Bruce Dickinson – What Does This Button Do?
Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW
October 18th, 2018
The spoken word concept is something that has been growing in momentum in heavy metal circles. We all know that this started with the eloquent and intense Mr. Henry Rollins about fifteen years ago, but recently a number of the genre’s stalwarts have joined in on the concept, and we recently had Scott Ian from Anthrax complete a successful tour last month (our review here), and the one and only Dee Snider from Twisted Sister, will be gracing our shores early in 2019 under the same banner.
So where does Bruce Dickinson fit in to this? Well, I really don’t need to list the plethora of this man’s achievements, both within and outside of Iron Maiden and the metal genre. Bruce’s life and achievements have been appraised for years, and let’s be honest, we all know he is currently the best front man in metal; just sayin. His life has recently been exposed in his autobiography What Does this Button Do? Now, a music icon releasing an autobiography is nothing new, let’s be honest, however, in this instance the account has been written whilst on tour on little pieces of handwritten paper and teased out, appraised and edited by a writing partner, and the tone of this is quite evident in the reading. The other refreshing aspect of this book is the fact that it doesn’t have anything at all to do with personal life, but solely career; imagine how short Motley Crue’s Dirt would have been without personal stories. Having said this, it isn’t the best autobiography that I have read, but that’s for another article.
So tonight Bruce is taking his audience through a number of episodes in his life in the spoken word medium. Ultimately we have a promotion of his book, and every ticket holder received a signed copy tonight, but the audience is not concerned about this, they are just happy to listen to Bruce. Obviously the audience has a slice of the metal fraternity, however, there is quite different elements to the people present, and I see a lot of families and even some suits creeping in to the scene; which isn’t a bad thing.
The evening was split into two sessions with a short interval and initially Bruce came out and spoke of school, expulsion, initial bands (namely Samson) and his initial timing in Iron Maiden, obviously amongst other topics. He had the audience in his hand from the get-go and I don’t think it would have mattered what his subject matter was tonight, people were just happy to see the man in the flesh, and in a different medium. In this first session what struck me in his conversation was his ability to adlib and move with the audience. Now let’s be honest, he is no stranger to working a crowd, however, this is quite a different medium. He worked the jokes, some with contextual significance, in particular ball tampering and Australian cricket, and he quietened the intellectually challenged Australian hecklers with razor sharp proficiency. The first “act,” just over seventy five minutes, actually flew by, a good sign, and evidence that he had everyone engaged.
The second session was essentially Bruce answering audience questions. Before the show, when people picked up their signed book, they had the option of writing out a question and placing it in a box. So Bruce answered a number of these questions and moved off into tangents where appropriate. To be honest, he really didn’t lose any momentum between the two segments, which I thought he would have, he quite naturally just picked up the audience from where he left. The questions ranged from pertinent, insightful, to pretty stupid. Bruce navigated this with eloquent ease and gave each question the time it deserved. In many respects, because of this direct interaction with the audience, this was my favourite segment and it was really where he connected authentically with the audience. To finish off the show he read a segment about his cancer treatment, directly from his book. Even though he had a funny spin on his situation you could tell that this episode in his life has had a profound impact upon him, and rightly so. At the conclusion of this reading, he sincerely thanked his audience and was gone. A fitting way to end quite an informal and no-nonsense performance.
It really was an interesting evening and I don’t think anyone walked away feeling let down or cheated of the ticket price. Obviously, Bruce has been doing lectures and public speaking for some time, and this doesn’t include his “public speaking” whilst fronting Iron Maiden. I have had a fantastic night and I am looking forward to attending a few more dates on the tour and actually see if he moves away from tonight’s subject matter, or he keeps the shows consistent. One thing for me though, and this includes his book as well, is that he really has not addressed an aspect of his career that I feel is of the most interest, and that his initial leaving of Iron Maiden in the early nineties. A lot of emotion and script was thrown around the internet and the media at the time, especially during, and just after, the A Real Live Tour. But I think that the powers that be have tried to squash this era of the band’s history. I hope we get a true account of this from Bruce and Steve (Harris) someday.
If you haven’t purchased tickets as yet for this show, don’t miss it, this is a once in a life time evening with Bruce Dickinson, as I can’t see him doing this again in his career in Australia.
Review by Mark Snedden
Bruce Dickinson – What Does This Button Do?
Spoken Word Tour
Oct 19th @ Palais Theatre, Melb
Oct 21st @ Llewellyn Hall, Canberra
Oct 23 @ Civic Theatre, Newcastle
Oct 24 @ Eatons Hill Hotel, Bris