Review of Iron Maiden Gig at O2 Arena, London – 10/10
Those of you who read my review of Download Day 2 may recall I was not overly impressed with Iron Maiden’s headlining performance. The best aspects of the whole show included a spitfire plane flying around the arena prior to the gig starting and – more relevantly to this article – Bruce Dickinson announced that the band would be doing a headlining show at the O2 Arena in August. The show sold out in just 12 minutes.
Fast forwarding time to the show itself, I sadly missed the intro and opening song (which was Moonchild) due to problems with queuing. Specifically this show incorporated a “ticketless” system whereby you purchase ‘tickets’ online and your debit card essentially acts as your entry to the show. An idea that Iron Maiden specifically pushed for in order to stop touts buying up tickets on pre-sales at RRP and selling them off at heavily inflated prices after the show has sold out. An admirable sentiment that is just not practical in reality. Having to swipe through every credit card at the turnstiles into the arena is a long and laborious process that resulted in people still queuing for entry over 20 minutes after Maiden had started their set! So yeah, you ever go to a ticketless show… then get there early!
Actual concert review:
So review time! Yes, that’s why you’re reading this… in short: AMAZING! The band was already halfway through Can I Play With Madness by the time I got in, something that immediately grabbed me was the sound quality. For reference, I was halfway back on the far right hand side in the standing stalls. From where I was standing the audio was damn near flawless, by shows end I would hail it the tightest Maiden concert I have ever seen. I’m starting to lose track but I think this is my 11th encounter with the band. They had pulled back the volume compared to their last stint at the O2 (Final Frontier World Tour, almost exactly 2 years earlier) and the show was better for it.
Every band member brought their A-Game to this show, the energy was very high on stage all round although Janick and Bruce variably take the silver and gold for most charismatic performers of the night. On the topic of Janick Gers, kudos to the triple threat of axemen who nailed every single solo and made them look disgustingly easy to perform. Remember, there’s ‘playing’ a solo correctly and then there’s absolutely nailing it… big difference.
The stage show was overly flamboyant as always, the bands mascot Eddie appeared in at least three iterations across the evening. My favourite being the Seventh Son album cover Eddie who came on during the bands eponymous number (which ironically I think is one of their worst tracks since Pass The Jam, yes that is a real song) This version involved a skeletal Eddie holding a beating heart with a face and hands that moved in time with the music while Eddie himself stared around the arena with glowing red eyes and fire coming out of his skull. The lighting displays were also very impressive but it’s difficult to talk about lights and make it interesting so I’ll let your imagination run riot on that one. What else? Oh yeah, a demon, Eddie fighting Janick, Bruce dressing up like a pilot, fog machines, pyros etc. The whole Iron Maiden shooting match basically.
As the band are currently on one of their between album ‘retro tours’ they had picked the late 80’s era Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son album as the main inspiration for both the setlist and the stage design. Ice and glaciers set the underlying theme this time round with the band firing out hit after hit of (mainly) 80’S classics including The Evil That Men Do, Run To The Hills and 2 Minutes To Midnight. Other more obscure treats included The Prisoner and title track Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, which proved to be a major highlight for me. Post-1990 tracks were limited to the pseudo ballad Afraid To Shoot Strangers and the grossly overplayed Fear Of The Dark. Minor criticism, if this is a recreation of the Seventh Son Tour then where the fuck was ‘Infinite Dreams’!? Pfft, never mind I’ll get over it.
Man of the match award really had to go to frontman Bruce Dickinson this time round. At Download he was suffering a viral infection that brought his performance down big time. The cynic in me feared age was also a contributing factor but he laid that one to rest this evening. Bruce’s voice was on phenomenal form! I haven’t heard deliveries this solid since the Rock In Rio DVD of 2001. Two points worth noting included the ridiculously long note he held just prior to the bridge of Seventh Son (honestly didn’t think he’d make it), the second was the high-pitched shriek at the end of Aces High… the human air-raid siren is back!
From where I was standing the crowd was lacking any major movement but the enthusiasm emerged in other ways, mainly through singing. Yes it was a loud audience indeed and hearing the crowd screaming the chorus to the aforementioned Aces High (my favourite Maiden single ever) sent me into a state of serious euphoria. A poor girl passed out from exhaustion next to me about halfway through the set and had to be carried out. Hope she got home alright. After the mediocre Download set my faith has been restored in my beloved Maiden. Up the Irons!
Can I play with madness
2 minutes to midnight
Afraid to shoot strangers
The number of the beast
Phantom of the opera
Run to the hills
Seventh son of a seventh son
Fear of the dark
The evil that men do
Run to the hills
Review by Al Westlake