The rock documentary – everywhere you look it seems as though someone is doing one. Why? Unlike the old days, when these were strictly straight to video, fan only affairs the modern rockumentary plays in cinemas to audiences across the board and to critical acclaim. To make that leap, however, there needs to be a significant story behind the music and of late it’s been heavy metal that has provided the best tales.
So now, on the heels of Metallica and Anvil – opposite ends of the spectrum success wise, if not musically – come perhaps the biggest hitters in the metal world. Iron Maiden have been doing this long enough to find themselves in and out of favour on more than a few occasions but 2009 sees them more popular than ever as a live draw and making their best records for years. Time, then, to bring out the film crew.
There was good reason however, a story to be told. For the first leg of their ‘Somewhere Back In Time’ world tour the band, crew and gear took to travelling in their own Boeing 757, Ed Force One, piloted by Bruce Dickinson himself. Aside from providing good news copy it enabled the band to get to places and audiences that had long been out of reach. Sensibly, once the initial novelty of such a mode of transport has worn off it becomes the backdrop to the movie, which instead concentrates on life off, on and in front of the stage.
Those looking for the kind of drama / comedy of other movies will be found wanting. Once they settle into their routine of gigs, tennis and golf, the Maidens are a likeable but steady bunch, with their years of mayhem firmly behind them. Now it’s their daughters who provide the female company on tour. The real interest comes from the band’s manic fan base in countries such as India, Brazil, Australia and other places that the band haven’t visited for some time. To witness the audience in Chile, where listening to heavy metal is still seen as a sinister act of rebellion, is to appreciate just how much this particular band still matters to so many people.
Iron Maiden themselves respond with a series of stunningly shot (as with everything they do, Flight 666 is of the highest quality), epic performances of some of their greatest moments. With a set drawn almost totally on their eighties heyday it would be hard to fail but to see them still attack these songs – many of which they hadn’t played live for twenty years – with gusto is quite something, even if they do need oxygen breaks. One for the fans more than the casual observer it may be, but Flight 666 is still a work of art.