When your city is the 112th stop of a 117-date tour, playing in 36 different countries, on six of the Earth's seven continents, you don't really expect much in the way of overindulgence on the band's part. To be fair, most of us can relate to being close to the end of a project, or deadline in our own jobs, the excitement has passed, we just want it over. We're tired and just want to go home. Maybe we're phoning in the last of our work. With that in mind, we can't really hold it against a band of musicians that are going through the same experience, right? I mean if we're being fair, right? Okay, maybe we do hold it against them. After all, we're fans. We've bought the albums, the merchandise, and paid exorbitant ticket prices for the show. They owe us. Right? Right! Well, maybe we should reexamine our thinking about that, but in the meantime, if getting the most of your dollar is a priority, go no further than IRON MAIDEN.
You would think if anyone would have an excuse to take it easy, it would be IRON MAIDEN, who after 40 years of being one of metal's most highly respected bands, might be the only ones to get away with mellowing out a bit, simply because of their accomplishments. Especially since the tour was delayed from the onset to allow vocalist Bruce Dickinson to recover from chemotherapy treatment for a cancerous tumor he had on his tongue. Instead Bruce along with bassist Steve Harris, drummer Nicko McBrain, and guitarists Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and Janick Gers embarked on one of the biggest and most ambitious tours of their careers in support of their sixteenth studio album The Book of Souls.
Once again IRON MAIDEN travelled by "ED FORCE ONE", the band's airliner named after famed mascot EDDIE THE HEAD, piloted by Dickinson himself. This time however, they upgraded to a Boeing 747-400 jumbo jet, which is basically a skyscraper with wings, to accommodate the band, crew, and more than 12 tons of equipment. The tour included dates in China, El Salvador, and Lithuania which were the first time the band had ever played in those countries, as well as the South African shows which were the first for the band with Dickinson on vocals. The band's inaugural show in El Salvador, ended up being the largest event in that country's history with more than 25,000 in attendance, earning the band special recognition from the Ministry of Tourism.
After a break for the winter, the band headed back out to finish the European dates, and on June 3rd came back to North America for the final leg of the extravagant tour, making their way to Albuquerque, on June 27th.
After a brief interlude, to set the stage, the cue that 15,000 fans in attendance were waiting to hear came blaring through the sound system; the cheers grew louder, as "Doctor Doctor" by UFO signaled everyone to get in their places and, as has become tradition, as soon as the UFO classic finished, the show began. IRON MAIDEN opened the night with "If Eternity Should Fail" followed immediately by "Speed of Light", two of the six tracks from the Book of Souls album, they would play during that night's set.
They did not sound or act like a band of sexagenarians at the end of a major world tour. There was nothing tired, worn out or run down about them at all. If I hadn't known better, they could have easily passed for being a quarter through their first leg. In fact, the only give away that they were not a band of twenty-year old's, was the sheer skill with which they played together, something that can only be achieved after years of partnership, and in itself is an art form few have accomplished.
In contrast to the opening songs from the newest album, they next played "Wrathchild" from the 1981 album Killers, which is somewhat of a staple on IRON MAIDEN tours, and a crowd favorite. Pausing for a moment to speak to the audience, and standing still for the first time in nearly twenty minutes, the fans finally got a good look at Bruce Dickinson, who in years past has, at times made over-the-top fashion choices. This time however, could not be described the same way. There were no red leather pants with bullet belts, studded black leather arm bands; no leopard print tank tops, or denim jackets, not even a pair of Converse Cons, or Puma Sky high-tops with the extra-long tongue. Tonight, the energetic singer was outfitted in a black zip-up hoodie, khaki cargo pants, and light tan construction boots. It was a departure from what we've come to expect from the trendsetting vocalist, and left me wondering how soon it will be before ROCKWIRED starts running advertisements for: BRUCE DICKINSON'S SIGNATURE FASHION LINE: KHAKI CARGO PANTS AVAILABLE AT K-MARTS AND GAS STATIONS NATIONWIDE. We'll have to wait and see on that one. Bruce wearing his "every day is laundry day" attire, told us about the next song of the night, from The Number of the Beast album, dating back all the way to 1982, "Children of the Damned" Bruce even did a bit of quick calculations, determining that any of the attendees born in 1983 or after, very well "could have been conceived" as this song played. It is an interesting thought, and certainly a possibility considering the age range of the audience, from children seeing IRON MAIDEN for the first time, to grandparents that have been fans since the start.
There was something for everybody. Those looking to get a taste of what the new material sounded like live, those who wanted to hear their favorite IRON MAIDEN classics, those who didn't know what to expect, hell even those that are ancient history buffs were treated to an awesome stage set, modeled after the Maya civilization, which The Book of Souls album reflects as well.
"Scream for me Albuquerque." You can you hear it in your head, can't you? "SCREAM for me ALBUQUERQUE!"
