Mark L. Potts,
Tuesday, May 14, 2002 @ 11:27 PM
Maiden Rocks the Brixton Acade
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Iron Maiden was never an exceptional band and on paper, it still isn't.
Now, there is a statement in an Iron Maiden review that is likely to get me lynched! Well, before all you Ed Hunter wannabes start hunting me down and raising a Wicker Man, hear me out.
I remember them from 1979 onwards and even in those early days, I often wondered what it was that made this band so damn good. They were never like the other bands that had the natural guitar genius, the gorgeous singer, or the manic drummer. Looking at them objectively, Di'Anno, Murray, Stratton, Harris and Burr were good but didn't look destined to set the Thames on fire. How wrong could you be? On stage they were devastating. Anyone who saw them in 1979/80 will never forget Phantom of the Opera live.
I last saw Iron Maiden on the Killers tour: Leeds University, November 22nd 1981. Adrian Smith was the new recruit and Eddie's level of sophistication was limited to a roadie in a rubber mask running on with a fire extinguisher. Since then things have changed. The intervening years have seen the massive stage sets, the addition of mad drummer Nicko McBrain, guitar wizard Jannick Gers and the unique vocal stylings of Bruce Dickinson. Dave Murray and Steve Harris are still doing what they do and Adrian Smith is no longer the new boy. But, the more things change the more they stay the same. On the whole, Iron Maiden, on paper, is still nothing special. (Is it possible for a person to be lynched twice for the same crime? Such sacrilege!) Bear with me...
At Brixton Academy, the stage was surprisingly uncomplicated, just a big old open space for the guitar men, a climbing frame-cum-obstacle course for The Bruce, and the contents of an entire hardware store for Nicko. Some very impressive painted backgrounds covered the back line and appeared and disappeared as necessary for each song. Some of them, it has to be said are particularly awesome, such as The Clansman and The Trooper. Stunning pieces of art. No big stage show though, give or take the huge wicker man, that is. Oh, and the Ed Hunter Eddie. All right, so maybe there were some fancy bits to the show. This band puts on a cracking performance, plays good songs and has a stage show that adds to the performance, rather than, is the performance. If you take the make-up and stage show away from KISS, for example, you get what we had in 1983. I still have nightmares about the Lick it Up tour. Maiden is different, it is much more than the sum of its parts. The set list says it all really. Around half of the material is culled from the Brave New World CD, and before last night I'd really not taken to it that much, save for “The Wicker Man” and “Ghost of the Navigator.” However, after the stunning renditions of “Blood Brothers” and “Dream of Mirrors” that we were treated to, I've spent a good deal of today listening to the CD anew. Seeing the live performance of material like “The Mercenary” and “Brave New World” has kept the CD on repeat for several hours now.
The back catalogue material needs no introductions and no explanations. If you need annotated diagrams explaining why “2 Minutes to Midnight,” “Wrathchild” and “The Evil That Men Do” were awesome in the extreme, go out and buy Smash Hits and the latest release from this week's pre-packaged, pappy, pop idol, because you're reading the wrong magazine, Buddy-boy.
The high point for me was when the wicker man made an appearance during “Iron Maiden,” with Bruce singing from inside the towering structure. Not only is this historically one of my favourite Maiden tracks, but the delivery was especially impressive.
After a decent interval, complete with attendant screaming, chanting and cheering, the familiar intro to “Number of the Beast” filled the hall. I began to pray that the restoration work had been done properly when the chorus arrived and an almighty roar threatened to lift the roof right off, as everyone within recited the immortal line: "666, the number of the beast!" However, even that cacophonous ululation was dwarfed by that which greeted the last song of the night, “Run to the Hills.” Check your seismographs (those of you who happen to own one) because I am sure that at 22:22 on Wednesday 20th March 2002, a noticeable and measurable levitation of the building will have been recorded in the Brixton area. Following “Run to the Hills,” Clive Burr came on stage and threw drumsticks to the crowd in what was a most touching finale to a fine evening's entertainment and a worthwhile charitable event. Bruce announced that merchandising sales from the first night's performance had raised some £33,000 for the cause.
Iron Maiden has survived the years much better than its contemporaries, with more street cred, more respectability, more unit sales and they've done it because they are not prima donnas, tax exiles, egomaniacs or tossers. They are normal blokes who are bloody good at what they do. They do it for real. The performances may not be perfect but they are genuine and that is why the Irons stand head and shoulders above the rest.
Up the Irons!
“The God of Thunder”
Set list: The Wicker Man / Ghost of the Navigator / Brave New World / Wrathchild / 2 Minutes to Midnight / Blood Brothers / The Clansman / The Mercenary / The Trooper / Dream of Mirrors / The Evil That Men Do / Fear of the Dark / Iron Maiden // Number of the Beast / Children of the Damned / Hallowed Be Thy Name / Run to the Hills
Rating: 11/10 This band is the proverbial canine undercarriage.