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That time Halifax hosted a heavy metal show (and nobody rioted)

The lead singers of Iron Maiden and Twisted Sister told a CBC reporter why concerned adults had nothing to worry about.

Iron Maiden/Twisted Sister bill was a metalhead's dream in 1984 but a nightmare for others

Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden and Dee Snider of Twisted Sister share their perspectives on their fans' behaviour. 3:04

When Iron Maiden came to the Halifax Metro Centre on the World Slavery tour in support of their album Powerslave in 1984, some Haligonians were nervous.

The British heavy metal band was touring with Twisted Sister, then riding high on the strength of their single We're Not Gonna Take It.

"What do today's young people really want?" asked earnest CBC reporter Melvin McLeod, introducing his piece on the concert.

"You wanna rock. You wanna rock," growled a young bearded man ahead of the show. Fans at the arena also waved a homemade Iron Maiden banner.

Fist-shaking rock...

"What [people] see is seven or 10 thousand young kids having a great time ... with a show delivers a lot of value for money," said Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson. (1st Edition/CBC Archives)

"It doesn't turn out to be much more complicated than that," said McLeod. "If you had gone to Saturday's show looking for some exotic or subversive youth culture, you'd have been disappointed."

Headbangers in leather jackets and denim vests could be seen shaking their fists as Iron Maiden performed.

Singer Bruce Dickinson was interviewed backstage in street clothes rather than the red leather pants, sleeveless animal-print T-shirt and studded belt he wore onstage.

Anyone who had seen an Iron Maiden show "expecting some sort of social curse ... that is going to corrupt the morals of their town" got something else instead, said Dickinson. 

"What they see is seven or 10,000 young kids — people, really, from 15 to 25 — having a great time enjoying themselves."

The cheers when he addressed them from the stage were confirmation of that.

"Good evening Halifax, how the hell are you tonight? All right!" he shouted into the mic as he stood with a foot on his monitor. "First time the Maiden's been to Halifax, Nova Scotia and it's not going to be the last at this rate."

The band then launched into their song The Trooper and fans were shown rocking out, with the CBC camera capturing one metalhead singing the lyrics and brandishing devil horns.  

... but no riot in Halifax

"Instead of punching somebody in the face ... they threw their fists in the air," said Twisted Sister front man Dee Snider, describing how fans behave at his shows. "Same energy's released, but nobody's hurt." (1st Edition/CBC Archives)

McLeod, who described the show's noise as "awe-inspiring," gave the show a generally positive review. 

"Iron Maiden and Twisted Sister seemed positively wholesome compared to Mick Jagger or Jim Morrison," he said.

And unlike the aftermath of an April Wine show four years earlier that had ended in chaos on the Dartmouth ferry, fans left peacefully — as one expert predicted.     

"Contrary to popular opinion, 10,000 kids aren't going to ruin Halifax tonight," said Twisted Sister lead singer Dee Snider backstage before the show. "They're going to go home and have a good night's sleep ... because they really enjoyed themselves."

'High on the devil's music'

A Dartmouth city councillor says fans of Iron Maiden and Twisted Sister are 'high on the devil's music.' 0:57

Earlier in the week, reporter Phil Forgeron interviewed Dartmouth alderman Eileen Stubbs, who had objections to the upcoming Metro Centre show.

"They're high on the devil's music," said Stubbs. "There's no doubt that Twisted Sister is sick."

She said she had received calls from "many parents" who were very concerned and "looking for some support."

No one wanted a repeat of the April Wine fiasco, when fans had done about $6,000 in damage to the Dartmouth ferry after a show in April 1980. 

To that end, Stubbs suggested enforcing security at the Metro Centre, with police dogs on hand to "sniff out the drugs."

Her other suggestion was to take the ferry out of service for the night. 

"If these kids had to walk the bridge, it might cool their heels awhile, and calm them down," she said.

In fact, said Forgeron, the ferry authority was planning to add a boat to service the route for the night.

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