Where Eagles Dare
2 Minutes to Midnight
For The Greater Good Of God
The Wicker Man
Sign Of The Cross
Flight Of Icarus
Fear Of The Dark
The Number Of The Beast
The Evil That Men Do
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Run To The Hills
Iron Maiden have been around now since punk created a musical ground zero event in the seventies. Their influence is now in the DNA of every Metal band on the planet even though certain people in that community will say they've never been relevant for some time now, Heavy Metal dinosaurs roaming the land until they become musically extinct.
They touch down in Newcastle on the first date on the UK leg of their 'Legacy Of The Beast' tour, tying in their history to a new mobile game. What this means for the average Maiden fan is a slightly off kilter best of set with some deeper classics thrown in for good measure to appease that hard-core following that turn up for every tour.
First up though is American Metal band Killswitch Engage. Their blend of riffery with screaming then melodic vocals feels a little out of place tonight but there's certainly a few people here who dig them. With nearly twenty years behind them they've certainly got a deep pocket of songs to dig into and they make the best attempt they can with the crowd. There's not an inch of stage they don't cover but that doesn't really help them with the sound unfortunately. The ice hockey arena design of tonight's venue sucks a lot of the bottom end out of tonight's performance, leaving drums and bass to jostle against each other. I'm sure an appropriate venue would benefit them so much sound wise but they still belt out 'My Last Serenade', 'The End Of Heartache' and 'My Curse' to the best of their ability. I'm sure they're all having a blast on this tour and they sign off with their take on Dio's 'Holy Diver'. Somewhere RJD is throwing them the horns approvingly.
Black stage clothes cover Maiden's stage set and ramps but the outline provides you reassurance that this is their usual set that seems to have been with them forever allowing Mr Dickinson plenty of stages to play on. Then, just before nine, UFO's 'Doctor Doctor' pumps loudly through the pa as two uniformed stage hands march to the stage front before saluting the audience and standing to attention before stripping back the stage blacks, revealing camouflage netting covering everything, including the drums. The stage plunges into pitch black before there's the sound of gunfire and fighter planes, lights flashing and then they're bounding onstage and into 'Aces High'. And it's then you notice it.
There's a freaking huge Spitfire plane hanging above them, slowly twisting and turning throughout the song.
Okay, wasn't quite expecting that.
They're in great form, exuding energy and confidence which you would kind of expect from a band that's played across various stages now for as long as they have (their debut album turns forty in 2020). Bruce is tearing around the stage, half dressed as a World War II pilot. He'll adopt different costume props with different songs, something that might sound a little cheesy but it works. Yeah, if they were still playing the Ruskin Arms then it would be laughable but here on the arena and stadium circuit it's pretty much taken for granted.
The sextet then head into 'Where Eagles Dare', opening track from 83's "Piece Of Mind" album, before the classic '2 Minutes To Midnight'. Each song means a different costume prop for Dickinson and a different backdrop reflecting something to do with the song, normally featuring Eddie the band's mascot.
There's a brief respite as Bruce takes a few moments to thank us all for coming out tonight. He mentions that this will be the only real time he talks tonight and within a few moments they're into the next song, 'The Clansman'. Steve Harris (who, let's face it, pretty much runs the band) stands playing acoustic guitar before then running off to the front of the stage, fingers plucking at his bass whilst grinning like a maniac.
Speaking of maniac, Bruce at this point picks a huge claymore sword and starts swinging it around like he's looking for a fight. He finds it a few moments later as 'The Trooper' charges up, complete with a giant Eddie appearing onstage. The two briefly fight with Bruce even quiping "You're a big man but you're in bad shape", a nod to "Get Carter", the classic film shot in and around Newcastle a lifetime ago.
The netting is finally stripped away, revealing Nicko McBrain behind his incredibly large drum kit, the engine behind the band, before diving into 'Revelations', a real deep cut that elicits a few squeals of excitement from the old school fans. Maiden then throws out a few other tracks that take a good few of the audience by surprise.
You keep forgetting how great the band's three guitarists are, each one adding a completely different tone and feel to each other. Adrian Smith has a knowing look on his every time he steps forward to play a solo, playing exactly what needs to be played and when. Dave Murray has a permanent Cheshire cat grin stretched across his face, the video screens showing his arms dripping sweat as he peels off guitar lick after lick effortlessly. Then there's Janick Gers, part guitar hero, part yoga instructor. One moment he's causally stretching his leg high up over the set before casually skipping across the stage, soloing away whilst throwing his guitar around like the instrument is possessed.
The stage set constantly evolves as the show continues. At one point it's the church of Maiden, complete with stained glass Eddie windows, the next we're in the deepest bowels of hell, all fire and brimstone, a giant demon rising over the back of the set to try and scare the living hell out of you.
The production values really set this show apart from a lot of others. A lot of thought has gone into the design and production of this. Old school backdrops are drawn across the rear of the stage pretty much every song working alongside a pretty immersive lighting design that helps change the mood, feel and tone of every song. Couple that with the occasional prop and Bruce Dickinson's ever changing wardrobe and each song becomes it's own self contained story. There are certain songs in the set that are placed together because of similar themes but you could easily take any song from this tour presentation and it would happily sit happy in it's own self contained little bubble.
Yeah, it's all a bit of fun. It's heavy metal pantomime, part Hammer horror, part hammy acting. But it works like a metal head's dream. You want 'The Number Of The Beast,? Here it is, summoned for your pleasure. 'Flight Of Icarus'? It rises up, complete with a winged Icarus figure just in case you were wondering what it was all about. 'Fear of the Dark' sees Dickinson dressed as a plague doctor stalking the set with a coach lantern in the dark like some half remembered nightmare.
As the main set closes with 'Iron Maiden', there's a couple of moments peace before they finish us off with a 1-2-3 of 'The Evil That Men Do', the chilling 'Hallowed Be Thy Name' and 'Run To The Hills' that claims squatter's rights in your brain and refuses to leave. Mind you, I also don't think I'll ever forget the sight of Bruce Dickinson galloping along the ramps of the set on an imaginary horse like a small child.
And like that, they're gone, unlike the ringing I'll have in my ears the next morning. Two hours of solid enjoyment, excellent musicianship and great theatricality. Some people may feel that this type of performance isn't "Metal". Try telling that to a hundred or so Black Metal bands. Even Ghost are reaping success with their take on Maiden's performance ethnic. Even a band of Iron Maiden's stature realise that part of this has to have the emphasis on fun and that's something that they'll keep drawing on again and again.
Here's to the enduring Legacy Of The Beast!
Iron Maiden - https://www.facebook.com/ironmaiden/
Killswitch Engage - https://www.facebook.com/killswitchengage/
Review - Scott Hamilton