Monday, 29 May 2017

Iron Maiden - Live at the O2 Arena - May 27-28, 2017

Well if the legends that go by the name of Iron Maiden are playing twice in a row you might as well make the most of it and see them both times. Splash the cash, bite the bullet and be a good sucker haha! It'll be a couple of years at least before I get a chance to see them again that's for sure and probably it'll be closer to 3 or 4 years before another chance so make hay while the sun is out as they say or some such thing!

The first night was sold out in double quick time but I got priority tickets but unfortunately I missed the really closer seats and got some on the top tier but directly in front of the stage. I missed most of Shinedown but it was no great loss really. Brent Smith has a great voice and they have some cool tunes but it's just not a good fit for Maiden at all really. There's general apathy from most of the crowd although they are treated well enough compared to some bands I've seen supporting Maiden. I remember Trivium getting terrible abuse a few years ago when they were more in their metalcore days.

Going back to Shinedown Brent Smith really talks far too much between the songs but I already knew that having witnessed his preachy banter a couple of times before in their smaller gigs. It really gets a little too much to be honest when you're talking for more than 5-6 minutes and not playing songs. I figured I'll see the whole of their set on the Sunday and wasn't worried about the Saturday set as I was with a friend for Saturday. Shinedown were OK but forgettable in the main. The sound wasn't too great for them either being bass heavy and echo-y. Brent's vocals were fine though. The man is a powerhouse singer that's for sure and a commanding front man.

Finally at 8.50pm on the dot the familiar opening to Doctor Doctor starts up through the PA and the Maiden nutters start to get psyched for the old warriors return to London after having last played at this very venue back in 2013. The set list then was about as far removed from now as it's possible to get. Of course this is still the Book of Souls tour that started way back in 2016. Still you know what you're gonna get before you buy your ticket. Songs from Book of Souls and yet more songs from Book of Souls with a few classics in between.

I was quite enthusiastic about that album when it came out but I think hearing the songs live now, I think I may have been a bit over generous in my enthusiasm for it. The set opens with If Eternity Should Fail which in my eyes is just an OK song with an OK chorus. However the band is energised and does a sterling job of convincing you that they really mean business. The first night I sat in my seat over 60-70 meters from the stage it's hard to get over excited or head bang too hard but the second night I was stood 5 meters from the stage and you can see the band is truly enjoying themselves. This feeds into your enjoyment more as the crowd member and helps create a better feeling on certain songs in any case.

The set continues with more songs from BoS of course, With the ripping Speed of Light coming across better live than on record. The first departure into ancient realms occurs with the coming of the hellbent and aggressive Wrathchild played very ferociously which I witnessed at first hand much closer on the second night. All the better for viewing up close on this particular song.

The band continues with another old classic in Children of the Damned. The old bastards in the house which number plenty obviously lap that one up. Bruce sounds great on that epic and very cool it seems that song is a perfect fit for his modern voice and doesn't test him greatly. It seems the song is quite a comfortable song for him to sing unlike say The Trooper which is a real test. Bruce talks in between songs about this and that, etc and obviously about recent events in Manchester etc. Every concert the world over is gonna mention that one.

It's funny when you go to a concert two nights in a row. You wonder will he mention the same things again and he does pretty much but he does change it around a bit. I guess he realises that many people attend both nights so he doesn't want to completely repeat himself all the time with the same old cliches.

They move on from the old school and revert back to BoS material soon enough as we get Death or Glory, a tune which does little for me to be honest but it's OK and nothing I positively dislike. I'd just so much rather hear a classic, but it's the BoS tour and we must hear those songs. The first actually great song from BoS, namely the mid album epic The Red and the Black soon surfaces and is the first long song of the night. The instrumental section is a sight to be hold, the crowd wooaahh woaahs on cue and the melody is captivating. The first night sitting in my seat it was a great sight to see a 20,000 crowd singing as one to that one. That's one thing you miss when you're right up close as I was on the second night. It almost feels like you are in a small crowd of about 500 down the front or something and although you can see the whites of their eyes you somehow miss the full atmosphere behind you. The good thing is I sampled both on consecutive nights. So TRaTB was a real great effort and the first truly cool moment from BoS which every one loved.

We had to delve into classic territory after that with The Trooper and Powerslave.  The Trooper has been played thousands of time by now but it still gets you pumped as hell even though I'm sure it's a real test for Bruce and he does sound a touch strained but no one cares and the energy is through the roof. Powerslave's melodic gallop follows and is a song that every Maiden fan loves. Let's mention Mr Harris since we haven't already. Band leader extraordinaire is a truly inexhaustible guy. He runs heer and there pointing his bass machine gunning as usual and mouths near enough all the lyrics at the front rows. The guy is Maiden's spirit personified. His subtle bass licks are of course very prominent and make the Maiden songs the classics that they are.

