Here we are again, my third Iron Maiden live review in a little over a year and this time a little closer to home; I’ve never been to Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena before and unfortunately myself and Mrs Strickmann haven’t snared the best tickets, being stuck over on the side where Janick Gers is doing his stretches and callisthenics, but mercifully the sound is good even here, loud but well defined, so, like the professionals we are, we make the best of things.
After the complete waste of time that is Shinedown (nothing against the band, just can’t see why they are the sole supports here; it’s not like any of them are related to the headliners), If Eternity Should Fail opens things and, it has to be said, the band wear it well after a year on the road. This really is a well oiled machine, and the band put in a competent performance full of joie de vivre and general bonhomie, both shared with the audience and amongst themselves. Speed of Light is next and, though I’ll never warm to the song, the band absolutely rip through it tonight, with Bruce Dickinson in particular in animated form, interacting with the crowd during the solos and even seeming to throw in a few stage moves not since (or at least noticed by me) since the days of The Beast on the Road.
A superb reading of Wrathchild is next, full of fire, and really getting the crowd going. After a brief bit of Bruce banter (concerning Yorkshire- Nottinghamshire rivalry, guaranteed to get the locals onside) the place really lights up with Children of the Damned. Dickinson sings with controlled power, hitting some ridiculous notes for a fifty eight year old, and revving the crowd to the point of hysteria as the songs speeds up towards the solos. Adrian Smith is, as ever, on fire, delivering his first real top draw solo of the night here, and the end section of the song – wherein we get our first chance to ‘who-oah’ with the band, is the first genuinely hair-raising moment of the evening.
Death or Glory dissipates the momentum a little; Like Speed of Light, it’s too mundane to still be in the set (I know this is still The Book of Souls Tour, but who wouldn’t rather hear The Evil That Men Do or even a deep cut like Flash of the Blade instead?), but the punters around me seem to enjoy it, especially when a monkey-masked Dickinson pretends to peel a banana whilst Dave Murray solos furiously…
The Red and the Black follows this levity and plunges the band fully into the grim-faced, overlong prog that represents so much of ‘post-reunion’ Maiden. After Steve Harris does his little bit of flamenco-inspired bass at the start of the song we make our way to the merch stall and to the refreshment counter, returning seventy quid lighter apiece but just in time for…
…The Trooper. Nicko McBrain does the time-honoured count in on the hi-hat and the Motorpoint Arena explodes as the guitars come in. I don’t mind admitting that I was with them – there’s something about this song that never fails to get the blood pumping, whenever and wherever it’s played. And tonight Maiden play it as well as I’ve ever heard. Total metallic perfection. This is buttressed by the chunky, meaty rendition of Powerslave which follows, Bruce singing from behind a Mexican wrestling mask for reasons best known to himself. The taped backing vocals are more obtrusive than last year, which is annoying, but musically the band again sound powerful and completely in control, McBrain especially throwing in some fills and rolls that show the man is at the top of his game again right now.
Energy levels drop as The Great Unknown drifts by, never really catching light, leaving The Book of Souls to try and reignite matters. It’s the best of the new songs aired tonight, mixing the best of old and new Maiden into an easily-digestible sub-ten minute nugget. Fear of the Dark – usually one of my ‘beer opportunity songs’ in a Maiden set but here acclaimed as a familiar old acquaintance – closes the main set alongside the perennial Iron Maiden with the usual torrent of crowd participation before the stage goes dark leaving an excited, but only partially-sated crowd baying for more.
The encores kick off with The Number of the Beast, the entire arena bathed in eerie green light, the song greeted, as are all the older selections aired tonight, as a long lost and very welcome friend. Blood Brothers, which comes next, isn’t quite such a classic but really gets the crowd going. It’s now the audience singalong song of the set, and to hear the whole crowd bellowing along almost brings a tear to this jaded old Welshman’s eye…
Which just leaves Wasted Years to end the night, which it does in genuinely fantastic fashion. Adrian Smith owns the song, of course, standing centre stage for his solo and playing his heart out, but the whole band back him to the hilt, producing for this reviewer at least the performance of the night with the final encore. And, as a consequence, and as usual with Iron Maiden, despite my complaints, everyone in the Motorpoint Arena leaves happy.
Photo: Joseph Raynor