Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Rockin' Out: Iron Maiden @ Madison Square Garden 07/12/10

I've been an Iron Maiden fan since I was in junior high school in the late '80s. The first time I ever saw them live was in high school on the No Prayer For The Dying tour (which is often criticized as one of their, if not the, worst Bruce Dickinson-era records, but personally I love it) with Anthrax opening. The show was absolutely amazing and one of the fondest memories I have of my early concert going experiences. I had the pleasure of seeing Iron Maiden perform yet again this past Monday at Madison Square Garden (I've seen them a couple times in between as well). Almost 20 years later and the band hasn't really lost a step in terms of their ability to put on a knockout performance. Sure, Bruce Dickinson's hair might be shorter, their might be a couple extra pounds on Dave Murray and Nicko McBrain and a few more wrinkles on Steve Harris' brow, but damn if they aren't still absolute juggernauts when it comes to playing live.

The last time I saw Iron Maiden was on their "Somewhere Back In Time Tour" in 2008. That tour saw them concentrating on songs almost exclusively from their '80s catalog with the one exception being the concert staple "Fear Of The Dark" from the 1992 album of the same name. I think it is fair to say that when Maiden tours, that is the type of setlist that the majority of fans want to see, so it wasn't a big shock that when they announced that this tour would concentrate more heavily on albums released in the '00s that most fans were disappointed. Personally, I think Brave New World, Dance Of Death and A Matter Of Life And Death are all great records and have no problem hearing songs from them played live. Would I prefer a more '80s centric song selection? Of course I would, but the fact of the matter is that Iron Maiden is awesome live, so I'm happy to see them when they come to town regardless of what era of their career they are concentrating on. [For the record, I saw Maiden when they toured on A Matter Of Life And Death and they played that album in it's entirety followed by four or five classic songs. That was not a fun show and while the band defends the decision, I still maintain it was a bit much to shove a brand new album down the audience's throat before they had had any time to get familiar with it.]

I had seen setlists for a few of the stops on this tour so knew what to expect or thought I did at least. By all accounts, the first 12 or 13 songs of the set were going to be from the three '00s albums and then they would close out with 4 or 5 classics. So, I was thrown for a (happy) loop when "Wrathchild" was the third song in the set, but the the majority of the songs were still newer. I am admittedly not as familiar with the '00 material as I am with the older stuff, but tunes like openers "The Wicker Man" and "Ghost Of The Navigator" as well as "These Colours Don't Run", "No More Lies", "Brave New World", "The Reincarnation Of Benjamin Breeg" and "El Dorado" (from the forthcoming new album The Final Frontier) were all incredible. "Fear Of The Dark" and "Iron Maiden" closed out the set and the encore was the three undeniable classics "The Number Of The Beast", "Hallowed Be Thy Name" and "Running Free" (which I'm still humming in my head two days later). It is truly hard to believe Bruce Dickinson is in his early 50's the way he moves about the stage, but I guess all those years of fencing are keeping him in shape. Speaking of the stage, it was designed to look like a space station or spaceship which is in keeping with the theme of the artwork for the new album. The light show was fun and there were plenty of cool Eddie backdrops. And of course it wouldn't be a proper Maiden show without an appearance from their mascot Eddie who came out and chased the band around the stage (I use the term "chased" loosely because it implies that the person in the Eddie suit had a degree of mobility which they most certainly didn't). Another stand out moment (and perhaps THE stand out moment) was when Dickinson had the crowd make the devil horns and raise their hands to Heaven in salute to Ronnie James Dio. Definitely a touching and happy moment for every metalhead in attendance.

All in all, a very satisfying evening of metal courtesy of one of the best in the genre.

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