Coming Home In Epic Style
Text by Phil Ashdown.
Firstly let me start by saying I am unashamedly a huge Iron Maiden fan and have followed them since the heady days of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, first witnessing them live supporting Judas Priest at Hammersmith in March 1980. After seeing them at least once on every British tour since, 29 shows and 38 years later the band delivered their most spectacular show to date at London’s O2 Arena on Friday night.
Maiden’s Legacy Of The Beast European tour climaxed with two sold-out shows in the cavernous arena and was an eye-popping visual feast and their most theatrical yet. As UFO’s Doctor Doctor thunders from the speakers the crowd goes completely nuts as the lights go out and Winston Churchill’s famous ‘We shall fight them on the beaches..’ speech is followed by a rousing Aces High. The impressive visuals start with a 90% size replica Spitfire rising from behind the stage and swooping over the heads of the band.
Bruce Dickinson is on impressive form and as he runs and leaps around the huge stage set with seemingly endless energy, putting to shame other front men that are half his age. A quick backdrop and costume change for Where Eagles Dare from their 1983 Piece Of Mind album, with the classic 2 Minutes To Midnight in quick succession. This incendiary track never fails to be an impressive live treat with the first “Scream For Me London” of the night from Dickinson, with some impressive guitar interplay from all three axe men, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers.
At this point Bruce takes time for a rather touching and poignant speech about the RAF centenary and the fight for freedom which took us nicely into The Clansman from the Blaze Bayley era of the band. The sound and thunder of Nicko McBrain’s drumming has never been better despite being completely hidden by camouflage netting up to this point. Band mascot Eddie makes his first appearance as a 12-foot Trooper for the song of the same name, sword fighting with Bruce Dickinson as the singer runs around the stage.
The stage completely changes into a beautifully lit cathedral for the next section of the show, complete with gargoyles, arched columns, hanging chandeliers and enormous stained glass windows. Another prime cut from Piece Of Mind, Revelations starts this part, followed with For The Greater Good Of God from the Matter Of Life And Death album. This is the only part of the night where the excitement level in the audience drops because it’s an intricate piece of music that was only played during that album’s touring cycle back in 2006.
Hysteria soon returns for The Wicker Man and another Blaze era number Sign Of The Cross as a cloaked Dickinson stalks the stage carrying brightly lit cross. This is another epic number that really comes alive on stage from its monastic chants and rousing chorus accompanied by giant columns of flames and pyrotechnics.
Another early and often overlooked classic in the shape of Flight of Icarus is up next as a massive Icarus statue rises from behind the stage and Bruce threatens to burn the place down with his two flame throwers. He is clearly enjoying dressing up and playing with his new toys…. Who wouldn’t?
Live favourites Fear Of The Dark and the irresistible The Number Of The Beast during which the band play inside a mocked-up Hades, with more fire and brimstone than the Underworld itself! Official set closer Iron Maiden arrives with Eddie appearing as a gigantic horned demon behind the band as they leave the stage for a quick towel-down before the encore.
The Evil That Men Do, a stunning Hallowed Be Thy Name and a truly explosive Run To The Hills bring proceedings to an end leaving a spent crowd heading to the exits singing along to Monty Python’s Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.
The question of how long can Maiden continue at this level remains unanswered but if this is their legacy then what a way to bow out. In terms of live, theatrical heavy metal, this show is an absolute classic of the genre.
Where Eagles Dare
2 Minutes to Midnight
The Clansman The Trooper
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
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