BRUCE DICKINSON @ The Pabst Theater – Milwaukee, WI

BRUCE DICKINSON @ The Pabst Theater – Milwaukee, WI

February 14, 2022

Review & Photos by David Urmanski

So it’s Valentine’s Day and you decided to spend this commercial celebration of love and romance as you had so many times before… offering confectionery and flowers to that special someone and spending quality time with your fellow lovebird over a meal and cuddling up to one of your favorite television shows drifting off into the night. Or, if you’re an unwed adult flying solo, you may have been more apt to spending a quiet evening at home alone or out with friends toasting to the single life while secretly contemplating whether or not you will ever find your soulmate. That would, without doubt, be a more traditional celebration of the romantic holiday on February 14th.

However, if you live within commuting distance of downtown Milwaukee and are one of the unique and incredibly loyal followers of the English heavy metal band, Iron Maiden, then you’ve most likely been planning to spend the evening with the larger-than-life musician, pilot and airline captain, aviation entrepreneur, beer brewer, motivational speaker, podcaster, film scriptwriter, best-selling author, radio presenter, TV actor, sports commentator and international fencer, Bruce Dickinson, at The Pabst Theater to listen to his fascinating tales and personal perspective of the world.

As Bruce so eloquently stated with regards to the start of what would be his first struggle with authority resulting in the story of his life, “I was quite happy in my mummy’s tummy, shit, piss, corruption, bright white lights, birth… terrible! I didn’t have to breathe, I didn’t have to feed myself. There I was and the fuckers dragged my out.” “I was not coming out no matter what” when jesting about how he wrapped his umbilical cord around his head before they dragged him out, slapped him around the head, and shoved a bright light in his face saying “welcome to the world”.

After entering the world, his young mother stated, “Ah, that’s fantastic!” and then ran off with Bruce’s father to join the circus for a couple years leaving Bruce behind to be raised by his blue-collar grandfather who had been a coal miner since he was 13 years old in the small market town of Worksop located in the East Midlands of England. His great uncle John lived in Worksop as well and was a Royal Air Force veteran during World War II. John was responsible for Bruce’s lifelong fascination with airplanes, rockets, space, airships and everything that flew.

Years thereafter, Bruce’s parents returned and yanked him off to the city of Sheffield where he attended a “special” English private school where Bruce was exposed to the political elite or, as Bruce exclaims, “politics… it’s rock n’ roll for ugly people.” Not wanting to be a politician, Bruce inquired why he had to go to a school that cost a fortune to attend with his parents explaining “because we don’t want you to have to work like we did. We want you to be a professional.” According to his parents, there was only one downside. It was a boarding school where Bruce wouldn’t see his parents for almost four years whereas Bruce quickly responded, “okay, I’ll do it.”

So off Bruce went to boarding school as the new kid when he was approached by another student who warned him “you must not join the choir.” Bruce hadn’t planned on it but, without hesitation, the boy explained further, “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday you do classes in the morning, you do sport in the afternoon, you do more classes in the evening and you don’t even have time to shit. But Sunday is yours!” With the exception of church in the morning, which you must attend or get beaten, the rest of the day was your own unless you were in the choir spending the remainder of the day singing God’s greatest hits and having to dress up “like a girl” while doing it. Another reason to avoid choir was that the choir master quite liked young boys who dressed up like young girls. But that was not the end of Bruce’s musical career and proved to be just a new beginning.

While Bruce was walking through the halls, there was a whole “smorgasbord of music” coming out from behind of all the different doors where each kid had their own stereo system. Then one day, Bruce was walking past a door and heard a noise coming from the room and asked himself, “wow, what’s that” so he knocked on the door and a senior opened the door and responded “What the fuck do you want?” Bruce asked, “What’s that band?” and the senior said, “It’s Deep Purple now fuck off” and shut the door.

Bruce immediately bought a third-hand copy of the Deep Purple In Rock album, already scratched to pieces, and played it to death. He was inspired and finally knew he wanted to be… a drummer. At that time, Bruce was a kinetic kid bouncing off the walls and drums appeared to be the musical equivalent of bouncing off the walls as Bruce equates to “kind of like tourettes for the soul.”

Next, Bruce stole a pair of bongos from the school music room and was determined to be “John Bonham on the bongos.” So he teamed up with one of his mates who had a guitar, another guy who could get half way through “Stairway to Heaven” and another buddy who made a bass guitar in the school wood shop and they started a band.

After pondering for a while on which song would be the first their band would play, they decided on “Let It Be” by the Beatles but needed to determine who would be the singer. So the bass player, Mike, announces he would be the singer since he was a classically trained vocalist. So after allowing Mike to sing through the first verse and chorus, one of the guitarists stepped in and told Bruce to “shut the fuck up on the bongos” as it was giving him a headache, while at the same time, Bruce’s hands were starting to bleed. It was at this time when the seed of an idea started germinating in Bruce. The lightbulb moment when Bruce stated, “If you can write shit like this and make millions, be a singer; not a drummer.” And, as they say, the rest is history.

As one of the most storied musicians, Bruce Dickinson has lived an extraordinary existence both on and offstage. The Monday evening spoken word performance was split into two parts with the first section of the show devoted to humorous stories and private insights into his unparalleled ambition as well as plenty of Maiden anecdotes to keep the metal maniacs satisfied.

The final section of the show was devoted to a Q&A session where Bruce responded to attendee’s questions to include “Do you have a favorite Maiden album that you did not sing on?” whereas Bruce responded, “Yes, I do actually… Killers. Great, great record and it was the first one produced by Martin Birch so there’s no surprise there. In fact, I was recording an album called Shock Tactics in the next door studio while Maiden was recording Killers.” “The late-great Martin Birch was a lovely English gentleman until he had a day off. In which case he would drink a lot and have a complete personality transformation and we called it Marvin. He would start doing bizarre things. When we did Number of the Beast, he decided at the end of the session, he would destroy the mixing desk physically.”

While not a traditional Valentine’s Day celebration by any means, Bruce’s alluring stories and whimsical delivery held the attention of the audience from the beginning until the very end. I don’t believe anyone in attendance would have wanted to spend the evening any other way than the intimate, up-close and personal show they experienced Monday evening at the Pabst Theater with a true icon in every sense of the word. Dickinson was amusing, captivating and highly entertaining and it proved to be an evening to remember in Milwaukee.