I finally saw Iron Maiden tonight. They tour only every other year, and they play the humongous venues that foment irritation. So, I’ve never been.
But they are not going to be playing or living forever, so you really should see them. I’m glad I did. Despite the many obstacles to my enjoyment I hit en route to Maiden’s performance, I ended up having an ecstatic time.
They were spotlighting stuff from Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, which is not my favorite Maiden album. Yet they totally sold all these long-ass progressive ragas just on the power of their sound, which is very vivid and very robust live. They made me believe that anything would sound good coming out of them.
I can’t recite a set list, but here’s the songs I remember them playing, in approximate order:
I don’t know the song well, but it was exciting. Very nice build-up. I shot a few clips of the show here and there. They sound bad, as expected, yet they’re surprisingly intelligible. I guess I was far back enough. Here’s one of the opener.
The Evil That Men Do
Two Minutes to Midnight
The harmonies really breathed and felt richly “wavy” like they were maybe playing them a bit rubato. At the same time, the song seemed to whiz by. I was on the edge of every note, headbanging like nuts, and it seemed like it was over in two minutes.
Also, Bruce went the whole nine yards. While wailing about Russian guns, he waved the Union Jack and wore the traditional red suit of the British. Throughout the show, he was running about and climbing all over things. It was not unlike Method Man’s stage craziness.
Number of the Beast
So ridiculously exciting. Certainly, part of it is yelling 6! 6-6!
The Phantom of the Opera
Afraid to Shoot Strangers
Bruce dedicated this to America and Charlton Heston. I had never heard this song, but it ruled. Lots of abrupt tempo changes, which they played off as no big deal, and so did not seem at all song-breaking. I’m going to have to check it out.
Fear of the Dark
I sang along with this loud enough to hear myself and realized I sounded like Anton Maiden. Kept going anyway! Such is the strength of its anthemic call.
Can I Play with Madness?
I was not surprised by the melodrama that is the encore, but I was surprised it was this. That Churchill intro is so goddamned epic that it makes the first fast riff in the song seem ten times bigger. Kinda lost my shit over this one.
Run to the Hills
For years, I heard Metallica’s parody of this intro riff in my head every time I heard the real one. Even after I came to like the song overall, I didn’t think too much of that riff. Tonight, they brought it to life, and it sounded anything but silly.
Throughout the show, you could tell Bruce Dickinson is a great singer, but here, you really felt like he was commanding perfectly a very powerful thing.
Also, remember that episode of Beavis and Butt-head in which they get taken to jail to be “Scared Straight,” but end up singing “Run to the Hills” with some inmates? Quite a few guys there looked like those inmates (and quite a few didn’t, of course).
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
- Iron Maiden is a very “ringing” band. The vocals ring, the bass clangs, and the vocals sing. They’re also very punchy, but something is always ringing. The metal bands I listened to most in my formative years favored crunching, dense percussiveness over extended reverberating when it came down to it, so it’s striking to me.
- Steve Harris is the most commanding bass player I’ve heard. First off, he’s loud enough in the mix that he easily cuts through three guitars. Then, he tends to play riffs that are like metal rhythm guitar riffs, and the guitars sometimes end up playing more melodic and less percussive stuff. It’s not important that the bass lead, and it’s not possible at certain tempos, but it is salient.
- As I mentioned above, the guitar harmonies seemed to flourish live. I wonder if it’s the third guitar. (Janick Gers, their third guitarist, did not record on their older, classic albums.)
- If you’ve ever wanted an opportunity to sing “Whoahhoahoah!” a lot, a Maiden show is probably just as good for this as a Misfits show.