I was sitting in the departure lounge at Juan Santamaría International Airport with Costa Rica’s leading daily newspaper, La Nación, spread across my knees. The front page headline declared that drops in the price of food and transport had managed to check inflation at 12.75 percent over the last twelve months. The bottom of the page was taken up by a photo from the night before of Iron Maiden’s lead singer Bruce Dickinson saying, “Scream for me, Costa Rica,” before the band launched into “2 Minutes to Midnight.” Their “Somewhere Back in Time” world tour, which began way back on February 1, 2008, and will end this month, brought them to the Switzerland of Central America for the second time. (The initial date had been 371 days ago, just after the tour opened.) The huge crowd at Alejandro Morera Soto Stadium, in Alajuela, included the likes of Jorge Salazar, one of at least 250 fans who had come all the way from El Salvador by bus, a 24-hour journey through Honduras and Nicaragua. “It was worth the trouble,” he said.
My gaze drifted from the paper to the airport’s runway just as a Boeing 757 lifted its nose into the air and thundered away. “Ed Force One” bore the Iron Maiden logo on the forward part of the fuselage, and the tail was painted with the band’s mummy mascot, Ed. I’m used to seeing the gaudily arrayed buses of touring artists and the tractor-trailer rigs of NASCAR or other racing teams, but this massive jet with a mummy on its tail was a first.
Little did I know that Bruce Dickinson had exchanged his torn camo vest and cordless mike of the night before, put on an airline pilot’s neat uniform, and received clearance for takeoff. The lead singer is also the captain and was delivering his band to its next date: last night they rocked Caracas. Today Iron Maiden takes off for Bogotá and will play Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Chile, and Argentina before wrapping up “Somewhere Back in Time” in Fort Lauderdale on April 2. Besides the custom paintwork, “Ed Force One” is modified to carry 12 tons of cargo and 60 passengers, so the band has an unusual degree of autonomy.
Why can’t I imagine Bono doing this?