An Evening With Iron Maiden

When I was in high school, Kevin Stampfl, one of my best friends, was a huuuuuuuge fan of Iron Maiden, and through his good graces I was introduced to the band, and its repertoire of delightfully aggressive new wave of British heavy metal. I became a fan myself — Maiden was, and is, in the top tier of my favorite metal bands. I liked the songs, I liked the musicianship and I liked the fact that they were utterly gonzo about what they were doing.

For all that I never managed to see them live. Weirdly, I saw lead singer Bruce Dickinson live, during his brief sojourn as a solo artist back in the early 90s, in a San Diego club the size of my living room. But the full Maiden experience had eluded me until last night. Maiden is on their Legacy of the Beast world tour, which is basically the band going “well, we don’t have any new material at the moment, so we’re just gonna play all our hits really really loud.” For someone like me, who is familiar with the band but who has never seen them live before, this is basically the perfect tour.

And in fact it was one of the best concert experiences I’ve had in a while, and also pretty much everything I would have expected an Iron Maiden concert to be: Loud, fast and ridiculously over produced. Every song in the set — every song — had its own set design, which included but were not limited to stage-spanning murals, lighting and inflatable objects including full-sized Spitfire fighter planes and oversized (one assumes) demon heads. Bruce Dickinson changed costumes to match and ran around the stage in a way the would have exhausted someone half his age — I watched him scamper (yes, he scampered, from time to time) and figure he probably burned 10,000 calories as I watched. That he could do it, and still maintain is operatic bellow through a two-hour set, was nothing short of remarkable.

The rest of the band didn’t go in for changing clothes but were otherwise committed to their own shticks, which included bassist/guy in charge Steve Harris sprinting all over the stage, and guitarist Janick Gers putting his leg up at the height of his own head, I assume just to prove that at age 62, he still could. Good for him. Everyone in the band is in their early 60s (except for drummer Nicko McBrain, who is 67), and they torched everyone’s face off with their energy. They put on a show. They don’t pretend to be young — Dickinson made a few jokes at the expense of the band’s collective age — but they do offer an example of how to age well, doing the stuff you enjoy (or at least, that lots of other people enjoy).

The short version is that I’m pretty sure that even if I had not enjoyed the band’s songs, I would have enjoyed their over-the-top stagecraft, and their commitment to entertaining. Not every musical concert in the world has to be this sort of overstuffed silliness, but if you’re going to go that direction, then, yes, this is a very good way to do that sort of thing. You don’t have a lead singer dual-wielding flamethrowers while singing a song about Icarus if you’re not fully engaged with the concept of showmanship.

I’m pretty sure Iron Maiden at this point is aware of their place in the metal genre, and in rock n’ roll, and doesn’t feel the need to prove themselves to anyone. They know they’re at the top of the heap and will stay there for as long as they care to. What I like, and what I saw last night, is that their reaction to this knowledge is to keep putting out the effort. A “greatest hits” tour is a lovely excuse for a band to phone it in; they know the music, they audience knows the music, the buy-in is there, and everyone would have been happy with relatively minimal effort. But the band knocked it out of the park anyway. As a creator myself, it’s a reminder not to settle just because you know you can.

And as a “greatest hits” package it was, well, pretty great. From a personal point of view, they played all the songs I wanted them to play, except one (“Wasted Years” from Somewhere in Time), and I won’t begrudge them that one song because they’ve been around for 40 years and there’s only so long they can stay on stage. For the record (pun intended) I really do appreciate when bands that have been around for a long time still put out and tour on new music. But as noted earlier, for a longtime fan who had not yet seen the band live, this was a very fine tour to catch up with Iron Maiden.

So, yes! Now I’ve seen Iron Maiden and it was everything I wanted it to be. This was not surprising to me, but still gratifying.

62 thoughts on “An Evening With Iron Maiden

  1. I saw Styx last month, and I’d say the same of their show: unabashedly having a great time playing their greatest hits in front of an adoring audience. Showmanship like playing piano behind you, just because you can. And amazingly hitting the high notes and staying on key for songs written for 40-year-younger voices. Made me feel like a teenager when I loved those tunes, and my step-mom would crank ’em up.

