Iron Maiden

Bruce Dickinson says Iron Maiden, cancer and a beer are part of his live one-man show

"An Evening With Bruce Dickinson" comes to the Balboa Theatre in San Diego Feb. 28 and The Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles March 1.

Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson has stories to tell.

Over the past three years, the heavy metal frontman has been developing a one-man show; he is currently on the road with his “An Evening With Bruce Dickinson” tour, which comes to Balboa Theater in San Diego on Feb. 28 and the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles March 1.

However, he’s not just telling tales about his four decades in Iron Maiden.

Wanting to present something a bit more unexpected, Dickinson said the overall theme of his solo show lies somewhere in between a quote he once gave about recovering from cancer, “Life is better than all the other options,” and the title of his 2017 autobiography, “What Does This Button Do?”

“That’s the show,” the 63-year-old musician said during a recent Zoom interview. “It’s a sideways look, an amusing look, at how the kid from the middle of nowhere ends up wearing the world’s most ridiculous trousers and singing for a well-known rock combo and along the way becomes an airline pilot, having cancer, doing fencing, meeting Johnny Cash and all kinds of things.”

Dickinson knows how to work a crowd – and not just one of Iron Maiden die-hards. He’s also an actor and does motivational speaking in the corporate world, so he feels comfortable on the stage, but for a one-man show he said he had to compose something significant because “I’m not a stand-up comedian.”

“I looked at some stand-up comics that I really admired, and I looked at the way they presented things,” he said. “I don’t tell jokes, but I do ad-libs and the occasional side gags, but the stories are the thrust of the show.”

He said he took a few notes watching a comedy special by Scottish comedian and actor Billy Connolly and quickly realized his own story didn’t need to be delivered in a boring and predictable chronological way.

“In the first hour and a half, you won’t hear the words “Iron Maiden” mentioned once,” he said of the three-hour show. “It’s all the build-up to sort of the crazy things like what happened in adolescence and the first time you smoked dope, and how ludicrous that was, and education, or lack thereof. And then it’s the world of Maiden with a twist and some really out there stories. It’s not like, ‘Oh then we went and made this amazing record.’ You can go read books about that stuff. What you want is the backstory, the color, the fun things, the crazy stories and I link that together with going into war zones and playing big shows, being a professional airline pilot for 12 years, and just when you thought it was over, here’s some stories about cancer.”

Dickinson was public about his battle and recovery from throat cancer a handful of years ago, though he said when he begins to mention it within the show, there are often gasps from the audience.

“Shortly after though, the audience is rolling around in the aisles laughing about cancer, and I can do that because I own it and it’s my cancer,” he said.

During a short intermission, fans are treated to a few slides and a screening of the band’s “The Writing on the Wall” video shown on a high-definition big screen. Meanwhile, Dickinson is backstage, checking out cards that audience members have filled out at the start of the show for an improvised Q&A finale. A question about his favorite “Monty Python” sketch may result in him reciting some memorable lines or a question may prompt him to bust out a song a cappella. He said he’s been impressed with the questions fans have come up with, though curiously, he said, they’ve been largely about his endeavors in aviation.

“Sometimes [the questions] are unwittingly funny and sometimes they’re really quite clever, which is so great,” he said.

Though some of his fans have brought young children to the show, Dickinson said this one really isn’t for the kids.

“There’s some quite risqué stories,” he admitted. “It’s a rude show, so don’t go if you don’t want to hear the f-word or the penis word because it’s peppered with things like that. It’s a simple show, really. It’s just me. It’s me, I have chair on which I never sit and a carpet and that’s it. Well, it’s me and a can of beer.”

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