‘Scream For Me london..’ Iron Maiden live at The O2 arena – Friday 7th July 2023

Words And Pictures By Phil Ashdown, with Additional Pictures By J-P Cartwright.

Let me start off by saying that this gig was the 30th time of seeing Iron Maiden in a live setting, after first seeing them support Judas Priest at Hammersmith back in 1980. Surely in this ever-changing world, there are few things as reliable as Iron Maiden. You know what you’re going to get, galloping basslines, twin harmony guitars, Air Raid Siren vocals, feet on the monitors, giant backdrops and of course, Eddie. But what maiden cleverly deliver is mix in the old and new songs, giving them a fresh sound and a new look too, with ever-changing stage designs.  I was just one of 20,000 people on Friday night, just across the Thames from where it all began for them, now with seventeen studio albums and well over 2,000 gigs under their belt.

Being at a Maiden gig is special, with multi-generational fans from across the world descending on London’s O2 Arena (in fact I was there with my son, and it wasn’t his first Maiden show by any means)

It started for us at a meet-up at The Pilot, a lovely pub, chatting to friends old and new, excitedly discussing all things Maiden and tonight’s set list preferences. After sinking some Trooper Nitro in the sunshine, it was time to make our way to the O2 to meet other old friends who had the tickets stored on their phone. Entry was problem free and very quick, time for another drink and something to eat. None of us were bothered about catching support act, Lord Of The Lost, so we just chilled out watching huge queues buying t-shirts and merchandise in their thousands.

We made our way to our seats and eagerly awaited the show to begin. As has been customary at Maiden shows since the early days, the strains of UFO’s ‘Doctor Doctor’ over the PA came as a rallying call to all those who hadn’t made their way inside to get a move on as the intro tape was imminent. After a huge cheer, the house lights were snuffed out and spots strafed the arena to the strains of Blade Runner’s closing credits theme put the excitement into overdrive.

Bruce seemed to retain his astonishing amount of energy throughout the performance, sustaining his renowned ‘Air-Raid Siren’ vocals alongside non-stop movement around the stage. Second song ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ gave the crowd it’s first sight of band mascot Eddie with a walk on figure, dressed in the full garb from the single artwork, just leaning on the side of the stage for just a minute. The end of the song gave Bruce the opportunity to welcome the London masses to what was set to be a “dysfunctional, dystopian” performance of a lifetime.

A brace of numbers from the most recent Senjutsu album followed, beginning with the lead single Writing On The Wall with a massive backdrop of the cloaked motorbike rider from the video. Days Of Future Past followed, sounding fresh and heavy, much better in the live environment. Inspired by the wild west, science fiction, and dystopian pop-culture classics, it is no surprise that the dashboard from Back to the Future’s iconic DeLorean made its way into the visual backdrop for ‘The Time Machine’ which Bruce informed the fans contained “1.21 gigawatts” of energy.

A somewhat surprise choice from the Number Of The Beast LP came next in the shape of The Prisoner. This was to be the only pick from the classic album after the band chose to drop Run To The Hills, Hallowed Be Thy Name and the title track from this tour. Another brilliant backdrop was revealed featuring a giant chess game from Village where the classic TV show with the video screens showing images and scenes on either side. Another new song ‘Death Of The Celts was delivered with immense power, really bringing the 10-minute epic alive with some fantastic lighting effects and smoke.

An old live favourite made a return to the set with hit single Can I Play With Madness with its familiar Derek Riggs artwork behind, followed quickly by another from the featured album, Somewhere In Time. Heaven Can Wait was accompanied by a Bladerunner inspired backdrop street scene and some excellent neon lighting strips on the gantries. When cyber-Eddie engaged in a cinema-worthy battle with Bruce during ‘Heaven Can Wait’ firing impressive pyrotechnic shots at each other, that was truly a pinnacle moment of the show where the fans raised not just their horns but their phones to record the action. Even more impressive was the use of pyrotechnics on Eddie’s costume that sold the ferocious nature of the fight with Eddie’s final returning shot causing Bruce’s grenade launcher to explode into a mushroom cloud of smoke and sparks.

For me personally, the highlight (at least musically) was the next song, Alexander The Great. Fans have been calling for this number to be performed since the Somewhere In Time album was released, with a recent Fan Club campaign to finally get it played for this Future Past tour. It’s a complex mini epic telling the story of the rise and fall of the titular character and certainly did not disappoint.

After the perennial Fear Of The Dark, the walk-on Eddie made his final appearance in full samurai costume and even competing in a skilful guitar VS sword battle with Dave Murray, the band’s second longest-serving member during set-closer, Iron Maiden. This climaxed with the giant inflatable Eddie rising up behind the stage set with a succession of other incarnations of the everlasting band mascot on the video screens.

Of course, this wasn’t the end of the night and after a short pause the band returned for another Senjutsu track, Hell On Earth with a suitably dystopian backdrop of a destroyed city and typically, enough pyro throughout to give Rammstein a run for their money. The final one-two punch of The Trooper and Wasted Years brought proceedings to a conclusion and as is customary at all Maiden gigs Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life brought the house lights up as the masses filed out of the arena.


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