  2. Not really on my bucket list. However I am amazed how many of my buddies from university days have struck it off theirs. With you there, they are in better company than they are used to.

  3. Maiden is one of the bands I’ve seen live the most (with Edguy/Avantasia), and every time I do it’s a real treat, be it in Zurich or as headliners in Wacken. Glad you had a good time. Cheers

  4. This is pretty much exactly how I felt seeing Heart this summer on their tour. It would have been an amazing show even if they weren’t pushing 70, and the fact that these groups are still out there rocking it as hard as ever is inspiring.

  5. One of the things I would definitely do with a time machine (consequences be damned) is see some of my favorite acts in their prime years. (I was alive, and of age, in those days, but missed them all due to [various circumstances].) But this sounds like the next-best thing.

  6. And sometimes, you get lucky, and the bands are far better than when they were younger. I had the pleasure of seeing Green Day in a small venue a few years ago, and they were more energetic and self-assured, with a much wider range of songs than when they first hit it big in 1994.

  7. Great that you enjoyed the show!

    I saw this set a year ago when they toured Europe, and it was brilliant. I’ve been a fan of Iron Maiden since a long time ago, and I think I’ve missed one Helsinki gig set (I haven’t gone to two gigs on subsequent nights) after starting listening to them.

    That said, for years I have been amazed how good a show they make. They had a similar greatest hits tour some years ago, and that was also very good, and I liked the newest record and its tour, too. Couple of weeks ago I was on a Rammstein gig, and while they have a reputation of having a good show, I still like the Maiden style more. (And there’re few things that can top a full-sized Spitfire over your stage!)

    To me it seems like they’re touring because they like it, not because they have to. Some of the old bands have seemed like they don’t enjoy playing on the stage, but Iron Maiden and some others really seem to be in it for the fun (of course probably also the money).

  8. Ah, yes. When I was in high school it was a requirement to learn how to draw the Maiden logo, and if you had any hint of artistic ability, draw Eddie, too (usually the Killers album cover).

    Finally saw them a few years back when they toured with Alice Cooper (someone else who still knocks it out of the park on stage). Great times…

  9. A gratifying live experience is very good. Glad you enjoyed it. Live work is tough, no matter how long one has done it. That they still strive is commendable.

  10. I can’t wait! I see them tomorrow night and have been excitedly been awaiting since last December when we purchased our tickets. Been a huge fan over 20 years but never been able to see them live before.

  11. I saw them back in the 80s, and as you might expect from one who saw them in the 80s, as a teen, enveloped in a cloud of smoke of a distinct nature (not my own – we were surrounded by it, though), I don’t remember much except that their showmanship was exceptional. What has stuck with me was their presentation of “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” – it was mesmerizing!

  12. Saw them for the first time just a few years ago, on the Book of Souls tour. Great show, just as you’ve described. And they played “Wasted Years.”

  13. I know nothing of Iron Maiden except for the album covers. I wouldn’t recognize any of their songs, nor the bandmembers’ names.

    So why am I commenting? Well, 10-15 years ago I was trapped into going to a karaoke bar. Two people had actual talent. One woman covered one of Journey’s hits with great musicianship and expression. The other was a guy who did an Iron Maiden song[1]. He didn’t have that great a voice, but did he ever commit to the performance! He acted the whole thing out in a way that was so far over the top that he needed a telescope to barely see the top from where he was.

    It was beyond awesome.

    I wondered what inspired his performance. This post explains a lot.

    [1] I only know it was an Iron Maiden song because I chatted with him later.

  14. Always loved maiden. I was soured on their music when not once but two times I had tickets tosee them and they CANCELED both shows. I understand the first show cancelled for low ticket sales(Piece of mind) at the arena in Saskatoon. Then they were set to play a big arena and that was cancelled as well.

