This fortnight’s issue of Hot Press has my review of the Maiden show, but here’s the longer version for your reading pleasure. Pic by John McMurtie
Iron Maiden at the 02, Dublin
It’s been four looooong years since we last saw Iron Maiden on Irish soil. Arguably the biggest band in the history of metal, tonight, the evergreen six-piece finally make it back to our fair isle in a bid to sate our thirst for the kind of blood and thunder only they can bring. With our excitement at fever pitch during their traditional intro tape of UFO’s ‘Doctor Doctor,’ we’re straight into a ferocious rendition of ‘The Wicker Man,’ with frontman Bruce Dickinson literally leaping around the stage like he’s in training for some kind of heavy metal Olympics.
This evening’s show is a celebration of their last three albums (Brave New World, Dance Of Death and A Matter Of Life And Death) and the set is packed with material from the last decade. In many ways, giving the likes of ‘Ghost Of The Navigator’ and ‘These Colours Don’t Run’ another airing is a statement of intent by the band. Unlike some of their contemporaries, Maiden aren’t money-hungry jobbers who lost their edge years ago (*cough* Ozzy *cough*). They’re still fighting to stay relevant by creating new master-pieces such as ‘El Dorado’ and shoving it down our throats. For those in the crowd who aren’t aware of the likes of the brain-fryingly brilliant ‘Dance Of Death,’ Bruce proves why he’s the greatest frontman in the history of the genre by making sure no-one in the audience is left out as he scrambles around the space station set, urging everyone to sing until their lungs give out and bang their heads, while bassist Steve Harris mouths along to every word.
Highlight of the performance has to be the majestic ‘Blood Brothers,’ which the singer touchingly dedicates to his “mentor” Ronnie James Dio, who was due to support the Irons tonight as part of Heaven and Hell, but sadly passed away. The tribute brings an extra bucketload of poignancy to a song that already drips with drama and passion and thousands of people from five year olds to fifty-somethings throw their arms around each other’s shoulders and belt out the chorus. It’s a moment that proves that heavy metal isn’t as brainless or moronic as some detractors may say and can provoke real emotion (when it wants to).
As the band race towards the finish line with a note perfect ‘Fear Of The Dark,’ zombified mascot Eddie makes his appearance during set closer ‘Iron Maiden’ and he’s not only grown in size, he seems to have a whole new set of gnashers, changed colour and has learned how to play the guitar and give the fingers too (clearly he’s spent his time off wisely then). After a brief break, the encore of classics ‘The Number Of The Beast,’ ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ and ‘Running Free’ are played as a rather languid looking inflatable Lucifer sits and watches the band from the right hand side of the stage and before we know it, Iron Maiden are drinking Guinness and mucking around before waving their goodbyes to us all, safe in the knowledge that their reign as the kings of metal is far from over. Now, where can I get one of those blow-up devils for my garden?