So, Sentinel Daily is back in the English Capital, once more at the overgrown shopping mall that is the O2 Arena. It’s an awful place, really, but you can’t blame tonight’s hosts Iron Maiden for setting up camp here for the weekend in order to give as many people as possible the opportunity to be part of this by now world-famous Legacy of the Beast saturnalia.
And it really is world famous. The trouble with the internet – the main trouble, that is – is that when your city is at the end of a touring schedule you arrive without any sense of excitement as everything about what you are about to see has been documented what seems a million times over, often on the artist’s own social media channels.
And Iron Maiden are very keen on social media, of yes…
Still, we are here and all that said and duly noted, nothing really prepares you for the arrival of The Spitfire. It’s great, of course, but somehow, despite seeing it in the comfort of one’s domestic office quite a lot over the last couple of months, much greater than you were expecting. The band arrive onstage, all guns blazing and, what you’ve heard is true. The sound is crystal clear where your reviewer is perched, and Bruce Dickinson really hasn’t sounded this good for aeons. Perhaps ever.
Aces High, Where Eagles Dare and 2 Minutes to Midnight flash by before you have a chance to really take it all in – it’s only now I realise drummer Nicko McBrain is completely obscured by camouflage netting – but we get a chance to settle ourselves down as Dickinson gives a tributary chat about the RAF, and then we’re off again.
I’ve never liked The Clansman – thems the breaks with these career-spanning sets – but there’s no denying the popularity of the song amongst the twenty-odd thousand around me. So who am I to complain… Freedommmmm!!!!
The Trooper revives your reviewer’s spirits somewhat – as it always does – with Eddie making his first appearance in full Crimean campaign attire. It’s great, but it doesn’t prepare you for what’s next.
An audible ‘whoah’ emanates from the crowd as the backdrop for Revelations is revealed, the faux stained glass creating the perfect setting for Bruce’s evocative paean to GK Chesterton. Revelations is one of Maiden’s truly great songs, not played live nearly enough over the years, and both band and audience seem more than content to welcome it home this evening.
After this, things dip a little again – A Matter of Life and Death isn’t anywhere near my fave Maiden album and For the Greater Good of God isn’t anywhere near the best track from it – and The Wicker Man is bog-standard early reformation Maiden, no more, no less… The whole set is in danger of losing all momentum when the turgid opening bars of Sign of the Cross creep across the venue, so your faithful interlocutor heads off to make a cashless beer purchase in the seemingly endless concourse that surrounds the arena.
I’m not alone in this idea either, with bars and merch stands doing healthy mid-set business. You can hear what’s going on quite well out here, so I decide to finish my pint outside and do a bit of people watching.
Actually, you seem to be able to feel just how well Bruce is singing outside the blast doors – and that’s very well indeed. In fact the whole band, hardened now by quite a few weeks on the road, sound in peak form, and certainly perform at a far higher level than most of their peers, with the possible exception of the always admirable Saxon. Even on leaden numbers like SotC.
Anyway, pint finished it’s back in for a rousing singalongabruce on Flight of Icarus, which, like it’s stablemates Revelations and Where Eagles Dare, is one of the highlights of the evening. Especially when Bruce stands atop the amps menacing Nicko McBrain with, what else? A flamethrower.
Dave Murray peels off his best solo of the night during this song, a classic show of his patented hammer on/pull off style, but overall he’s a bit quiet, leaving Adrian Smith to star as usual as the best player in the band. But even he looks a bit jaded as the band launch for what must seem like the millionth time into Fear of the Dark. I know it’s the audience participation song to end them all, but surely tonight, when we are here to celebrate the full panoply of Maidenesque glory, something a little more untouched might have been dusted off? Phantom of the Opera? Killers? Futureal? (stop it – Ed).
Number of the Beast is immovable, I’m Ok with that – especially when it’s played with as much fire as the band generate tonight, and similarly the band’s eponymous theme tune ends the main set as only it can.
The Evil That Men Do opens up the encore section in rip-roaring, roof-raising fashion, Hallowed be Thy Name follows suit and a final run through of Run to the Hills – sung better by Bruce tonight than any time I’ve heard since the mid eighties – sends us on our way.
For all my moaning, as we shuffle as cattle out of the arena and in to the balmy East End night, there’s not a face around me that isn’t wreathed in smiles. We live in pretty shitty times, if we’re being honest, and when a band like Iron Maiden can raise the spirits of thousands simply by being the best version of themselves they can be who am I to complain?
Up the Irons!
Photo courtesy of Ross ‘Mission from Scotty’ Haynes.