  15. I saw them 9 times, my first time was, death on the roud toure, in dortmund, i was 16, next one was 2007 meter of life and death toure Belgrade – Serbia, a was amazed, fan since 1999, 2 decades of maiden, and never enough, 9 concerts from 2003 to my last one, in 2014, maiden England, same Serbia – Belgrade, and every time is like first time, and never enough maiden shows, they are simple the best live band in the world right now, somewhere back in time, so crazy toure, see it 2 times, amazing… Amazingly beautiful band… Maiden have best fans in music, so when maiden hit the stage mind blowing , the energy, created by fans, and the band is like…. when they collated in one, the only word that i can think of, is magic, pure magic… Connection between band and crowd is so strange, on good way, that is so amazing and beautiful, simple the best shows best performance from band and staff… And they are not my favourite band, but maiden is maiden!!! Up the irons… Love and Peace

  16. I love Maiden and they usually tour with badass bands as well! I’ve seen them with Queensryche and Rob Halford and again with Motorhead and Dio! Best shows of all time! Can’t wait to see them next month here in Portland!

  17. My favorite band of all time for all of the reasons you mentioned in your review. Maiden is a legend and a class act, An inspiration for musicians across all genres of music. How they are not yet in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame I’ll never know.

  18. Great article by the way! If I hadn’t been to a Maiden show I would want to after reading this!

  19. But think of their carbon emissions! Jets, buses, limos, lights, amps, smoke, FLAMES! Rock groups are heating up the atmosphere in more ways than one. What would Greta Thunberg say?
    But seriously, thanks for this. Long may they and all their many fans rock!

  20. You put my feelings in words better than I could have!
    I took my son to see them last night in Indianapolis and it blew my mind! I wish I could see them again tonight!

  21. I have to agree. I was at the show last night as well because the last time I saw them is when they we’re opening for Scorpions right after The Number of the Beast came out (sorry folks, but they blew the Scorpions off the stage that night!)
    The show last night was one of the best concerts I’ve ever scene. Along with all the production and visuals the band maintened the heightened energy level through twelve songs and never let up on the intensity all night despite their age. The ultimate concert experience.

  22. Awesomely written.
    I love the idea of hearing the classic songs.
    So looking forward to seeing them next week.

  23. One of the best times I’ve seen them! I actually flew out to Chicago to see them with my best friend and then flew back to LA the next day. Awesome that you’re a fan and so happy to was your first experience!

  24. During every decade I will have a favorite Maiden song because of their large repertoire. But overall it is Icarus as it truly rocks. First saw the band live on the Powerslave tour, we had to drive all the way to, gasp!, Halifax Nova Scotia. Actually it was the first date in North America for that tour. When I watch concert footage of this current Legacy tour I cannot believe or even comprehend their energy levels. It could be the love from the audience.

  25. Hey, you’re a Maiden fan, too? Awesome! I stumbled onto them after being introduced to Black Sabbath and Judas Priest as my first metal bands back in my enlisted days. Alas, I have never seen them in concert, and these days I don’t enjoy concerts–they tend to be too loud and I’m always in the nosebleed seats and can’t see anything anyways, so I just end up with a headache from the light show and the overtuned sound.

  26. I’ve seen Iron Maiden 4 times since 1986. Your article is spot on!! They are one of the most visually and sonically lethal bands ever.

    Ever.

  27. “Iron Maiden – Excellent!”

    (Oh, come on, somebody had to go there.) I’ve never been a fan of metal, but most of the guitar playing is technically skilled and really fast and that’s impressive all by itself.

  28. Awesome; I didn’t have you pegged as an Iron Maiden fan. They remain one of my favorite bands. I’m also shocked that you saw Bruce and Adrian on the Accident of Birth tour; I saw them in Chicago in September ’97, and it’s still one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.

    I’m kicking myself that I won’t be home in Vegas for this tour. I did see Maiden play “Wasted Years” when they first got back together with Bruce and Adrian in’ 99 (saw them with Blaze Bayley singing in ’98 too), but haven’t seen them since’ 03.

  29. Man.. you captured every thought I had about seeing Maiden last night. This was also the first time I saw them, and have been a lifetime fan. I was hoping they would play Wasted Years.

