(Planet Me)
Monday, August 05, 2013
IRON MAIDEN : "Maiden England Tour 2013" : London o2 Arena, 03 August 2013

At the end of their 14 month “Maiden England” tour, Iron Maiden finally deign to grace England with an indoor show. Aside from all other things, this business model works well for them ; coinciding with the DVD release of archival live shows rescued from the VHS graveyard. Maiden also tour a recreation of the live show of the time – a far more interesting prospect than the boring “play-an-album-in-full-live-shows”. On the other hand, the shows are both determindedly retrospective and not fully nostalgic. Tonight for example, as they have played the exact same setlist on the other 112 shows, the Maiden machine is a boisterous engine delivering immaculately executed stadium rock with a ruthless efficiency and a well-oiled slickness. No matter where in the world you are, an Iron Maiden show these days is identical from night to night. The between song banter may differ, but the songs are the same order, the same props and moments, the same pyros and explosions, the same.

As a recreation of “Maiden England 1988”, it isn't quite the same : several songs played in the 1988 tour are missing Die With Your Boots On, Still Life, Infinite Dreams, Killers, Heaven Can Wait, are all out, and Run To The Hills, Running Free, Phantom of The Opera, Afraid To Shoot Strangers, Fear Of The Dark are all in. Strange especially as the latter two were written four years after “Maiden England” came out. Not only that, but surely, if you are going to recreate a live show, and tour a DVD reissue, you might as well actually play the venue the DVD was recorded at – the Birmingham NEC LG Arena or whatever it is called these days. Still, these days it's the huge and cavernous O2 Arena with a 200 foot ceiling and 22,000 tickets – all of which sold out in 12 minutes according to Bruce.


Bruce Dickinson – the best frontman Iron Maiden have ever had – and one of the best ones in the world, to be blunt – is wonderfully sly with humour : “We're gonna play some surprises tonight ; well, we're not, because if you're on the internet you've read the setlist, so no surprises at all!” The man was born to headline stadiums. Sure, there's predictable moments – the same pre-show songs, the same video, the same red uniforms for “The Trooper” and flag waving – but even now, 30 years after he started doing this, there's no sign from Bruce or the rest of the band that they are phoning it in, or not feeling it for a second. Steve Bomber Harris, a 57 year old gazillionaire, still bounces up and down like a hyperactive puppy pleased to show off his rock dreams whilst Janick Gers still does absolutely nothing audible at all. He's probably the luckiest bastard in rock, a veritable metal version of Depeche Mode's Andy “Fletch” Fletcher, who plays third rhythm guitar on everything, taking lead on the two songs he has recorded with the band they play tonight, and spending most of the rest of the night tilting at windmills with his leg aimed to the moon and throwing his guitar around, or flailing his arms as if he were some kind of drowning man in white trainers. On the plus side, at least Maiden didn't sack him when the guy he replaced came back to the band : Adrian Smith, who beard aside, hasn't aged at all – acts as if he actually enjoys it, and you can actually hear him.

But here we are, the end of the line ; 13 stadium shows in the South American summer, and then this tour gets buried and Maiden return to their increasingly infrequent cycle of studio albums and playing-the-new-stuff. These tours meanwhile are about cementing the legacy, making a ton of money, and allowing a sort of 'current' nostalgia that keeps their new stuff relevant and their old stuff classic. At least, for the first time since it was written, Maiden have dropped “Hallowed Be Thy Name”. It will be back soon, but at least an old stalwart has been neglected because frankly, it's been played approximately 1,400 times in the past 32 years.


Also, there's no traditional mid-show lull as you are never more than 5 minutes in any direction from a greatest hit, the longest song being the my-god-I'm-seeing-them-play-THIS magnificence that is “Seventh Son of A Seventh Son”, the title track from the record that was and is their apex of nuttiness and creativity. Sure, it's still a concept album about witchcraft and monsters, but somewhat oddly, it occurs to me that the record seems to hint at the downfall of civilisation and mankind through some kind of apocalypse, embodied in a devil child. The opening montage of “Moonchild” seems designed to show the world's industrial-military-complex as a huge machine that turns human beings into meat and the planet into ruins. But then Bruce leaps out and promises us “I am HE! The Formless One! THE FALLEN ANGEL WATCHING YOU!” and I am 14, not 40, again.

Which is sort of true. But for me at least, this is a holy grail : 25 years since I got into the band, and 25 years since this tour, I get to experience this again. There's only so many times Maiden can tour again, so many shows, so many nights. This will end soon, and I will keep going because there will come a time when I wish I could experience this, and the band are dead or split. My brother is adamant it will be a 40th anniversary/birthday farewell show at the West Ham stadium. Whatever it is, this band prove tonight, again – as they do every night – that they are legendary rock band, unafraid to please the crowd, unafraid to be what the crowd want them to be, aware of their glorious silliness and vibrant with it, traditional, old fashioned, rock. And sometimes, that is what we want ; to forget who we are and be who we want to be. In my case, 14 again.


Setlist :
Moonchild – Can I Play With Madness – The Prisoner – 2 Minutes - Afraid To Shoot Strangers – The Trooper – The Number Of The Beast – Phantom – Run To The Hills – Wasted Years - Seventh Son of A Seventh Son – The Clairvoyant – Fear Of The Dark – Iron Maiden - Aces High – The Evil That Men Do – Running Free

Great band. I was a little puzzled by their rigid set list when they had an actual spitfire buzz the stage before they came on at Download and they DIDN'T seize the opportunity to bring the house down with Aces High. Still, they were brilliant anyway. Of course they were. I don't think I could ever get bored of this stuff. This is the music that formed me.
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