A few months ago my weekly email from Pledge Music featured a documentary about Bruce Dickinson's 1994 concert in Sarajevo. I didn't worry too much about what the film was, Bruce was involved so I click the button to support the project. The DVD arrived a couple of weeks ago and I finally had time to watch it tonight. If you are a student of history doing a "wait, what" at the juxtaposition of 1994 Sarajevo and concert you probably want to see this documentary. If you are a metalhead you'll want to watch this film, although an appreciation of metal is not at all required to enjoy this. This is a story about people, and music, but not really about metal.
In 1994, Bruce got a call from a UN official that thought a rock concert would be a good thing for the citizens of besieged Sarajevo. Bruce, being only vaguely aware of the gravity of the situation there, said sure!
This film is the story of that concert. I'm not exaggerating to say the entire band was in danger of immediate death by being there, and the few hundred fans that got word of the show risked death venturing out to see the show. The city was under a literal siege by Serbian forces, with snipers picking off anything that moved. Pretty much every building in the city had suffered at least some damage by shells. They couldn't really publicize the show because a gathering of hundreds of Bosnians would have most definitely attracted a few incoming shells.
It's part Ken Burns style war documentary, featuring a lot of subtitled interviews from folks that were in Sarajevo at that time and at the show, and part Spinal Tap inspired adventure story of a rock band deciding to go through with a metal concert literally on the front lines of a civil war. But mostly it's a story about the power of music to help people endure even the worst circumstances.
It's also a testament to the eternal coolness of Bruce Dickinson. In 1994 he was the recently departed lead singer of Iron Maiden just coming off a world tour to support his solo record. He didn't need this show. He could have backed out and nobody would have blinked. Instead, when UN helicopters were canceled, he hitched a ride in the back of a humanitarian organization's truck to get to Sarajevo.
Bruce didn't need this show, but it seems as though he understood that Sarajevo did need the show. So the show must go on, and it did. Snipers and shells be damned.