  30. I first saw Iron Maiden back in ’08; I was only familiar with a couple songs thanks to them being featured in video games I was heavily into. But I loved what I heard, so I figured I’d give them a see. And my experience mirrored yours; they put on a ton of energy and a fantastic show. I think a mark of a really great band is that even if you don’t know all their music, they get you into things for the songs you don’t know.

    A band I’d like to recommend to you and the rest of the commenters is the Japanese band Lovebites; they are very heavily influenced by Iron Maiden in style and have some fantastic musicianship. They’re one of my favorite bands and I’m eagerly awaiting the day they can book a US gig or two (they’ve done several gigs in the UK and have played at both Wacken and Bloodstock).

  31. I saw them Thursday night in Chicago !! It was an amazing show, to a packed house!! So many awesome songs to choose
    from?? I to am from that era of when the British Invasion of Metal happened!! Iron Maiden of coarse is #1 . From the Bands first self titled album to “Somewhere in Time” put me right in the same bracket as you!! Powerslave and # of the Beast are my favorites, Anything from “Somewhere “ would’ve been awesome!! Like you said
    I’m just glad these guys are still out there drawing huge crowds and having fun!!! I saw people of all different ages there which was freakin awesome!! Proves to me METAL ISN’T DEAD!! I’ll keep going if they keep touring IRONS UP MY FRIEND!!

  32. I’ve seen every tour since 1998, except for the Book Of Souls tour a couple years back, and they always play a greatest hits show (the lone exception was the A Matter Of Life And Death tour when they played that whole album).
    Maiden is Ed and Shoulders above the metal fray. These geezers put much younger bands to shame. It’s always a blast seeing Maiden live. I always leave with no voice and my spirit brimming. Up The Irons!

  33. I seen them last night as well,what a show. Every time e I have seen them I have never been disappointed. They put on an amazing show. I love love their music too. I was 15 when I first seen them live,back in 1981. They opened for Judas priest. I loved It in Maiden the best and I was hooked. I will see them every time they come. Such an awesome show.

  34. Sadly I have never seen them live, I didn’t care much about them until two or three years ago. I used to dislike anything that could even remotely be labeled as Metal. Oh, how times have changed :)
    Still have hopes though, the Metal festival I’ve been going to for the last years are starting to add bigger headliners, so who knows…

  35. I’m not a big fan of metal, but there was a time I got to see a pairing I’d never thought I’d get to see. When I was in high school, I was introduced to the music of Paul Simon and fell in love, both with his solo stuff and the stuff he did with Art Garfunkel. But alas, I was born about ten years after the breakup and Paul and Art seem to go through phases in their relationship with each other. So I figured I’d never get the chance to see them.

    But my graduate school years in Berkeley happened to correspond with a thaw in Paul and Art’s relations and they did a reunion concert. It was in November, just before my birthday, and I was so stoked that I was dancing through the BART station afterward.

    I still remember that joy. And that’s the best thing.

  36. Maiden never fail with their shows, no matter what they do, they always know how to get the crowd going. First time i saw them was back in ’98 when Blaze was with them, the saw them again a few years later for the Brave New World Tour. Seen them live 3 (maybe 4 times) now and i can honestly say that they are worth the money to see live. Hallowed Be Thy Name played live is amazing, their stage set is legendary especially when Eddie starts walking on stage.

    Been a Maiden fan since ’98 and being a fan of other bands like Judas Priest, Sabaton etc, Maiden are and always be one of my top favorite bands if all time.

  37. Saw this concert live with my two oldest kids when they were in Lisbon last year in July.
    I loved it and they loved it also (first time they went to a Metal concert, they were 13 and 11 at the time).
    Great band, great music and great showmanship.

  38. They obviously like what they’re doing. For some artists the stage experience is what-for they’re doing it. Others prefer to sit in their studios to work at their compositions. I believe that most writers fall in that category. Songwriters probably also.

  39. Good review and I am glad you got to see to mighty maiden at long last, just one point of order the band are very much about putting out new material, or average a new album and tour every 3 to 4 year’s, the last album was called the book of souls was delayed due to Bruce Dickinsons cancer battle the
    tour that supported the album started in February 2016 and ending July 2017. The tour took in 36 countries with 117 shows.
    The legacy of the beast tour started in europe in May 2018 and runs until October 2019 and the band have already indicated that new material is definitely very much on the agenda, my guess would probably be early 2021.

