w/ The Raven Age
Horncastle Arena, Christchurch
Friday 29 April 2016
I missed out on seeing Iron Maiden in 2009 when they last came because I was at a school camp. Ironically enough it was a camp for my music class. One boy from my class skipped the camp to attend the concert, and I’d argue that he learnt more about music from attending the concert than he would have at the camp. Then again, another boy who came on the camp now tours the world playing music in Broods, so maybe my idea of worthwhile musical education isn’t accurate.
It was some consolation that I managed to see the original Iron Maiden singer, Paul Di’anno, play live when I moved to Wellington the following year. It was a good night, but not enough to make up for missing the full band.
Fast forward five years and I finally got the chance to redeem myself. Iron Maiden were returning to New Zealand to promote their latest album, The Book of Souls, and there was no way I was going to miss them this time around.
The most impressive stage set I had seen until now was Rammstein’s, at Big Day Out 2010. They had big cauldrons, and multiple levels of staging with a heavy, industrial look. This was enhanced by all the pyrotechnics that the band is famous for.
Iron Maidens set up made Rammstein’s look like child’s play. In keeping with their new theme, the stage was decked out like a Mayan temple, with Mayan imagery carved into the walls, jungle vines hanging from the lighting rig, and multiple layers of staging for frontman Bruce Dickinson to run about on. Large backdrops set the scene, while vessels overflowed with dry ice and vases spat fire onstage. Drummer Nicko McBrain could not even be seen behind his enormous drum set, with a larger than life array of cymbals and toms enveloping him. It was as if everything was prepared for a blood sacrifice to be made to the gods of rock.
Dickinson was the most theatrical, running about and yelling like a man half his age. This was especially impressive, considering his recent battle with throat cancer. Not that you could tell, with his operatic voice as epic and impeccable as ever. He donned a number of different costumes throughout the night, decked out in a red coat and waving a British flag during “The Trooper”, swinging a large noose around (and hitting the crash cymbals on the drums with) during “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, and even donning a luchador mask at one stage. The most popular though, was when he rocked an All Blacks shirt with his surname printed on the back, towards the end of the show.
Bonus points for entertainment also go out to guitarist Janick Gers, who never let up his wild stage moves as he played. For the most part he could be found right of stage, doing the splits over a speaker, but he also ran around spinning, swinging and flipping his guitar with abandon.
The set revolved mostly around the most recent album The Book Of Souls, but Maiden kept the older fans happy by playing the “legacy songs”, as Dickinson put it. He laughed at the age variation of the crowd, noting that many of us would not have been born when their song “Children of the Damned” was written.
Of course everyone’s favourite mascot made an appearance. An enormous zombie Eddie the Head walked onstage and started swinging his axe at the band members. He got into a tussle with Dickinson, who managed to tear poor Eddie’s heart out of his chest, before spraying the blood from it over the front rows in the audience.
Eddie managed to come back later, with his head and chest the size of a hot air balloon rising up from the back of stage. An evil goat figure with folded arms arose in the same manner during “Number Of The Beast”, staring out over us mortal beings with disdain.
Iron Maiden more than delivered, with both stunning musicianship and immense stage presence. They’ve been going at it for a long, long time now, and they’ve made sure not to let their quality slip. This has earnt them a loyal fan base, and just to prove it, it seemed as if 90% of the crowd were wearing Iron Maiden merchandise. Finally seeing Maiden live was just as good – if not better -than I expected. Their show was just as long, fantastic and spectacular as their songs. I doubt that I’ll see any other band surpass this kind of quality for a very long time.