Hard rockers Iron Maiden have held an exalted position among rock fans for decades and their recent sell-out visit to Leeds Arena showed exactly why.
The band only finished their Legacy of the Beast tour last autumn and are back on the road with Future Past, a show which focuses primarily on Senjutsu, their most recent album and their 1986 classic Somewhere In Time release. This means that some traditional crowd pleasers like Aces High, Run To The Hills and Number Of The Beast have been sidelined this tour.
While this was a potentially risky move, Maiden fans are a resilient bunch – even more hard core than KISS I’d suggest – and you absolutely can’t fault the band for offering themselves and their audience something different.
A Maiden audience is also always a joy to see as their sheer enthusiasm makes you smile. Leeds had fans from as far away as Brazil, Argentina, Canada, USA and New Zealand on the barrier withwith their flags, were decked out in a myriad array of classic t-shirts from across the band’s career.
After the familiar pre-show countdown music of UFO’s Doctor Doctor the show got off to a cracking start with Caught Somewhere In Time which, prior to this tour, hadn’t been performed since 1987. We’d barely caught our breath before the band broke into another long absent song in Stranger In A Strange Land which featured the first walk-on cameo from the band’s mascot, Eddie. These songs were an early pointer to expect the unexpected.
The familiar line up of vocalist Bruce Dickinson who, of course, implored the crowd to “Scream for me Leeds!” together with the trio of guitarists Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers, and rhythm section of bassist Steve Harris and drummer Nicko McBain were all on top form. McBain, as usual, remained largely hidden behind his kit throughout the show.
As you would expect from a Maiden show, the staging and effects had not been skimped on. The backdrops extensively mirrored the recent album’s artwork with colourful futuristic Blade Runner style neon cityscapes and they deployed a veritable armoury of pyrotechnics during the show.
There was a section featuring several songs from Senjutsu with The Writing On The Wall, Days Of Future Past and The Time Machine, again the latter two being songs that didn’t make it into the set on the previous tour. I found another song from the album, Death of The Celts, did become something of an endurance test stretching to around ten minutes in length with its atmospheric battlefield aftermath backdrop veering dangerously towards Spinal Tap territory.
While the Senjutsu material was well received it ununsurprising that it was the older, rarely or never previously performed material that stole the show. For example, For example, Heaven Can Wait was enlivened by an on-stage battle between Dickinson and a robotic, Terminator-like Eddie.
Dickinson taunted Eddie “That’s not a gun, THIS is a gun” as he pulled aside a cover to reveal a futuristic rocket firing weapon – the cue for the pair to do battle as the band valiantly played on through the ensuing mayhem and explosions.
Fear Of The Dark, Can I Play With Madness and Iron Maiden all received ecstatic receptions, but like many, I was delighted to witness the band perform their historical epic Alexander The Great. It was rumoured the band never previously played the song on stage as Adrian Smith couldn’t remember how to play the solo, but even if true there was no such problem here.
The encore began quietly with the intro to Hell On Earth but erupted into a festival of flames that you could feel at the back of the standing section. The Trooper featured footage from the Charge Of The Light Brigade on screen – as, earlier in the set The Prisoner had incorporated visuals from the Sixties cult classic TV show of the same name – and the evening closed with an epic Wasted Years with the band running around the stage thrashing at their instruments in a climax of noise and colour.
Iron Maiden continue to be bigger, louder and more spectacular than others of their genre yet still do it with an exuberance and sense of fun that leaves you in no doubt that on this evidence their position as kings of the genre remains secure.
Review by David Dunn
Image Credit: PRESS