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After meeting the high expectations for the much anticipated “reunion album”, Brave New World, singer Bruce Dickenson predicted this tour would be one of the biggest Iron Maiden spectacles ever. With the resurgence of heavy music in general and the amount of radio play hybrid hip-hop/metal bands Limp Bizkit and Korn are receiving, Maiden are out to show once again what a truly great band can do. Touring Europe with a host of supporting acts, Maiden landed on the shores of North America for a few Canadian dates before opening the U.S. leg with a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden.
Joining them in Pittsburgh as well as the rest of the U.S. tour were two other heavy metal veterans, Halford, featuring ex-Judas Priest singer Rob Halford; and Queensryche, on tour supporting an upcoming greatest hits album. In the parking lot, Maiden’s universal appeal became evident as car after car pulled in filled with everyone from soon-to-be-over-the-hill metalheads to punks to a pair of 10 year-olds who chastised people in the bathroom line for taking too long lest they miss a second of Maiden. Bruce and Adrian are back and people were taking notice, as exemplified by the guy wearing a 1983 Piece of Mind t-shirt about three sizes too small with as much pride as a Wall Street exec in his Armani suit.
We got to our seats just after Halford started. Not having the album yet, I’ll just tell you that I will soon. Aside from having probably the best mix of the night from where my seats were, Halford was as tight as it gets. Some of the crowd seemed to be there specifically to see him but his effort was definitely appreciated by all. Mixing the new material with “Breaking the Law” and “Electric Eye” from his Judas Priest days, Halford set a high standard to live up to for the evening.
I’ve never really listened to much Queensryche but from what a lot of people have been telling me their old stuff is heavier and better than the “Silent Lucidity” that I always used to mistake for Pink Floyd. Well, I approached their set expecting to be impressed and turned into a Queensryche fan but that never really materialized. Geoff Tate certainly possesses one of the great voices in metal and tonight he was on just as expected, but the standard set by Halford made their somewhat less-than-brutal sound a letdown. The execution of their set was impressive but on a personal level I wasn’t impressed with the music.
When the lights went down there was palpable tension in the air as Iron Maiden prepared to take the stage. A few seconds of intro music fueled everyone’s impatience to the limit and when Adrian Smith played the first note of “Wickerman”, the first single from the new album Brave New World, the place erupted. No one can accuse Maiden of being old because between Bruce Dickenson’s swinging and leaping from all parts of the set and running full speed from one side of the stage to another put any 25 year-old to shame. Next came “Ghost of the Navigator” and the title track, “Brave New World”. Maiden were born to play live and despite the poor mix from where I was sitting, they still tore the play apart. Going back to their roots, Steve Harris set the crowd screaming with the intro to “Wrathchild” from the Killers album. The entire crowd responded by screaming with raised fists to the chorus. Bruce Dickenson worked the crowd with the confidence of a seasoned veteran, segwaying from “Two Minutes to Midnight” into “Blood Brothers” and the Blaze Bailey-era “Sign of the Cross” before returning to the new album for “The Mercenary”. By this time the mix was getting dialed in although the drums and vocals were never up to par. If everyone there wasn’t excited before, that ended as they ripped into “The Trooper”. It was back to BNW for “Dream of Mirrors” featuring a fantastic chorus and then another Blaze tune in the Braveheart-inspired “Clansman” which sounded great live, especially with Bruce at the helm. They ended the set with “The Evil That Men Do”, “Fear of the Dark”, and their traditional closer, “Iron Maiden”. As the crowd synched into chants of “Maiden! Maiden!”, it exploded as the Bible-verse intro to “Number of the Beast” came over the P.A. “Hallowed Be Thy Name” came next, a song that vies for the top spot on Maiden’s all-time greatest songs list and they finished with “Santuary”, the straight-ahead rocker from their first, self-titled album. Despite a few grumblings about the set list from people who wanted to hear all “old shit”, Maiden has never rested on their past. They were out to support their new album and that’s what they did, with no reason to be apologetic. The energy and musicianship they displayed would put any of today’s schlock-rock bands to shame and they showed why they are one of the most important influences in heavy music along with Black Sabbath and old Metallica.
John Rovnan is a Contributing Writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.