Sometimes you see something amazing, someone or some group of people who are the masters of what they do. People who take a sound or an idea and perfect it in every facet. I was lucky enough to witness a moment like this recently. I saw Iron Maiden perform.
This band never fails to amaze. After releasing an amazing new album with Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith returning, Iron Maiden has set forth on a world tour with Halford and Queensryche. This is a band that puts on a show that is just as strong as their music. Combine that with the skill of metal master Rob Halford's new band, and the music of Queensryche, you're looking at a night of music that will take you back a few years and rock you as hard as ever.
Due to parking dilemnas and catching an early show that day, we arrived about half way through Halford's set. This was really enough time to see how much this band rocked and stayed true to the metal spirit. Led by ex-Judas Priest singer, Rob Halford, this band tore the place up. They even brought back some of the old Rob Halford sound by doing a few Judas Priest covers, including everyone's favorite "Breaking The Law". I was amazed to see this from Halford. When I saw Rob Halford when he was with Fight he made it clear he wasn't interested in reliving the past. He even wore a shirt that stated "I Ain't No Judas". It was nice to see Rob get rid of the chip on his shoulder and get back to being a damn good metal singer with a damn good metal band.
I can honestly say I was bummed to see Queensryche on this tour. I felt the "Jet City Woman"/"Silent Lucidity" sound would kill the mood of the evening. In the end however, Queensryche wasn't all that bad. I would have rather seen Halford in their spot and Queensryche opening, but you go with what you have. The music they played was a lot harder than what I expected from the band. The problem with the music was the fact that the songs all sounded the same. Everyone in my area was commenting on the fact that the songs all had the same riffs. They broke away from it for one song in which they said they were "going back to their early sound". I was impressed with the hardness of what they played, but I was unimpressed with the lack of creativity this band displayed. This lack of creativity went all the way down to the Lynard Skynard attired guitarist.
After the set, we decided to take a stroll around to check out the crowd and the merchandise. We were disheartened to see the lack of people who were at the show all day. During Queensryche's set, the lawn section of the venue was nearly bare. The interesting thing about this show was the diversity of the people who were there. Older people who were talking about when they saw Iron Maiden in the early 80's to pre-teens who were totally stoked to be at a real metal concert. It was a nice few moments, but it was soon time to head back to our seats for the main event.
After a very limited downtime, the moment was upon us. The lights dropped down completely and this intense music began. Then at the climax a spotlight shot onto the stage to light the face of Eddie on the screen behind the stage. Then as the music got more tense the curtain of Eddie was lit with a deep red light. Then from off to the left, Adrian Smith stepped out and hit the first notes of "Wickerman", then in the blinding flash of stage lights and fireworks the rest of the band charged onto the stage. At this moment I turned around and all I saw was an ocean of metal fists up on the hill in the lawn section. The attendance doubled in the minutes between Queensryche's set and Iron Maiden's. It was like I had never missed a beat from my childhood, as soon as I heard the sounds of "Wickerman" I was forced to dance, air guitar, and sing every word to the song. This stayed true thoughout the rest of the set. The second song of the show was "Ghost Of The Navigator" which had a much stronger edge live. The amazing thing about this band is the average age of the band members is in the upper-40's and they are more energetic than any band of 20-something kids. Bruce Dickenson was a madman. He was everywhere. Whether he was swinging from platform to platform, running around behind stage, climbing on the monitors, or just traveling around the stage, Dickenson didn't miss a note vocally or ever sound out of breath. Between songs he talked to the crowd about how Iron Maiden would never sell their fans short by having people write their songs or have producers play on their albums. He cracked on MTV for being "Motherfuckingbullshit TV", and he made it clear that Iron Maiden is all about keeping metal alive and not compromising their beliefs or art.
The night was fast-paced, and went like lightning. The effects were awesome. Their were constant banner changes to show the different faces of Eddie, and during "Sign Of The Cross" Bruce came up crucified on a cross with angel wings behind him. The two songs they performed from the Blaze Bayley era were a lot better with Bruce Dickenson singing them. During "2 Minutes To Midnight", Eddie came out from behind stage to fight Janick Gers. It was awesome, a 10 foot Eddie trying to keep Gers from kicking it's ass. After a few moments of the fight, Eddie stopped the attack to strum Gers' guitar for him. It was an awesome moment. The set was pretty even between songs from the new album and songs from the older albums. A lot of the people were complaining about the lack of old material played, but an even split is a great way to go. The band closed with "Iron Maiden" during which you got to see the Wickerman Eddie. Bruce was trapped in the Wickerman Eddie and held captive by a group of women. The explosions were quick and fire sprung up from the stage, this was the pennacle of the show. Bruce soon escaped and the song kicked into full gear. The entire crowd sung along and danced. Then in a huge explosion the wicker head fell off of the Wickerman Eddie to reveal the true Eddie head complete with red lights shooting from his eyes into the crowd. It was an amazing way to close down the set.
After a few minutes of chanting, screaming, and beating on chairs, the sounds of the bible verse leading into "Number Of The Beast". Then just as fast as the first set started the band kicked directly into the song. The encore was sweet. Their were no breaks, and the songs all went into each other. "Hallowed Be Thy Name" came after "Number Of The Beast", and "Sanctuary" closed it out. The set stayed true to the rest of tour, and it was amazing. After the show ended people were giving each other high fives, throwing up metal fists, and hugging each other. This was the single most amazing moment in most of these metal fans' lives, they got to see the masters, they got to see the pioneers, they got to see Iron Maiden.
Samuel Barker is Senior Editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.