Metal Hammer (UK) - - Live - MER­LIN ALDERSLADE

Me­tal giants bring The Book Of Souls back to the UK

“Amer­ica gets Ghost as sup­port and we get this pile of shit?” While that barb from one dis­grun­tled, pee­ing punter seems harsh, it’s fair to say that SHINEDOWN [5] are one of the safest op­tions Maiden have ever taken on tour – their bland, mid­dle of the road ra­dio rock un­likely to an­noy any­one too much. It’s not that they aren’t earnest, or are even of­fen­sively bad; they’re just… so… mlah. That said, they do seem to win over por­tions of the Motorpoint Arena, and have more than a few fists pump­ing by the end. Fair fucks; though we too would have liked to have seen Ghost, An­gry Toi­let Lad.

There was no way IRON MAIDEN [8] weren’t go­ing to blow their sup­port­ing cast clean out of the arena tonight, and as soon as the lights dim and Doc­tor Doc­tor bel­lows around the build­ing, the at­mos­phere around the venue switches from Hav­ing A Lovely Time to Let’s Go Fuck­ing Men­tal. Smoke fills the stage as black sheets are whipped away to re­veal the band’s im­pos­ing Book Of

Souls set for the very first time in this city – and, in­deed, for only the sec­ond time in this coun­try fol­low­ing last year’s Down­load show­ing. The eerie open­ing keys of If Eter­nity Should Fail boom over the PA, prompt­ing an almighty cheer to greet a hooded Bruce Dick­in­son as he creeps on­stage and lurches over a bub­bling caul­dron, his voice echo­ing around the venue. “Here is the soul of a man…” And here, fi­nally, is the first date of Iron Maiden’s proper UK tour, and ev­ery­thing is al­ready look­ing as fan­tas­ti­cally lu­di­crous as ever.

As Messrs Har­ris, Smith, Mur­ray and Gers flood the stage and the Maiden army be­gin duly bang­ing their heads and scream­ing their lungs out, it’d be easy to be swept away in the delir­ium that only an Iron Maiden show can bring, but some­thing doesn’t quite sit right for the first cou­ple of songs tonight. There are oc­ca­sional, very sub­tle mist­im­ings within the band and it’s un­clear whether there’s a mi­nor mic mal­func­tion or Bruce isn’t quite keep­ing pace like usual (as the show pro­gresses, we strongly sus­pect the former). It’s noth­ing that seems to bother the few thou­sand peo­ple singing their heads off, of course, but as the me­tal leg­ends kick into Speed Of Light, they still don’t quite seem to be fully find­ing their rhythm.

“’Ello!” beams Bruce dur­ing a brief pause, show­ing no signs of there be­ing any is­sues what­so­ever, be­fore adding to laughs: “I’m, like, 70, and I’m the youngest guy here!” It’s not the last time he ref­er­ences his or his com­rades’ age, and Maiden have never been afraid to poke a bit of fun at them­selves, but cou­pled with a less than fly­ing start, it’s hard to stop those ques­tions drift­ing back in again. Af­ter all, at some point you have to draw the line and recog­nise the mo­ment you’re fi­nally wit­ness­ing a band tip­toe over the wrong end of the roller­coaster, and the idea that Maiden may have taken a definitive step down in the live arena is a firmly de­press­ing one.

Lucky, then, that Wrathchild seems to bring ev­ery­thing back on track, and from then on in Maiden’s set typ­i­cally merges the epic (a mighty Iron Maiden com­plete with reimag­ined, blow-up Eddie) with the sub­lime (a stun­ning The Red And The Black, com­plete with a blood red-doused stage) and the ridicu­lous (Death Or Glory, with Bruce – chimp mask dan­gling off his head – de­mand­ing that the Not­ting­ham fans quite lit­er­ally “Climb like a mon­key!” Need­less to say, ev­ery­one – Ham­mer in­cluded – duly oblige).

Per­haps there was sim­ply still a bit of fine­tun­ing to be done this early into the tour, but there are few other signs of any is­sues for the rest of the two hours Maiden are on­stage, and the crowd are lap­ping up just about ev­ery­thing the me­tal ti­tans throw at them.

That said, Bruce’s stage pat­ter is a bit odd at times, at one point go­ing on a three min­uter­ant about Amer­i­can beer be­ing a bit crap and also ask­ing per­mis­sion to “speak the Queen’s English” now that the band are back on home soil. A po­ten­tially mis­fired com­ment given the cur­rent cli­mate in the UK, but Not­ting­ham takes it in good jest, and it’s barely a few min­utes later be­fore the singer is at­tack­ing the di­vi­sive na­ture of Bri­tish pol­i­tics and re­mind­ing us that “white, black, brown or blue”, ev­ery­one is wel­come at an Iron Maiden gig. And, as a stun­ning en­core of The Num­ber Of The Beast, Blood Broth­ers and Wasted Years bring the show to a tri­umphant close, any teething is­sues or ec­cen­tric rants are long for­got­ten. An­other year, an­other killer Iron Maiden tour, ba­si­cally. Let’s hope they still have a few more rounds left in the tank yet.

Maiden typ­i­cally

merge the epic with the sub­lime

Steve Har­ris: mas­ter of all he sur­veys “Come on, Dave – you know the words by now!” Now imag­ine this climb­ing lot all like mon­keys… Bruce back on fine form af­ter his mic is­sues are re­solved

The front three rows didn’t need their eye­brows any­way… “Fancy seein’ you ’ere!”

it wear­ing “He’s he...” again, isn’t

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