Since were' talking about the instrumentalists let's quickly mention them all. Adrian is "Steady Eddie" of the group, playing rocking riffs with no shenagins and ripping leads with not too much smiling. He's the anchor in the band keeping it real as they say haha! Dave Murray is understated Mr Smiley doing a few pirouettes and generally "Mr Grin features" although out of all the guitarists he's the one who looks the most tired of all the touring maybe. His leads sound a bit one dimensional too at times but he's very much adored by the fans for his genial stage persona. That leaves Janick to act the band clown. Pull shapes, dance, play backing and have the odd solo. He mainly does guitar tricks and acts the complete fool, but you know what there's nothing wrong with that. It's actually funny to watch and he doesn't seem to take everything that seriously. That leaves Mr McBrain on the drums or Mr one foot wonder as some call him but all I know is that the guy is solid. Let's just say he's Mr Dependable. No one complains about Nicko and he does his job with an affable smile and has a whale of a time.

Moving on we have two more BoS songs to get through. The Great Unknown and the title track. The former track is a recent addition to the set list but sadly it's not a great song and seems to pass by without much fanfare at all. Another classic would have been so preferable indeed. The title track however is a monstrous epic and must be played of course in a tour of that name. The song builds and builds and the band sounds great as the song pounds away and then the hammering speedy riff takes the song to a great end from the halfway point onwards.

The song is followed up by the crowd pleaser that is Fear of the Dark. It seems this song is sacrosanct and can never be dropped from the modern Maiden set list. I must admit I have heard it every time I've seen Maiden which is at least 8-9 times and if it was dropped it wouldn't be the end of the world. But you know what - when those familiar opening strains start off it's still magical and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It's probably one of the best Maiden songs in a live setting. Just when you thing nahh this shit's getting old you still get that amazing pumped feeling with the energy and woooaahh section and the Fear of the Dark chanting section. Epic!

The main set ends with another song that they seemingly find impossible to omit, which is of course the self titled song from the debut. I can see why they play it as the fans just love it. The energy, the melody and the slightly punky feel. Steve Harris bellows the lyrics with immense gusto on that one. The crowd participation is again extravagant. People just love this song. Personally I'd prefer to hear the return of 11.58 or Aces High but I guess that's for another tour.

The second song in the encore sees a fairly long speech by Bruce on both nights, pontificating the same thing about unity etc and not caring what colour creed or religion we are and that we're all blood brothers that's why we're here. You get the drill! Having said that the band backs it up and the song sounds immensely powerful with the whole arena singing that one back at Bruce. The song itself has emotional melodic sections and very nice delicate solos. I must admit it is one of my fave live songs of the night and well worth to hear it sung by near enough the whole crowd. I actually enjoyed it more from my seat on the first night for this particular song as you can see the whole arena participate.

At the end of Blood Brothers, Adrian quickly starts that melodic motif and you know we've reached the final song of the night which is the very melodic and catchy Wasted Years. Indeed one of the best and most sung with choruses on the night. But the song doesn't have a last song of the night feel about it. The end song should of course be Hallowed but the band has decided to drop it from the set list due to the ongoing court case with regard to copyright infringement. From everything I've read the guy suing Maiden has never said the band can't play the song but it turns out every time they do play it they have to pay a few hundred quid royalties to this guy or something along those lines so they've made the decision to drop it for the time being. I read another rumour on Maidenfans forum saying that Bruce was having difficult singing the song and maybe they used the litigation case as a front for dropping the song. It's probably a bit of both who knows, but all i do know is that the song voted the best Maiden song of all time and my personal fave song by them ever is not currently part of the set list. This is absolutely a shame and it better restored soon as a Maiden gig however great it may be, is incomplete without Hallowed IMO. It may have been played to death but we go to Maiden gigs to hear Hallowed. Simple as. Sort this shit out haha!

Anyway I enjoyed my 2 night stint with the mighty Maiden. They may be knocking on a bit and the movement around the stage is not as rapid and slick as it once was but the ambition and power of delivery is as good as ever. Next time do a greatest newer hits set list with the best songs from 2000 onwards and I'll be there like a shot. Who am I kidding..I'll be there like a shot next time whatever the fuck they play! Up the Irons!

Doctor Doctor
(UFO song)
If Eternity Should Fail
Speed of Light
Children of the Damned
Death or Glory
The Red and the Black
The Trooper
The Great Unknown
The Book of Souls
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden

The Number of the Beast
Blood Brothers
Wasted Years


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