8:15 p.m., Montage Music Hall. I was standing in line waiting for the doors to open. I was there to see The Iron Maidens — an all-woman Iron Maiden tribute band. The line was mostly heavily-built, angry-looking, tattooed, middle-aged men with slicked-back hair in black leather jackets. I was shivering from the 23-degree weather, and the fleeting yet frequent breeze that carried the stench of alcohol and tobacco only exacerbated my plight.
After waiting for about 15 minutes, we were allowed to enter. The venue itself was rather small. My estimates say its capacity was no more than 200 people. A few long-haired men were practicing their headbanging while waiting for the show to begin. The band Daylight Black was billed to open for The Iron Maidens, and they took the stage at around 9. They performed some Metallica songs, like “Fade to Black” and “Master of Puppets,” and Slayer’s “Seasons in the Abyss.”
They played their hearts out, and tried their best to connect with the crowd and initiate some moshing. The vocalist’s singing style eschewed the gruff assertiveness required for thrash metal songs, and instead employed more high notes and belting reminiscent of Bruce Dickinson, singer of Iron Maiden. If I’m being honest, this did not mesh well with those songs.
My other complaint — and this is mostly because I’m a Metallica nerd — is that their guitarists did not downpick on “Master of Puppets.” This song is the holy grail of the downpicking technique, where the guitarist only uses downstrokes to pluck the string. Instead alternate-picked — using both downstrokes and upstrokes — the whole thing. This makes it easier to play, but it’s also blasphemous, at least to me. Overall, however, they were a lot of fun to watch.
Once Daylight Black was done, there was some downtime so the sound and amps could set up. This allowed the stern-faced folks to grab some new bottles of beer, and caused some reshuffling of the crowd.
Some 15 minutes later, Iron Maidens finally hit the stage. They opened with “The Wicker Man” — a song featuring some great melodic riffs and sing-along moments.
The vocalist, who goes by the stage name Bruce Chickinson — a play on the name of Iron Maiden’s vocalist, Bruce Dickinson — was pumped up during the whole show. When she asked for a scream, the crowd screamed. When she asked for some singing, the crowd sang. She was in control the entire time.
Guitarist Courtney Cox blazed through the songs effortlessly. She made frequent eye contact with people in the crowd and made goofy faces while her fingers were busy setting her fretboard on fire. Her pinch harmonics were full and loud, and her solos would have made Iron Maiden’s guitarist, Adrian Smith, proud.
The second guitarist, Nikki Stringfield, was just as good. Her guitar tone roared through the venue and gave more power to the riffs she was playing. She demonstrated an enviable mastery of her instrument and had an amazing stage presence.
Bassist Wanda Ortiz handled her task perfectly. Drummer Linda McDonald seemed like the happiest person on earth. She was always talking and laughing with her bandmates while beating the drums like a busted printer. They were all clearly having fun doing what they love.
Standout songs from their setlist include “Wasted Years,” “2 Minutes to Midnight,” and “Number of the Beast.” During “Number of the Beast,” someone from the band’s crew came onstage wearing a devil costume. It was a nice touch and drew loud cheers from the crowd.
Overall, this was an amazing show. It was a very feel-good event and it has got me looking forward to The Iron Maidens’ next visit to Rochester.