Over two nights at Toronto’s Budweiser Ampitheatre, over 30,000 disciples assembled to worship at the Temple of Iron Maiden. You can only describe these concerts as a religious experience as the bond between the five-member British band and their devoted fans are much more complex than your average rock crowd extravaganza.
Iron Maiden is so much more than just a heavy metal rock band. They are a marketing phenomenon who have tirelessly built their image over almost 40 years of tireless touring. Just check out their audience and you will discover an age span of fans from young kids, teenagers, hardcore rockers to people who were obviously part of their original fan base, virtually all adorned with some form of Maiden merchandise
Maiden’s current Legacy Of The Beast global jaunt is not promoting a new recording. Instead, they are reflecting the cultural connection with video games by launching their own spectacular Legacy video game format which they previewed on the theatre screen prior to launching into their first number. Add to this a series of comic books and a repackaged set of their past recordings and it is clear that the band continues to have a complete grasp on how to connect with current pop culture.
And anyone who has ever been to an Iron Maiden concert knows that lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson, bassist Steve Harris, drummer Nicko McBrain and the triple-guitar threat of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers don’t just perform a rudimentary setlist. At this point in their career, it would be so easy for the band to hop on stage, backed by a set of lights and just go through the motions. Their fans would still provide fanatical support. But Iron Maiden has never just rested on their laurels. They literally invest millions of dollars in set production.
It seems every tour they execute is a challenge to outdo their previous efforts, and with this Legacy Of The Beast itinerary, Maiden are free to perform a setlist of their own favourites with performances that are cued into their video game.
Maiden’s first song, a war epic titled “Aces High” sees the entire stage camouflaged with hedges, bushes and netting, McBain’s drum kit almost obscured behind the props, with a huge model of a Spitfire plane, suspended precariously over the band’s heads. “The Trooper” sees the band’s infamous Eddie character duelling with Dickinson while “Flight Of Icarus” includes a giant figure of Icarus ascending to the Sun. And then, of course, during the band’s “Iron Maiden” set-closer, a giant inflatable Eddie looms over the stage.
Each song during Maiden’s set is full-on production number with the trio of Murray, Smith and Gers taking turns to engage in extended solos performed in front of a series of backdrops which thematically reflect each song. Other than “Run To The Hills” which is their go-to encore closer, Maiden has never eschewed hit singles, instead of creating elaborate production numbers that are mini classical pieces in their own right. There’s a sense of majesty about tracks like “Revelations”, “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “Sign Of The Cross” which show just how sophisticated this band really is.
And it doesn’t hurt that the band is powered by the vocal prowess of Bruce ‘Air Raid Siren’ Dickenson who can not only handle the unique demands of singing such complex material but also can act out the production numbers as well as constantly jell the crowd with his “Scream For Me Toronto” calls to action. Dickinson certainly doesn’t mind being controversial. Staring at the Illuminated Budweiser beer sign at the back of the theatre, he cracked “Don’t drink that piss that they sell here, support your local craft brewery.” And as an introduction to “The Clansmen” Dickinson warned any Americans in the audience to get the spelling right, “That’s Clansmen, not Klansmen!”
Call Iron Maiden a throwback if you will, they certainly know how to deliver a concert performance and their legions of followers can only expand as younger fans get to experience what a real rock show is all about.
By Keith Sharp