The Mayan belief that the soul lives on after death, and ruminations of mortality were obviously on the band's minds as they wrote the album. IRON MAIDEN has never avoided the topic of afterlife, but the latest examples seem to be more reflective than curious. This is probably in part due to the prior health issues, and aging of the band members, all of whom are right around the 60-year-old mark. It undoubtedly also is, at least in part, due to the current political leaders across the globe. Speaking to that, introducing the title track, Dickinson imparts to the crowd a brief synopsis of the Mayan's virtual disappearance from the Earth. He eulogizes the civilization by reminding us all that "Living in this age of certainty", where we have running water and electricity that we take for granted, could disappear one day. "With the assholes in charge of the world right now," Dickinson pronounced, "you never know when somebody may push the 'button' and just like that, we disappear just like the Mayans."
His message of making the most of every moment, and enjoying life to the fullest was not lost on the crowd that, who having endured 100-degree heat in and around the venue, was making the most of the night, despite the heavy winds that developed and served no purpose other than ill-effecting the sound.
During the ten plus minutes of the title track, IRON MAIDEN'S iconic, beloved mascot, EDDIE made his appearance onstage. EDDIE THE HEAD has taken on many forms throughout his evolution over the years. The latest incarnation being representative of the departed Mayans. The 15 feet tall, glowing red eyed, Mayan Eddie stalked around the stage wielding a hatchet, while the members of the band taunted him, and guitarist Janick Gers ran back and forth between his legs, and took swings at him with his guitar. Eddie then set his eyes on Bruce Dickinson who was bounding around the stage the entire night. From his position atop of the scaffolding, Dickinson struggled with Eddie before emerging victorious after ripping Eddie's heart out, and holding it up for the crowd to see.
With EDDIE (temporarily) vanquished, they move seamlessly into the unsettling "Fear of the Dark" casting an ominous pall over the venue, aided by the forceful winds that, at times would cause the vocals to get lost in the mix. The crowd responded by singing the lyrics over the volume of the band, in a kind of counter spell against the forces of nature.
Finishing the set was the long-time closer "Iron Maiden", which saw the return of EDDIE, this time manifested as EDDIE THE HEAD, his giant angry visage rose over Nicko McBrain's drum kit from the back of the stage, his red glowing eyes surveying the capacity crowd.
When the band exited the darkened stage, the audience, barely had time to get the "MAID-EN" chant going, when the infamous reading from the Book of Revelation by BARRY CLAYTON resonated across the amphitheater as a prelude to "The Number of the Beast". The band was joined by a menacing giant horned god with arms crossed that oversaw the performance, as if passively observing a ritual sacrifice in his name. His subtle movements most noticeable when the crowd would scream the three-digit refrain, "Six. Six six!" The song along with two tracks, "Hallowed Be Thy Name", and "Run to the Hills", that it shares an album with, have been 3 of the 5 most played songs on every tour IRON MAIDEN has had since their release 34 years ago. The Book of Souls tour, however omitted "Run to the Hills" entirely, which disappointed many fans that would have preferred it to one of the new songs. 'Hallowed Be Thy Name", a song that many consider the greatest IRON MAIDEN track of all time, was included on the setlist for more than the first half of the tour, but due to a pending legal case was removed from the 2017 North American leg of the tour.
Dickinson spoke to the audience before the penultimate song, "Blood Brothers" from the 2000 release, Brave New World. He pointed out the international flags in the crowd, Sweden, Mexico, Italy, South Africa, and more. He addressed the crowd, conveying that with all the tragedy around the world that the "powers that be" across the globe are trying to "separate and divide us." He used the diversity of the crowd as an example of the unity the world should exhibit, saying that "people who want to worship, worship what you want; sleep with who you want; do what you want, just do no harm to each other. We're all here for the Iron Maiden show!" He added over the cheers of approval, "We hang out, have a few beers, hold hands with our friends, and have a good time. Not a bad way for the world to get along." As the song began, Bruce told the crowd, "We donít give a fuck where you come from or what color your skin is - if youíre Maiden, youíre welcome!" The statement was reflected in the song, and lent itself perfectly to the sing along of "We're blood brothers" by the 15, 000 attendees.
Closing the night was the unique track, "Wasted Years", from the 1986 release, Somewhere in Time. Which replaced the more common show closer in recent years, "Running Free." It's blend of feelings of homesickness, and ostracization, and conversely, looking forward, and progressing past previous troubles, punctuated the theme of the entire tour: It is okay to have the wide range of feelings about all of the things that happen in life, but don't let your anger at injustice, or those romanticized feelings for the past, keep you from making the most of the present, because, just like the Mayan civilization before us, one day we may disappear from the Earth, and if our souls do live on, give them something fond to remember.
CHRiS LiNViLLE (CONTRiBUTOR)