Sunday 17 November 2019

147 - the number of the break for Iron Maiden's world snooker superfan

Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain in the audience before the start of the final during day sixteen of the Betfred World Championships at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield.
Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain in the audience before the start of the final during day sixteen of the Betfred World Championships at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield.

By Kerri-Ann Roper

The singer has revealed how he’s taking time out of the band’s world tour to attend the snooker World Championship final in Sheffield.

British heavy metal giants Iron Maiden will take a breather from a hectic world tour this weekend – because their drummer could not bear missing snooker’s World Championship final.

The band, fronted by Bruce Dickinson, are playing a series of shows in Germany, before hitting the UK for a run of dates that finishes with two nights at the O2 Arena in London on May 27 and 28.

They then head out to North America to play the biggest indoor arenas in the United States and Canada.

But the German jaunt had to be planned around the biggest match of the snooker season, because veteran sticksman Nicko McBrain could not countenance missing his sporting highlight of the year.

The 64-year-old told band manager Rod Smallwood it was a non-negotiable stipulation that he should be able to make it to the Crucible in Sheffield, and all stops are being pulled out to make that happen.

On Saturday night, Iron Maiden play Frankfurt’s Festhalle, and on Tuesday evening they take the stage at the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, their final show of the Germany tour.

Between those concerts, London-born Nicko will make a whistle-stop trip to Sheffield and back for the two-day snooker showpiece.

“My manager said to us last year when we were halfway through our tour that we’d be doing a three-month jaunt this year to finish off – with a British tour and a proper American tour and a handful of European shows,” said Nicko.

“I said, ‘Well, all right mate, there’s one condition: I have to have the bank holiday weekend off – the Sunday and Monday’.

“He moaned at me a little bit and said, ‘Let me think about it’. But bless his heart, true to his word, Rod arranged that we’d have a gig Saturday night in Germany, and I’m going to fly back Saturday after the show to Luton.

“I’ve got a car picking me up and driving me up to the hotel round the corner from the Crucible. Then I’m staying Sunday and Monday and I have to get back out for our last European shows on the Tuesday. So I’ll have to leave early morning on the Tuesday which might be a bit of a chore.”

Iron Maiden’s latest release, 2015′s The Book of Souls, went to number one in 24 countries, and the band have sold close to 100 million albums since forming in the mid-1970s.

Nicko, who joined the band in 1982, could be heading back to join the tour just as the snooker after-party – the Champion’s Ball – swings into life.

Three years ago he commandeered the drum kit of the party band and accompanied new champion Mark Selby as he sang REM’s Losing My Religion.

Florida-based Nicko considers his previous Crucible visits, in 2014 and 2015, as among the greatest privileges that celebrity status have brought him.

“It was a stunning experience for me, and to be in the inner sanctum was even more special,” he told the Press Association.

“Snooker is in our DNA as British people. Stephen Fry’s a massive fan.

“I know Ronnie (Wood, of the Rolling Stones) likes to have a snooker table with him when they go on tour. He’s a massive fan.

“Everyone I know who’s a snooker fan says to me, ‘Oh you lucky bastard, you’ve been twice’. It is an honour.”

PA Media

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