  40. I think it betrays my age that I initially parsed the band name as Iron Butterfly which—different beast….

  41. The first time I saw them live was during the Blaze Bayley years, and they were…fine. But Dio was their opener so that show was still great. Then I saw them for the Brave New World reunion tour which was epic, and I got the true sense of Maiden live.

    @Aaron Doukas: I love most of the bands in the Japanese “Girls Metal Band Boom” scene, but LOVEBITES is definitely the most directly Iron Maiden/Judas Priest inspired. They’re incredible.

  42. After reading the first paragraph I had to double-check to make sure I didn’t write this article. My first show was Bruce @ The Vic in Chicago and I also never saw Maiden until last Thursday despite being a huge fan growing up. It was all that I hoped for! Cheers!

  43. I was at that show as well. It was – I don’t know – my 4th or 5th time seeing them live, but the last time was mid 90’s. Those guys are in their 60’s but can still shred like nobody else. Maiden has been putting on the best live shows for four decades. The double-barreled flame thrower was hilarious. To use it, Bruce had to jam his mic down the front of his pants. At one point near the end of the song he had some trouble extricating it and had to fast-sing some lyrics to catch up to the music!

  44. Awesome; I didn’t have you pegged as an Iron Maiden fan. They remain one of my favorite bands. I’m also shocked that you saw Bruce and Adrian on the Accident of Birth tour; I saw them in Chicago in September ’97, and it’s still one of the best shows I’ve ever seen.

    I’m kicking myself that I won’t be home in Vegas for this tour. I did see Maiden play “Wasted Years” when they first got back together with Bruce and Adrian in ’99 (saw them with Blaze Bayley singing in ’98 too), but haven’t seen them since ’03.

  45. Man, now I’m wondering which club in San Diego you saw Dickinson at. There are some great small and mid-size venues down here. They clean them between the shows, but the feel of spilled beer is really soaked in.

  46. I saw them last year in Birmingham on the same tour. I had to chuckle as your description was pretty much spot on for that gig too.
    It was Bruce’s 60th birthday and he moves and sounds pretty good for someone that age who survived throat cancer.

    The great thing I like about seeing veteran bands is that they tend to be properly professional and work with experienced people too. They know their audience, they how to work them, they musicianship is excellent and they just know their stuff and produce a quality night out (and finish on time so they can have a cup of tea and crumpets before bed whilst you are actually catching your travel arrangements home).

  47. Been a Maiden fan since my distant, Brit aunt sent me The Soundhouse Tapes. Saw Nicko torture Wolff Hoffman from Accept tossing a half eaten sammich that ended up under the heel of Hoffman’s boot as he stepped into a cool bridge and didn’t miss a single note all the way down and flat on his back. Best live band ever. And minus the production of Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son they always seem to sound better, fuller live.

  48. You finally got to see them live? That’s good.

    A classmate made me a cassette recording in 1981-1982. On one side: the Scorpions album ‘Blackout’. On the other side: Iron Maiden, ‘Number of the beast’. I was 16 at the time, and I immediately fell in love with the music. I played that cassette tape until it literally fell apart.

    Scorpions: as soon as I could buy tickets, I did. I saw them live three or four times since. And as soon as Maiden came to Belgium and I could buy tickets, I did that too. Since then I guess I have seen them five or six times live. I consider myself very lucky in that respect.

    My classmate made me another cassette recording with AC/DC – ‘Back in black’, and Y & T – ‘Black Tiger’. I’ve been a fan of both bands ever since, and did have the chance to see them live. I consider myself very, very lucky in that respect.

    As for my classmate: he is still one of my best friends. I count myself very, very, very lucky in that respect.

  49. I have been an Iron Maiden fan my whole life I have a ticket to see them in Dallas on the 21st of September. I’m so excited and I’m sure they will put on an awesome show. I’m counting the days down Can’t Hardly Wait.

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