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Live Concert Reviews

House of Blues, 9/16 Chicago

By Joey Germ

Published in RW #10, 1998

Bruce Dickinson
This horrible-looking photo of Bruce is in the public domain.

Now and then the phone will ring here at the office and sometimes, when it's not a bill collector or a telemarketer or Muggsy McMurphy's old lady calling in sick for him, it'll be someone from a record label wanting to know if anybody around here is interested in reviewing any of their bands' shows when they're in town. These bands seem to play mostly at places like the Dome Room. Due to a general lack of interest among the staff and the mediocrity of the bands themselves, we usually decline such invitations. That was until I got invited to see Bruce Dickinson at the House of Blues.

I had kind of unofficially vowed never to set foot in the H.O.B. Sure, I had heard the rumors of its intimate atmosphere which provided for an excellent place to see live music: small, yet big, best sound system money can be thrown at, etc, etc., but somehow the whole thing just smacked of a corporate motif—the whole House of Blues concept just reeked of money and drunk, white businessmen. But this is Bruce "Run to the Hills" Dickinson we're talkin' about here, former singer for the Heavy Metal Rock Outfit, Iron Maiden. If ever I had to make an exception to a self-imposed rule this was the time. I had driven three hours in a Duster (or was it a Chevy Nova?) to see Iron Maiden back in '88 when Seventh Son of a Seventh Son hit the bins and I'll be damned if I couldn't spend twenty minutes on the Clark Street bus to see what Bruce was passing off as spectacle these days. I thought maybe, at the very least, Eddie would make an appearance. You remember Eddie? The skeleton guy, two hundred foot party dude that would rise from the back of the stage of Iron Maiden shows and mechanically grab shit and look scary but really fuckin' cool and was on all of Maiden's album covers...yeah, you know who I'm talkin' about, fuckin' Eddie! Besides, there was one sad and lost kid kickin' around the Wiglar offices who hadn't had his head banged in quite a long while. I invited Malcolm Tent to go with me.

The House of Blues lived up to my expectations, with its closed circuit TVs, yuppie bar, suit-and-tie contrived atmosphere, dozens of emotionless employee work drones–to say that these people were friendly and helpful would be absolutely ridiculous. I will cut 'em some slack though, a Bruce Dickinson crowd can get pretty ugly–hell, they come in ugly.

I tried to tell several different employees, who looked like they held some office of authority, if even just a little bit, that I was on the guest list. They suppressed interest and each one pointed in the direction of another employee I could ask. I saw a guy sitting behind a podium and figured, fuck it, this guy gets to sit behind a podium he's got to know something. There's got to be some kind of responsibility that goes with that seat. Nope.

After wandering around like an idiot for several minutes, I found the "will call" window and shouted over the sound of Bruce to the woman inside. "I think I'm on the guest list for tonight's show," Well, I'll spare you a transcript of the various pleasantries that ensued, but to make a long, nightmarish story short; not only was I not on the guest list for the show, there was no guest list for the show. Did I make a scene? Hell no. Out of respect for Bruce, I accepted the situation immediately and quickly focused my thoughts on what to do in regards to the "Malcolm Situation." I knew that upon hearing this tragic news Malcolm would go apeshit.

I saw the poor guy standing over at the far corner of the lobby hypnotized by a closed circuit TV monitor, staring with mouth open wide. Bruce was there on the screen "workin' it" in a significantly smaller space than he had enjoyed back in the arena days of the 80s. There was no room for light gymnastics or fencing parleys in this House of Blues.

"When can we go upstairs?" he whispered loudly, never blinking or removing his eyes from tiny Bruce on the television screen.

"In a minute, buddy, I just gotta use the can, then we'll go up and watch Bruce kick some ass. Okay, pal?"

"Okay, dude," was his reply. "Oh and dude, thanks for inviting me. This rocks."

"No problem, dude."

Five minutes later I was on a northbound Clark 22 and twenty minutes after that I was putting down a pitcher of Bud Light in some bar off Belmont feeling guilty for the smile that crept to my face when I thought about what kind of scene Malcolm was creating for House of Blues Security at that very moment. It's sad though when you think about it, but what are you gonna do? Fuck the House of Blues, anyway.

More Live Reviews:

Pearl Jam
Van Halen

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