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Iron Maiden

Live in Los Angeles, February 2008

Review by Rick Damigella

Iron Maiden has just recently wrapped up the first leg of their ambitious “Somewhere Back in Time” world tour. To call a tour where the band’s lead singer pilots the band and its whole entourage and gear in a custom 757 across five continents to play 22 concerts over a 45 day period ambitious is really an understatement. While all of that sounds impressive, what really matters is the live show and Maiden put on one in Los Angeles on February 19th that was better than just about any band currently able to tour would be able to pull off.
This performance at LA’s Forum could easily be called one of their best performances ever. The 14,000 fans lucky enough to score tickets to one of only two U.S. dates on the opening leg of this tour were treated to 16 Maiden classics, including some that have not been played live in decades. I was at the very last concert of the legendary World Slavery Tour at Irvine Meadows Amphitheater in May of 1985 and despite very vivid memories of that amazing show, I felt this performance outdid it. I’m not alone in this line of thinking as a friend of mine who was also at the concert, counts himself as one of Maiden’s biggest fans, who has seen the band live on each of their seven most recent American tours, said it was by far the best show he had seen by the band.

The concert started with a video of the early portions of the tour and featured shots of Bruce Dickinson flying the band’s plane. This went right into a familiar opener of Winston Churchill’s Speech, the traditional lead for “Aces High.” The band hit the stage just as hard as they did nearly a quarter century ago and the fans responded in kind, turning the floor of the Forum into one of the world’s biggest mosh pits, something which I will, without any embarrassment, admit I wasn’t fully ready for. The jockeying for position to get to the rail essentially made the general admission floor into a giant scrum of bodies pushing and forward and back which lasted throughout the entire show.

From the demographics of the crowd, Iron Maiden has, despite very minimal radio airplay in their heyday and even less so today, managed to continue to gain new popularity amongst a younger crowd of fans, with the average age on the floor looking to be between 18 and 30, none of whom would have been old enough to have seen Maiden’s early tours, hence the idea behind this tour in a way. The band too showed signs of renewed youth, playing with seemingly more energy than they have in years. From Steve Harris’ trademark planting his foot upon the front of stage monitors to Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers’ fret work to Nicko McBrain ensconced behind his drum kit, each member of Maiden proved that decades of live experience doesn’t make a rocker old, but results in better performances than many long time fans have ever seen before.

Each song from the band was its own unique trip down metal memory lane, with nary a weak point in the show. Some long time fans on the intertubes have questioned the inclusion of “Fear of the Dark” and four songs from the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album, but these were some of the highlights of the show, including a rather surreal spectacle that had several members of the audience on stage to sing the chorus during “Heaven Can Wait,” where the ages looked like they ranged from about 10 to 65.

The concert featured set pieces from both the World Slavery Tour and the Somewhere in Time tour, including Eddie sarcophagi and Cyborg Eddie making an on stage appearance. The absolute center piece of the show however was “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” The 13 minute epic from Powerslave was a highlight of the World Slavery tour and has not been played live by the band since then. The sheer magnitude of this powerful cut, combined with Bruce Dickinson’s costumed performance was truly something to behold and fans should be demanding that this or at least some show from this tour be released on DVD. This song alone would be worth it. Dickinson it should be noted had more costume changes than one normally sees at a metal show, donning a Red Coat for “The Trooper,” a ragged cover for “Rime” and his Egyptian style mask for “Powerslave.”

The band closed the show on a very high note with a stunning performance of “Hallowed be Thy Name” which the assembled crowd went crazy for. Personally, I would have liked to see at least one more song from Piece of Mind and Somewhere in Time included, but the set list really did not disappoint. The band took time out towards the end of the show to announce that more tour dates would be coming, many of which have already gone on sale. To coin a phrase, or rather twist the lyrics of Mr. Steve Harris just slightly, wherever, wherever you are, you gotta see Iron Maiden, no matter how far.
This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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