Iron Maiden in East Rutherford,NJ

By Mick Stingley, Contributor
Wednesday, March 19, 2008 @ 12:29 AM

Bottom Line: Iron Maiden

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The very thought of the world's pre-emminent metal powerhouse playing an arena currently named for dress casual pastel preppie sportswear favored by geriatric tennis players and amateur 19th-hole golfers is not only frightening and hilarious but underscores the ridiculousness of pretentious naming rights in the era of a fractured US economy and ongoing war... and yet, in spite of this, tickets were being scalped at over two hundred bucks a pop. However troubled the times, however insane our superfluous misplaced ideals might be, there is one constant which cannot be ignored: Iron Maiden is an extraordinary live act upon which no monetary value can be placed for its fans and they are to be cherished in our time no matter what venue at which they perform.

Iron Maiden has built a legacy on the strength of charging metal songs whose lyrics deal with, more often than not, man's inhumanity to man. Arriving at the garishly painted, newly imbued IZOD Center one might find humor in this while pondering the state of the world; and what better band to contemplate this with than Iron Maiden?

Even singer Bruce Dickinson could not bring himself to imagine playing a venue with such a silly moniker ("stupid" was the word he used). With a history of having performed at the very same venue under three different names (The Meadowlands; The Brendan Byrne Arena; The Continental Airlines Arena), Mr. Dickinson made light of the name and elected to refer to the venue and the crowd as "Meadowlands," eschewing the facile pretense of corporate sponsorship showboating and addressing the audience as a like-minded member of those frustrated souls who wearily shuffled through the rain-soaked parking lots shaking their heads at the arena's new name, which might be more welcoming to the white wine-drinking gallery of an LPGA Charity Tournament.

Perception is everything. Metal is often given short shrift by the mainstream media and anyone who might glibly dismiss Iron Maiden as "a metal band" would have found that the six man British ensemble brought merit and gravitas to a much-maligned genre with its outstanding set and lights for a solid two hour show. Iron Maiden is not to be taken lightly. Taken at face value, the show consisted mostly of its better known hits; classic songs such as "The Trooper," "The Number of the Beast," "Run To The Hills," and "Fear of the Dark" were showcased to tremendous effect for both casual and die-hard fans; anyone looking for a hot night of galloping rhythm and soaring vocals to go with their hot dogs and beer was not going to be disappointed. With a dazzling light show and scenery was a tight outfit at the top of its game: ageless, peerless and menacing in its approach. Maiden is currently adding dates to this tour, "Somewhere Back In Time," which resurrects the 1984-85 "World Slavery Tour" set and favors better known compositions, all of which combine nostalgia for 30-and-40-somethings with an underlying alacrity for greater meaning in a post 9/11 world.

The band is subtle in its approach to this, (if in fact it is fostering a message): its previous tour was an exhibition of talent and fury showcasing the entirety of the war-weary "A Matter of Life and Death" and not since 1991'a "No Prayer On The Road" tour (where Dickinson advocated sending a missile up Saddam Hussein's ass) has Iron Maiden had a better forum for its pointed songs about war and conflict. While the concert is wholly a celebration of Steve Harris' epic lyric imagery and thunderous bass guitar attack and Bruce Dickinson's operatic tenor, the collection of songs mitigated the greater darkness among us.

Following the sample of Winston Churchill's epic speech to Great Britain on the eve of World War II, Maiden brought the IZOD Center audience to its feet with the rollicking force of "Aces High." With steadfast drummer Nicko McBrain holding court at the center of the Egyptian stage set (which Dickinson would use to great effect running amok like a hyperactive child), Iron Maiden's three guitarists, Adrian Smith, Jannick Gers and the smiling Dave Murray took the front of the stage while Harris held court, foot resting on a speaker and thrusting forward while Dickinson went leapfrogging and bouncing around the stage. In his silly, excellent tattered trousers and leering grin, Bruce Dickinson was both master of ceremonies and Shakespearian imp and who, well into his 40s still hit the high notes at the end of the song, perfectly screaming "Aces HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGH!"to the delight and amazement of all.

Following a short intro in which the singer addressed the crowd, the band launched into "Two Minutes To Midnight," a song usually reserved for encores on recent tours, but notably the second cut off "Powerslave," the 1984 classic which the band was somewhat celebrating this evening. And while Dickinson gave great voice to this song about the imminent threat of mutually assured destruction, the audience impressively picked up the chorus with growing zeal. The band followed this with "Revelations" and its bombastic song about the futility of war, "The Trooper." "The Trooper" ranks high in the Maiden catalogue as being a remarkably well-known audience favorite. The audience seemed to be enjoying its own personal Maiden karaoke, bellowing along "You take my life and I'll take yours, too..."

It was a night for cheering and fist-pumping. Harris' bass rumbled heavily throughout the arena shattering internal organs and shaking the foundation; guitarists Smith, Murray and Gers dueled and rang out in unison, with Gers providing comic relief tossing his guitar high in the air or flipping it about his body (even, at one point later in the show, jumping up and down on it), filling the air with screeching notes and Stratocaster blues-toned warmth. "The Number of the Beast" and "Run To The Hills" kept people from the beer concessions, preferring to rock out during a section of the night which might have been called, "Scream Along With Bruce!"

But the single highlight of the night, complete with Dickinson's cheeky Monty Python-esque intro, was "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." As they'd not performed this number in some time, the epic standout from "Powerslave"demonstrated the passion and depth of Harris' songwriting, often obfuscated by his lyric fascination with violence. Though the mid-section of the song is somber and slow, the misting of the stage with dry ice and the piped-in creaking of a small boat adrift on the sea brought some poignancy to the thundering first and third parts conveying loneliness and desperation and regret, the likes of which are solely human characteristics upon which the foundation of all of Iron Maiden's songs ring so beautifully true. Beyond the deglorification and deglamorization of war and strife is a celebration of the struggle of humanity through all of its failures and struggles, there remains the desire for redemption and salvation. Though this might not often be gleaned by those that would champion the superficial, bloody aspects of album covers and various merchandise adornments the band is associated with, Iron Maiden never ceases to astonish the more careful listeners and dedicated followers; the depth of Maiden's lyric ethos can only be measured in fathoms.

But - Hey! - they still fuckin' rock, dude! Galloping through trinkets like "Can I Play With Madness," "Heaven Can Wait" "Fear of the Dark" and the ubiquitous "Iron Maiden" the band proves its mettle as stalwart performers on its heavier numbers and more accessible pop-confections. And when all is said and sung, Maiden doesn't really need a huge set or expensive light show (or pyro!) to demonstrate what a sensational live act they truly are. And while the beloved mascot, Eddie, did not make an appearance until after the second encore, (the "Somewhere In Time" figure, he with cyber-skeleton and futuristic pistol), it was a welcome presence nonetheless.

The band finished with "The Clairvoyant" and "Hallowed Be Thy Name," promising to return to the NY/NJ area in the summer. For those that have yet to see this show, tickets will be on sale soon and no doubt go quickly; yet it is almost imperative to catch this band while they are in such fine form and savor the brilliant memory of this unparalleled live act. In a world of decrepit corporate posturing and global unrest, in a time of epic strife and rampant social deconstruction, deceitfulness and terror... was there ever a better moment to witness something so true?

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