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    Power Trip: Guns N’ Roses, Iron Maiden kick things off in the desert
    • October 7, 2023

    Thousands of rock and heavy metal music fans descended upon the Empire Polo Club in Indio on Friday, Oct. 6 to come together for the first-ever Power Trip.

    The three-day celebration of the genres began with marathon sets from English heavy metal band Iron Maiden and Los Angeles-based rock band Guns N’ Roses. Next up over the weekend will be Judas Priest and AC/DC on Saturday, Oct. 7 and Metallica and Tool on Oct. 8.

    ALSO SEE: Power Trip bassists weigh in on the rock and metal event before it hits Indio

    For the first day, the fans ventured onto the festival grounds early as gates opened at 4 p.m., the peak heat of the day when temperatures were just about 100 degrees. It was a scorcher, but that didn’t stop the die-hards who were mostly clad in black shirts — some of which had seriously faded to gray with age that displayed both Guns N’ Roses and Iron Maiden’s previous tours from years or even decades before — from showing up to party with thousands of their new friends.

    “The whole world is here,” Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson said during his set.

    In just chatting with fans that smooshed into the massive pit area directly in front of the stage on Friday night, we met people who had made the pilgrimage from the United Kingdom, Canada, Brazil and Mexico, just to come to Power Trip. Guests explored the festival grounds, after navigating a horrific traffic flow that caused Maiden to postpone its set by about 15 minutes to allow more people into the event, or at least that’s what Dickinson blamed for their tardiness.

    Some people went a bit too hard too early and underestimated the power of the blazing sun and were spotted “napping” in the grass as their buddies stood guard, or took some passed-out selfies with them in between the two acts. Though there are just two bands playing each day, this is still a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a long day and very late evening.

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    Maiden played for two hours, delivering mostly the same set from its latest The Future Past Tour. The outing has included songs from the band’s newest album, “Senjutsu” with “The Writing on the Wall,” “The Time Machine” and “Death of the Celts” and its 1986 “Somewhere In Time” record with “Wasted Years,” “Heaven Can Wait” and “Alexander The Great.”

    This is a mighty, mighty band with players that deliver mind-blowing sounds as guitarists Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers absolutely just shred while Steve Harris stomps around the stage, holding it down on bass and drummer Nicko McBrain sets the pace back on his massive drumkit.

    But for Power Trip, the set seemed a bit lackluster compared to other Maiden turns through the years in Southern California. It felt like this audience wanted a more all-killer, no-filler type of set as fans responded the most to the sprinkled in hits including “Fear of the Dark,” “Iron Maiden,” “The Prisoner” and “The Trooper.” It also wasn’t as big of a theatrical spectacle as Maiden is known for, but we did get a brief firepower battle between Dickinson and the band’s towering mascot, Eddie, and a bunch of fireball pyro in the encore.

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    Power Trip bassists weigh in on the rock and metal event before it hits Indio

    Dickinson is a powerhouse vocalist and showcased his range throughout the evening, seemingly conjuring up energy in the crowd as he swirled his arms around as if casting a spell and repeating “Scream for me, Indio!” louder and louder until fans were running out of breath. In the end, he said “We’ll see all of you again,” as he scanned the crowd and teasingly added, “Make of that what you will.”

    Well, we didn’t see Maiden again at Power Trip as everyone took an extended break in between acts as Guns N’ Roses was as fashionably late as ever — by about 35 minutes. The group hit the stage at 10 p.m. and played a three-hour set that had vocalist Axl Rose wailing out the final notes of “Paradise City” in time to make the curfew cutoff at 1 a.m., as some ill-timed fireworks blasted into the sky in nearly total silence as the song had ended almost an entire minute before the celebratory blasts began.

    By 1 a.m. more than half of the crowd had cleared out either to beat a mass exodus and to escape the traffic nightmare that had greeted them at the start of the day or because the median age of this particular audience appeared to be about 50 and a three-hour set with far too many lulls was asking a bit much. It was also true that the number of Iron Maiden T-shirts worn on this day outnumbered the GNR threads by about 10:1.

    Guns N’ Roses’ set was a rollercoaster that could have been edited down by a solid 30 minutes. Did we need to hear “Chinese Democracy” and a cover of Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman”? Probably not. Hearing bassist Duff McKagan belt out The Stooges’ “T.V. Eye” was fun and listening to the band rip through Velvet Revolver’s “Slither” got the pit stirring.

    But the set was just filled with highs and lows and odd song choices that they’ve been doing out on the road that prompted one female fan in the pit to just yell “I don’t understand what’s going on” as she had been rockin’ out one minute and forced into a break the next during yet another solo. Same, girl, same.

    Just as the momentum would build and the crowd would get fired up, another slower song or too long of a solo would hit. Look, Slash is an amazing guitarist and it’s mesmerizing to watch his fingers fly up and down those strings, but there were a lot of those moments here.

    It also felt like Rose’s vocals were going to give out at any second. He was singing super high on a lot of songs and he’d also get very quiet on certain verses midway through the set which was worrisome. But shockingly, near the end of the show is when he sounded his absolute best. He soared through the band’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” was an expert whistler on “Patience” and ripped through “Coma” and “Nightrain.”

    Power Trip

    With: Iron Maiden and Guns N’ Roses

    When: Friday, Oct. 6

    Where: Empire Polo Club, Indio

    ​ Orange County Register