Thirty years on from first seeing them – then Maiden had a somewhat portly Blaze Bailey at the helm, and no Adrian Smith – it was time to see what the intervening years had done to one of the greatest metal bands of all time.
The monolithic status of Iron Maiden is one built on powerhouse performances. As Bruce Dickinson and his fellow Maidens revealed themselves loud and proud from behind a curtain of fire and smoke, with the strains of Blade Runner‘s closing credit score by the late Vangelis fading, the audience was there, riding along, for the remaining two hours.
This tour pays homage to time and its fleeting intangibility. In pairing 1986’s Somewhere In Time with 2021’s Senjutsu, the bridge across the Chasm of Ages is set to be be built; the rarely performed Caught Somewhere In Time the first glimpse of just how special this night was destined to be.
Nicko McBrain thundered out the rhythm. Steve Harris shored it up on bass. Adrian Smith, Janick Gers and Dave Murray on guitars provided the fuel. Yet it is – as it has been since, like, forever – Dickinson who pilots the ship through some very choppy, if fun-filled, waters.
His energy is frightening. Sprinting from side to side of the vast O2 Arena, his is a zest that belies his sixty-four years. Dressed like a refugee from the video game Cyberpunk, Bruce’s voice is absolutely peerless, splintering the night like a spear through flimsy glass, demanding obedience from his devotees.
On the tail of the opener, Stranger In A Strange Land crashes into view; musicians throwing absurdly ‘Spinal Tap’ -pish poses, while videos, lights and pyrotechnics understate – yes, understate in all of their glitzy magnificence – the actual majesty of this monster of rock music.
Iron Maiden don’t do small. Or understated. Or diminutive. In between bantering with all the cheeky charm of a collective of Cockney barrow boys, Dickinson is intent only on one thing: entertaining. Big time.
The highlights were, well … everything!
Can I Play With Madness lays waste the idea that Dickinson’s voice might waver as the night moves on. It didn’t. It never even hinted at so much as cracking, let alone giving in. Note-after-elongated-note is produced and held in perfect scale, time-after-time-after-time.
Alexander The Great – played on this tour for the first time – and an unexpected Fear Of The Dark, with all of its throaty menace and throbbing Hitchcockian vibes – as haunting now as it had been on the band’s ninth album of the same name, released in 1992.
With every Gothic nightmare there must be a Gothic demon. When Eddie appears during The Writing On The Wall, leaning casually against the keyboard riser, it returns much more forcefully during The Time Machine. In response Bruce mounts a battle tank gun turret, grasps the triggers and lets the monster have it with such unabated glee – and near delirium from the audience – the gig teeters surreally for a moment on the edge of turning from being a rock concert and, instead, into a lavishly staged, dystopian pantomime.
And what about the material from Senjutsu? How do these shining diamonds sit amidst the glitter of the already revealed treasure chest of golden oldies? Fabulously well is the answer.
Writing On The Wall and The Time Machine aside, there’s also Days of Future Past and the jaw-dropping, nineteen-minute behemoth performance of Death of the Celts [Adrian Smith has probably never soloed better on this or any other tune] which was, as expected, received with gusto, euphoric chanting and not a little awe.
Oh, and lest we forget, Hell On Earth. This delightful newbie has the crowd waving side to side at Dickinson’s behest, while jets of fire – yes fire – spat from canon upstage and across, give the impression Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, has brought her kids along for a bit of a break from Game of Thrones.
With a magnificent Wasted Years, Iron Maiden and The Trooper – oh my God, The Trooper! Decorated from above with images of Errol Flynn charging the Light Brigade played out on the big screen behind – this package of delirium brings a flight carrying nearly two hours of metal madness manically into land.
As Dickinson hails and thanks and promises the crowd they’ll be back, so Nicko McBrain remains on stage, tossing sticks into the grateful audience, long after his bandmates had exited.
Now that, my friends, is a class act.
That, my friends, was Iron Maiden, 2023!
The Future, Past Tour.
O2 Arena, London.
July 8th, 2023.
Still Images: (c) chrishighreviews.com
With HUGE THANKS to Neil ‘Stocko’ Stopforth for making it happen!