October 26th was a very nice autumn evening in Zagreb, maybe a bit warm for my taste. All sorts of people were found in front of the Vatroslav Lisinski concert hall. Young and old, with fashion styles all over the shop, they all gathered for one reason. They all wanted to see that one man, one of the most charismatic and awesome people of today. He’s a musician, a pilot, an airline owner, a history teacher, a fencer, a beer-maker, a motivational speaker, philanthropist, and above all, the vocalist of the best heavy metal band in history. We’re talking about, of course, the one and only, Bruce Dickinson, here to promote his autobiography „What does this button do“.
It’s quite impossible for me to fit all three and a half hours of this presentation in just a few blocks of text. We’re talking about his entire life here, starting from the early days which he spent with his grandfather and his grandfather’s brother, his school days, first trouble with the authority, first band, first record with Samson, all the way, of course, to his tenure with Iron Maiden. As you can see, that’s a whole lot and it would take forever. So, instead I’ll try and convey just what this whole experience meant to me.
When you hear Bruce speak like he did, completely open and sincere, you start to realise why he is what he is. His brutal honesty, his determination to abide by his own rules, and his refusal to accept failure are what made him so great. He spoke about his first serious band, Samson, but he also spoke about the worst times, his struggle with throat cancer. Self pity, he said, doesn’t do anything, it can only make things worse. There’s always a solution, and if you can’t to it this way, then you can try that way. Always keep trying, because if you stop, then it’s all over. My interpretation at least, and yes, I do think it’s great advice and great motivation. Well, that shouldn’t come across as surprising, given what I mentioned a few lines before.
His presentation would from time to time, be paused by enormous applause from the packed venue. The crowd was moved the most when he mentioned that legendary concert in war-torn Sarajevo in 1994. His very good use of the old British humour further entertained the audience, especially when he gave his opinion on the current British political establishment, and his own political views as well. He said it’s basically rock’n’roll for the uglies. Stop for a moment and imagine our political elite in this framework and yeah, I’m pretty sure he’s on to something!
After a 10-minute break, he returned to the stage for some Q&A from the audience. At the beginning of the event, you could write down your question for him and put it in a box. Later on he would draw from the box. I was of course hoping he’d do my friend’s humble request „could you do SCREAM FOR ME RIJEKA!“ wow that would have been cool, right. But anyways, I have to admit there were really good questions and even better answers. We found out that one of the best feelings for him is when he boards one of those famous double decker busses and sit on the first seat on the upper deck, where you can have the best view of London.
He was also asked if he ever felt like a homeless person during his life and career. And he said, and that was really one of the most inspiring things I ever heard, that there’s a very fine line between „homeless“ and „hopeless“ and there’s a reason why those two words are so similar. He continued by acknowledging he was indeed without home a few times, but he never lost hope and it was that attitude that made him what he is today.
To the delight of all fans, me included, he confirmed he was working on a new solo album. He said it wouldn’t be released within a year, but there’s enough material and it will be released when it’s time.
To close things, he performed „Revelations“ a-capella, making use of the top notch acoustics of the venue. After a standing ovations, he bowed and disappeared from the stage just as quickly as he appeared.
Walking out of the venue, I spoke to people, wondering what was their experience. Everyone was happy to have been here. Truly a great man, yet he remains humble and normal. Thank you, Bruce!