To paraphrase a certain saying, “there are only three certainties in life; death, taxes and Iron Maiden playing Toronto.”
Friday, August 9th and 10th, Iron Maiden hits the Budweiser Amphitheatre stage as part of their 44-date North American leg of their current Legacy Of The Beast Tour (which also features dates in Montreal, Quebec City, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver).
Reporting in from Norfolk, Virginia, guitarist Adrian Smith agreed that Toronto has always been one of the band’s favourite tour stops going back to their very first Canadian date, June 19th, 1981 when they debuted their `Killers Tour’ set at the Concert Hall. Virtually every tour since has seen them perform at various TO locations such as Massey Hall, Kingswood, Maple Leaf Gardens, Exhibition Stadium, Ricoh Centre, Scotia Bank Centre and more recently the Budweiser Amphitheatre.
“We’ve always had a bit of connection with Toronto,” agreed Smith. “When we first toured North America, Toronto had a bit of a magical quality about the place. There were a lot of people with Anglo roots who were familiar with the band. I remember going into my hotel room, and watching Coronation Street (a famous British soap opera) on the tele. You could get a few comforts of home like HP Sauce, we felt a bit of a connection there,”
Unlike most tours where Maiden are promoting a new album, this `Legacy Of The Beast’ tour will be pushing the band’s elaborate new video game and comic book collection as well as a series of Studio Collection Remastered CD’s.
The video game (available from the App store) is an elaborate production which features various incarnations of the band’s sinister mascot, Eddie featured in many different Maiden worlds. “The whole theme of our stage set has been created around various themes of our video game,” Smith explained. “The set allows us to play some old and some not so old songs that we really like and the stage set up is probably the most ambitious, over-the-top show we’ve ever done. We just played Europe and people over there absolutely loved it.”
“Watch for a Spitfire plane during “Aces High”, lots of pyro, a giant Icarus and an Eddie like you’ve never seen him before,” enthused Smith, aware that the band’s loyal fan base has come to expect jaw-dropping live productions.
“A lot of people have grown up with us and a lot of that has to do with the fact that we’ve always been touring and we’ve brought our music to the fans,” analyzed Smith. “We’ve literally toured the four corners of the World; we’ve never relied on just releasing a couple of hits. We’ve built deep roots with our fans and they know we care about them. We are lucky to have them but we have worked hard to build it up.”
Smith allows that his tenure with Iron Maiden hasn’t always been positive but his nine-year departure from the band (between 1990-1999) has in retrospect provided a unique perspective on the group. Having initially joined them just before the band’s sophomore `Killers’ release in 1981, Smith allowed that his initial experience was just a whirlwind of activity. “Before them, I was playing in pubs, and then it was nine years of constant touring and recording, I sort of took things for granted.”
Disillusioned with the musical direction Maiden took in 1990 with their more stripped-down `No Prayer For The Dying ‘release, Smith left to launch his own bands (ASAP and Psycho Motel) and work on his songwriting, before joining lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson (who had also left Maiden) on two solo albums before both rejoined the band in 1999.
Yet since rejoining bassist Steve Harris, lead vocalist Dickinson, drummer Nicko McBrain, and joining a triple-guitar threat with Dave Murray and Janick Gers, Smith has a new appreciation for the band and feels his own songwriting skills have also improved.
“The first thing I noticed when I rejoined the band was how young our fans were,” Smith noted, “For my part, I was enjoying it more than ever, I appreciated things more than I ever did in the Eighties.”
Smith agrees that flying around in Maiden’s own Eddie One jumbo jet (with Dickinson operating as one of the plane’s co-pilots) which allows the band to fly from one continent to another, is a rare luxury which provides them with unique touring opportunities.
“Yes, we’ve come a long way since those first tours of America when we used to travel to gigs all packed in the back of a car, opening for Whitesnake and Judas Priest. Then it was tour buses, planes and now our own Jumbo Jet,” enthused Smith. “There’s no greater thrill than flying into a place like Malaysia or some South American city in a great big jet with the band’s name on it. It creates a great buzz.”
As Iron Maiden executes their latest tour (which will conclude with three dates in Mexico City and concerts in Brazil and Chile) with opening band The Raven Age (featuring guitarist George Harris – son of Maiden bassist Steve Harris), Smith explains that he still enjoys writing and recording new music and the band still loves playing to their fan base.
“I used to take things to heart but now I try to enjoy every moment of being in Maiden.” Smith allows. “With social media being so dominant these days, our management has been great creating things like our video game and the comics, but at the end of the day, it’s still about our live performances and recording new music that keeps our fans loyal.”
It’s a given that Iron Maiden will eventually be inducted into Cleveland’s Rock N Roll Hall of Fame but with the success of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and Elton John’s Rocket Man movies, how long before there’s an Iron Maiden movie?
“Oh my God, I never thought about that,” mused Smith. “I liked the Queen movie, it would be fun to think about the idea though! I wonder who would play who, I’ll be up all night thinking about that one!”
By Keith Sharp