Iron Maiden’s final Ozzfest 2005 performance was nothing if not memorable — and is likely the last time the band will appear as part of the perennial summer package tour. The thousands of heavy metal fans who filled Devore, California’s Hyundai Pavilion of Glen Helen on Saturday witnessed one of the more bizarre moments in the festival’s 10-year history — which is saying quite a lot.
According to The Orange County Register, Iron Maiden’s closing set was preceded by a voice chanting, “Ozzy, Ozzy, Ozzy,” over the venue’s public address system — ostensibly a call for the audience to start yelling the name of the tour’s inspirational force, Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne, who recently announced that this year would be his last headlining the festival (see “Ozzy Retires As Ozzfest Headliner: ‘It’s Time For Me To Move On’ “ ).
Maiden then took the Ozzfest stage, and that’s when things got out of hand. Not long into the band’s performance, which opened with “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” several members of the crowd bombarded the British metal icons with eggs, bottle caps and ice. Frontman Bruce Dickinson reportedly urged audience members to break the arms of the egg-hurling delinquents.
During Maiden’s next song, “The Trooper,” the paper reports that Dickinson emerged onstage waving the British flag — as he’s always done when the group plays the number. Toward the end of the song, a man brandishing an American flag appeared from stage left, wearing a shirt emblazoned with the phrase “Don’t f— with Ozzy.” He started waving his flag toward the front of the stage, but was eventually hurried off by members of the Maiden camp.
During significant moments of three of Iron Maiden’s songs (“Run to the Hills,” “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “Number of the Beast”), the P.A. system was switched off, cutting power to Dickinson’s microphone and the band’s instruments. In audio captured during the concert and posted on various online metal forums, one can hear Dickinson accusing the festival’s organizers of deliberately cutting off the band’s power. He also wondered how anyone could sneak cartons of eggs past Ozzfest’s security, insinuating that the offense was a premeditated assault organized by insiders. Dickinson also continued to blast Osbourne, saying fans would never see his band featured “in a reality show,” presumably a reference to the MTV series “The Osbournes” and “Battle for Ozzfest.”
Maiden persevered, delivering a thunderous 60-minute set, the Register reports. Their departure was followed by an onstage appearance by Ozzfest founder and the Ozzman’s better half, Sharon Osbourne. She told the audience that, while she “absolutely loved [the rest of] Iron Maiden and their crew,” Dickinson was “a pr— and had disrespected Ozzfest since they began their stint with the tour.” Her words were met with incessant booing, and she walked off the stage.
The night ended, as most Ozzfest nights do, with a set from Black Sabbath (see “Sabbath, Maiden Defend Metal Legacies At First Ozzfest Stop” ).
Iron Maiden’s departure from the tour was prearranged from the get-go; prior touring commitments prevented the band from performing the festival’s last seven dates, and Velvet Revolver were recruited to take their vacant Ozzfest slot for the remainder of the trek (see “Velvet Revolver Added To Ozzfest Lineup” ).
On Sunday evening, the official Ozzfest Web site posted a statement that read, in part, “Iron Maiden were chosen for the Ozzfest tour because the Ozzfest committee felt they were a good band, plus the fact that they had not done shows in the U.S. for some time. From day one, Bruce Dickinson started berating Ozzy and belittling the Ozzfest audience. He stated he ‘didn’t need a reality show to give him credibility;’ ‘We’re not just some f—ing reunion band;’ and continuously complained about the sound system, saying that when he comes back to America, he’ll have a better one. I understand he hasn’t toured in the U.S. in these size venues in a while and no longer understands the political structure of things. Out of 200-plus bands over the last 10 years, he has been the only person who hasn’t had the Ozzfest spirit. He thought he was at a battle of the bands, always making other comments about the other artists.
“Might I say, the rest of the band are gentlemen and have a great professional attitude,” the statement continues. “The crew [is] absolutely great. But how sad it was, after 10 years, that this little man tried to ruin it for everyone. The bands of Ozzfest don’t even look at Ozzfest as touring, but as its heavy metal summer camp. Bruce is in fact a jealous pr— and very envious. None of his tirades were directed at Sabbath, only Ozzy. Steve Harris [Maiden's bassist] personally came to Ozzy in San Bernardino and apologized for Bruce’s behavior this summer, stating that he and the rest of the band were ‘embarrassed’ by their own singer.”
Also on Sunday, a statement from Iron Maiden was posted on that band’s Web site: “Iron Maiden wish to thank all the 45,000 metal fans at Ozzfest in San Bernardino on Saturday night for sticking with us and giving us such a great response at the end of a difficult set. It was obvious to all there that we had a ‘series of unfortunate events’ throughout. These made it difficult for us to keep our momentum but your incredible support certainly helped us get through it. We guess it all adds up to a pretty memorable gig though. You fans pay very good money to be there and deserve to get a full and unhindered performance from all the bands. This was not the case last night.”