Less rock, more talk Singer Bruce Dickinson’s spoken-word show takes audience on a journey, but it’s no Maiden voyage
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/03/2022 (373 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Bruce Dickinson’s got a lot on his mind, not the least of which are his rock and roll trousers.
An evening with Bruce Dickinson
● Sunday, 7:30 p.m.
● Burton Cummings Theatre, 364 Smith St.
● Tickets from $48.25 via Ticketmaster
The long-haired, 63-year-old Brit is best known as the frontman for heavy metal icons Iron Maiden, but he is no one-trick pony — Dickinson is a polymath if there ever were one. In addition to being able to belt out hits such as Run to the Hills, The Trooper and Aces High across four octaves with the multimillion-selling Iron Maiden, Dickinson is a competitive fencer, podcaster, pilot and aviation buff, brewer, bestselling author and much, much more.
Dickinson brings his one-man spoken-word show to the Burton Cummings Theatre on Sunday as part of the last leg of his lengthy solo tour, which started in January in Florida and winds up March 30 in Kitchener, Ont.
And while Dickinson’s current show doesn’t deliver the blazing guitars and big pyrotechnics of an Iron Maiden arena show, it’s by no means a leisurely walk in the park.
“It’s hard work — it’s three hours, three hours of just you,” says Dickinson from Vancouver by video call prior to starting the Canadian leg of his 43-date tour. “It’s just me and an audience who will eat you for breakfast if you suddenly go, ‘Oh, I can’t think of what to say next.’”
The chatty, animated Dickinson needn’t worry about that. His current show, which has been garnering plenty of positive reviews, is split into two parts. The first portion of the evening features off-the-cuff recollections of all aspects of Dickinson’s life, told chronologically from childhood through to fronting one of the world’s biggest heavy metal bands, his solo records, a bout with cancer and more.
The idea for the show stemmed from events he did in support of his 2017 memoir What Does This Button Do?. With the pandemic postponing Maiden’s 2021 Legacy of the Beast tour, Dickinson decided to revisit the idea of doing solo spoken-word performances in theatres and concert halls throughout North America.
During the first half of the show Dickinson regales crowd with his boisterous, often hilarious and unscripted recollections of his life, feeding off the crowd’s energy to try and figure out where to go next.
“Any kind of performance that’s got 85 per cent comedic element to it is going to change from moment to moment,” he says. “Suddenly you get somebody in the third row having a heart attack laughing — that changes that dynamic of the show.”
Dickinson never seems to take things too seriously, including his time as Iron Maiden’s frontman. “You’re looking at your life through these ridiculous glasses. You’re going, ‘Yeah, OK, OK… most of the time we’re serious about this, but let’s face it, guys — take a look at those trousers.”
Another topic that’s not off limits for Dickinson — and one he treats with the same levity, insight and humour as everything else in the show — is the throat cancer diagnosis he received in 2014, and for which he underwent treatment the following year.
“Even in the dark places, you know… you can go to the dark place and suddenly it’s, ‘Oh look — I’ve just found a watch! Somebody lost their watch the dark place!’” he says with a laugh. “I like to talk about it in that way because it’s my cancer. You know, I own it; I made it early on as the manufacturer… I could do an entire show about cancer, but I tend to keep it to about 10 minutes.”
The second portion of the show sees Dickinson pore through questions submitted by fans on cue cards — and again, no topic is off limits. And while there are plenty of questions about his work with Iron Maiden, he’s found he ends up fielding nearly as many questions about his time in the sky.
Dickinson is a licensed commercial pilot who worked for years for British Airways and other airlines, and has even flown Iron Maiden’s Ed Force One, a Boeing 747 jumbo jet, on various legs of their tours.
“I get a lot of questions about flying and airplanes, which surprised me,” says Dickinson. “Maybe there’s a crossover with people who love the Maiden stuff and are also closet aviation fans or whatever.”
Those who aren’t diehard metal-heads shouldn’t be dissuaded from hearing what Dickinson has to say — which, even in a brief but animated Zoom interview, is quite a lot.
“If you’re a Maiden fan, you’re gonna love it. But if you’re not a Maiden fan, it’s just a great night out,” says Dickinson. “I mean, the words ‘Iron Maiden’ don’t get mentioned until 50 minutes into the show. At the beginning of the show, it’s all talking about life.”
For Dickinson, “life” after the solo tour is quite stacked. He plans to return to Los Angeles to finish up another solo record before hitting rehearsals for a big European tour this summer with Iron Maiden.
“Basically the rest of the year is full-on, full-on Maiden, which is going to be brilliant. After three years of not being allowed to do whatever, it’s gonna be fantastic… they’re greasing up the trousers for me as we speak.”
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Literary editor, drinks writer
Ben Sigurdson edits the Free Press books section, and also writes about wine, beer and spirits.