top form, kicked up a storm as usual. It was refreshing to hear the three-piece blasting through a setlist filled with newer songs, including 'Narcotics', a track that seems to have stuck with me. XIII also threw in a dangerous cover in the form of 'Sweet Amber' from Metallica's St. Anger. Now although I don't think  that album was hidious in it's entirety; I wouldn't consider any track on there a particular crowd pleaser. Alas, judging by the tumbleweed that drifted by the stage after vocalist Dan announced it - it wasn't. It amused me, that even in a crowded room, there still seemed to be an empty semi-circle surrounding the stage, as though people didn't want to get too close to the band. Maybe Dan had a cold. Or AIDS. Who knows.  However, true to form, XIII smashed through it perfectly like Donkey Kong on a caffeine drip - like they always do - never failing to immerse even a large crowd with their malevolence. They're always an awesome band to see. 

As soon as XIII were offstage, I did the swiftest rebound leap from the bar to the barrier. Then remembered I am in Hull, and that there would be no major rush for the barrier. Though to my surprise, everybody pushed forward and got involved. Eventually, I heard the distant fuzz of UFO's 'Doctor Doctor' fade in, and if you've seen the real Iron Maiden - you know what that means. So naturally, my levels of excitement rose as fast as the lights went down. Then, came Churchill's Speech, naturally leading in to the 'Aces High' intro. I'm Maiden bounded out and dived head first in to Aces, and I am at a loss for words at how great it sounded. Derk managed to squeeze out every last word perfectly, and every note he hit rang phenomenally. Straight in to '2 Minutes To Midnight', then 'Run To The Hills', a track I'm not a fan of, so I was pretty happy they got it out of the way. Maiden then stopped, to let Derk ramble on, and introduce 'The Trooper'. Hearing the crowd in it's entirety wailing along to the chorus sent chills down my spine! If there's one thing that's better than Iron Maiden, it's Iron Maiden crowd participation. Gets me every time. 

Derk during 'Aces High'

Up next were a couple of Somewhere in Time staples, 'The Evil That Men do', 'Wrathchild', and 'Wasted Years'. Again, Derk's vocal impressed me no end, as those three are all very difficult songs to get right. Guitarists Jon and Paul really shone through during Wasted Years, especially Paul! Adrian Smith is a meticulous sod at the best of times and Paul pulled that solo off like he'd written it himself. My only issue here, was that he was too damn quiet. 
A fan favourite came next, unusual to hear in the middle of a Maiden set, but definitely not misplaced. Shane started the count in to the classic 'Hallowed be thy Name.' And the crowd reciprocated fantastically, bouncing everywhere and banging their heads like it was 1982 in Donington! Not like I was there or anything. I distinctly remember Derk having trouble with the lyrics to this during rehearsal; naturally he's very powerful, and Bruce spits this track out at an alarming rate which he struggled with at first. There was absolutely no need to mention that fact, because when performing live - Derk sounded as though he was born to sing this song. All that was missing, was a 'scream for me Hull!' 

'Powerslave' next, adhering to a classic setlist, and by god did that sound amazing. To go through Hallowed and Powerslave in a row must have been knackering, but of course they pulled it off perfectly, like everything else. This track, along with the album, has a really distinct guitar sound, and some hefty twin axe attacks - Jon and Paul kicked arse! Following this came 'Can I play With Madness' the closest they're ever going to get to playing my favourite Maiden song, followed by the live essential and all-round nineties classic 'Fear of the Dark.' This song was written to be played live. I'm Maiden brought that fact home and performed the track the best I've ever seen it. There's just something about hearing it played to an uncriticisable standard, on your doorstep, by your friends, that makes it sound so much more awesome than the real Maiden. The band never slowed the pace, nor showed any sign of doing so throughout, especially bassist Jamie. He had the energy of 20 men, bouncing about left and right, foot on the monitors, managing to switch between slapping the shit out of his strings and swiping his hair out of his eyes, never missing a single note. He has the precison and ability of 'Arry himself, and much nicer hair! 

Told you. Hair. 

A pause for thought? For the crowd maybe, while Derk talked bollocks for a moment about snot and wine gums, but not for the band, as Jamie leads the band in to a personal favourite of mine, 'The Clairvoyant' The riff in this is one of favourites of all time, and of course, they nailed it. Asides Derk forgetting the lyrics to the second verse, you bad man. I noticed that Jamie's bass was more prominent than ever in this track. That, or I was paying more attention to it because it was about 4 inches away from my face. Either way, every member of IM played this song the way it's meant to be played and I couldn't have been happier with how it sounded. I think the way I grabbed Jamie's face and yelled at him (discovered in videos the next day) during the chorus spoke for itself really.

Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the beast. The only beasts to be reckoned with are Derk and Paul as they lead us in to 'Number of the Beast' This track lets Derk wail they way he should be, a well rehearsed performance tighter than a gnats crack, that I thoroughly enjoyed. I paid particular attention to Paul's solo again, during which I did notice maybe a bum note or two, but I can't play the thing, so who cares? By this point I was desperately clutching at something to cricitise, because by the encore, I had nothing! 

I'm Maiden finished up and wandered off, but were they balls getting off lightly. The crowd erupted in to a Maiden-esque chant, until we saw drummer Shane sneak back up to his kit, and drum us in to 'Running Free'. I'm yet to compliment Shane throughout this, but I can tell you now that there is no way I could fault him, whatsoever. He never slowed, never faltered, never played anything but magnificently from start to finish. His defect-less persistence from the first note to the outro makes him one of the most talented drummers I've ever seen - the real McBrain needs to watch his back and his kit! 
Alas, the show had to end sometime, and of course, they were going out with a bang. The band launched in to the final track of the night 'Iron Maiden' and for one last time, Fruit erupted in to a flaming frenzy of Maiden fandolism. Jamie and Paul went all out during, centre stage, high-fiving the crowd like absolute gents, but no Maiden show, would be complete without an appearance from Eddie himself! Considering that they'd gone for the pleasant, no gimmicks approach to Iron Maiden, this was a complete surprise, but a genius one at that! I'm Maiden took us through one last round of the song with Eddie/Mr Steels brandishing his Union Jack, before ending on a widdle and a drum roll and one massive howl from Derk. I'm sure a piece of my soul died knowing that it was over.

Now I'm not sure that this gig needs a conclusion, other than, 'It was fucking awesome'. I struggled enough to put in to words just how brilliant this band actually are, I was expecting something pretty electric from them, but nothing like anything I witnessed tonight. A true display of affection from the stage to the exit, for a band that lie very close to my heart, by a group of musicians so special - they could have been Iron Maiden. If not better than. I urge everyone in the entire universe to catch these fellas whenever you can, whether it be with I'm Maiden, or another one of their projects, whether you're a Maiden fan or not. They are definitely going places, without a shadow of a doubt. If you do heed my advice or trust my opinion, which you must otherwise you'd have stopped reading ages ago - then I'll see you on the barrier, every single fucking time. Up the irons! 

Derk and Jon, doing what they do best.

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A thank you to Iain Ramsdale (Pedals) for the photos.