How huge is huge? Is there a limit to how hard one can possibly rock? What stance allows for maximum rocking? These vitally important questions, along with countless others, were wonderfully answered when Iron Maiden brought their magnificent stage-show to Continental Airlines Arena.
After one look at the stage, there was no mistaking it; the set was designed for a band ready to rock. Based on the cover of their latest release, A Matter Of Life And Death, the stage was constructed to look like the middle of a battlefield, complete with sandbag barricades, and dangling from the left speaker, the corpse of a fallen paratrooper. In due time, Iron Maiden would take things to the next level.
In addition to their enormous stage setup, Iron Maiden found another way to display their incredibly large balls. Over the course of their career, Iron Maiden’s setlists have always weighed heavily on new material. This time, however, they took things to the ultimate extreme and played the entirety of their new album from start to finish, all 73 minutes worth. Success in such a feat would surely prove their power to rock.
Frontman Bruce Dickinson commanded the stage like a general leading his troops to war as he gestured ever so dramatically to the audience and then presented his mighty palm to the gods of rock. How does one deliver such a message? Well, there’s only one appropriate stance and that’s to have your legs spread wide enough to both mount and tame a water buffalo from hell. If you think Dickinson stood like that to compensate for his height, you’re way off. It’s his subtle way of proudly displaying just how hard he rocks.
As for the guitarists, Iron Maiden offered something for everyone. On the far left of the stage was Mr. Smiles himself, Dave Murray, whose axe pointed to the heavens least often, but hit heaviest with clean solos and a pick slide that almost made the night (I’ll get to that later). Beside Murray was Adrian Smith who meant business and fully embodied the hard rock persona as he churned out ferocious power chords with an attitude to match. On the way other side, isolated for the safety of others, was Janick Gers whose performance style went leaps and bounds beyond the classification of over-the-top. If he wasn’t doing splits, he was either flipping his guitar over his head, doing dancer stretches against the stage structure, jumping around, or bouncing from side to side while ripping out a face-melting guitar solo.
Despite the challenge of playing a setlist rooted deeply in new material, Maiden delivered with very little resistance from the audience. Admittedly, there was scattered chatter among the crowd during the down-tempo intro to “Lord Of Light,” but that came to an end when Nicko McBrain kicked in with the drums. The action returned so fast that fans never had a chance to consider stepping away to get a beer, let alone doing so.
Once their rendition of A Matter Of Life And Death was complete, the classics hit quickly and in rapid succession. Leading the way was “Fear Of The Dark,” which immediately had fans either singing along to the melody or reaching for their air instrument of choice (most often the flying-V guitar). This laid the foundation for the evening’s highlight that came during “Iron Maiden” as the stage morphed into a huge tank with Eddie at the helm, complete with laser sight and moving tracks. It was hands down the greatest sight to ever behold in concert. Think about it. Which is more memorable: Hendrix lighting his guitar on fire or Maiden transforming a battlefield into a tank? I believe the answer is obvious.
Eddie returned in a slightly different incarnation, as a 10-foot tall soldier ordered to keep the guitars in line during “The Evil That Men Do.” Fortunately for everyone, conflict was avoided between the two parties. There’s no telling what sort of mayhem would have unfurled had Iron Maiden’s axes clashed with Eddie’s heavy artillery.
Although the setlist was limited to just five classic songs, everyone left satisfied. Iron Maiden are simply that great. Their dedication and confidence in their work, combined with their lively performance style, comical theatrics and high quality songwriting makes Iron Maiden a force to be reckoned with. Up the Irons. Maiden rock.