July 31, 2011 by Dan Swinhoe
Strange, isn’t it? Iron Maiden have spent the last few years exploring the globe in a custom plane piloted by frontman Bruce Dickinson, visiting new countries in the farthest corners, but this is the first proper homecoming UK tour in bleeding ages.
Grumbling aside, the night kicks off with Australia’s Airbourne. For everyone familiar with AC/DC, these guys are the replacement bus service. They do pretty much the exact same thing, but it’s just not the same or quite as good. They have the energy, the clear love of rock and roll, and the confidence to get the crowd involved. And it’s all a great watch, the only problem is they lack any really good songs. But afterwards they get a good reception from the crowd and the real event can start.
Anyone following Maiden’s progress over the last few years may have noticed they’ve got a habit of playing new album’s almost in their entirety and chucking in a few classics at the end. You’ve got to admire their confidence and faith in the new material, especially with the strength of the back catalogue, but it’s a bit inconsiderate. ‘The Final Frontier’ isn’t a terrible album, and miles better then ‘A Matter of Life and Death’, but is over ambitious and lacks the quality of other two albums of the new millennium, and doesn’t hold a candle to the 80s classics.
Lights come on and a space themed stage set shows off a flashy light display before the band appear to the latest album opener ‘Satellite 13…The Final Frontier’ before heading into track two ‘El Dorado’. The fans are pretty loud, but it’s more enthusiasm for a band many haven’t had the chance to see before.
The third track however, is ‘2 Minutes to Midnight’, and the crowd go apeshit. What follows is classic after classic for pretty much the rest of the night. ‘The Evil That Men Do’, ‘Fear of the Dark’, and the now 30 year old self titled track from the debut all get a hearing. And it’s all bloody great.
Bruce never stops moving and uses every inch of the stage. He gets the crowd moving and singing, (Will ‘Scream for me ______’ ever get old?) and with an impressive set of pipes still proves he’s a cut above people half his age. The rest of the band may look a bit haggard (and in jeans far too tight) but are still obviously enjoying it and can still play like it’s 1982.
The other new tracks get a fair sharing, ‘Coming Home’ and ‘Where the Wild Wind Blows’ sit well alongside ‘The Wicker Man’ and ‘Dance of Death’ and the space Eddie that comes on stage to rock out makes the night. Maiden have been doing this since before a huge chunk of their fanbase was born, and make each night feel special. All without playing ‘Run to the Hills’.