When seeing a live band who are forty plus years into a career and all members are in and around their sixties, you expect to see a slowed down, tired version of what they were once offering up. However, that’s certainly not what you get with Iron Maiden. The energy is still there and the performance hasn’t really dipped since their prime years. As a live experience, an Iron Maiden show is still a one-off experience, and to be still dishing out quality this high on a nightly basis, at this stage of their career is pretty remarkable in itself.
Almost two years after the release of The Book of Souls Iron Maiden finally bring the tour to arenas around the UK, and tonight in Newcastle has that ‘big game’ feel to it, a buzz in the air, if you will. Walking around the city centre before the show, Newcastle is awash with various Iron Maiden shirts worn by fans of all ages, as they ascend upon the Metro Radio Arena to witness one of the biggest metal bands of all time do what they do best.
The opening band tonight is US megastars Shinedown, a strange choice for support act some would say, however their radio friendly rock sound appears to go down quite well. In Brent Smith, Shinedown have a really strong frontman who can work a crowd and make people move better than most. Hits such as Diamond Eyes and Enemies offer a perfect example of Shinedown’s big riffs and massive chorus approach, and in a scene which is largely quite un-inventive and somewhat saturated as theirs is (think Nickelback, Godsmack, Breaking Benjamin etc.), they are the stand out band for that style of music.
The lights dip and the familiar sound of UFO’S Doctor Doctor begins, the electricity amongst the packed-out arena is intense before a single note of a Maiden song is played. If Eternity Should Fail and its grandiose intro is the sort of song that was always destined to be a set opener, as Bruce Dickinson emerges from the top of the stage amongst the epic stage set up, shrouded in smoke. The turn in pace from mid-tempo to galloping twin guitar attack in this number is quintessential Maiden, and when Steve Harris takes off across the stage, points his bass into the crowd before resting his foot on monitor, the night has very much kicked into full speed. The set is heavily based around tracks from The Book of Souls, which is great to witness, (The Great Unknown and the title track being particular stand out moments, the latter featuring a ten-foot walking Eddie on stage), all too often do bands rely heavily upon classic hits, but Iron Maiden have never done that, and that is how it should be. when touring a new album. The climb like a monkey shtick involved with Death or Glory is definitely surplus to requirements and is a bit embarrassing to watch, but it’s a small complaint, Bruce’s on stage banter has always been a bit tongue in cheek really hasn’t it? Of course, when the hits come they are met with open arms, and rightly so, they are after all, timeless metal anthems. Fear of the Dark and Number of the Beast are massive sing-a-long moments, and seeing The Trooper live and the imagery that comes with it is still iconic and moving after all these years.
An interesting aspect of the set list choices on this tour, is the inclusion of some deeper cuts from the back catalogue. Songs which rarely get a look in, Children of the Damned and Powerslave for example. The set come to a close with self titled, setlist mainstay Iron Maiden, here emerges a huge inflatable Eddie from the back of the stage looking menacingly out amongst the arena. An encore of Number of the Beast, Blood Brothers and Wasted Years brings tonight’s two hour set to an end. It’s strange to witness an Iron Maiden set that does not include the likes of Hallowed be thy Name, Running Free, Aces High, Two Minutes to Midnight or Run to the Hills, and in actuality, the band could’ve played for another hour, and still there would be plenty of great songs left out. But for the time the band are on stage it is a spectacle to witness as the band don’t show any signs of slowing down just yet. UP THE IRONS.
photo credit – Peter Kirkham \m/