I had stopped doing live reviews because I found that I was spending more time concentrating and trying to remember stuff than I was enjoying myself, but I thought I’d make an exception the day one of the big beasts rolled into town.
I’m a cynical difficult-to-please sort of chap when it comes to big bands playing big shows but I had to go see Iron Maiden in Liverpool, because I’ve never seen them before and they were playing so near that it would be rude not to go. The last thing I’d want this morning would be to answer my door to six cross men of a certain age demanding to know why, if they can be arsed running around for a couple of hours and giving it loads at their time of life, why I couldn’t be similarly arsed taking a 10 mile train ride to see them.
Alcohol was consumed. War stories were swapped, two of our party had seen Iron Maiden in 1981* and a good time was had by all. The Baltic Fleet pub, always a good one, was very cannily having an Iron Maiden event which seemed to involve an awful lot of Trooper beer and a queue of about 50 people in the gents.
We got to the arena, grabbed our standing tickets and got as close as we could, maybe about 20 folk from the front (close enough not to have to look at the screens at all) and waited for the boys to arrive. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end when UFO’s ‘Doctor Doctor’ hit the PA and we all bounced up and down to it, then Boom! the backcloth fell and the full Mayan stage set was revealed as band piled into ‘If Eternity Should Fail’ which was a fine, dramatic way to start the gig and a real statement of intent.
What was evident right from the off was how hungry Maiden still are for all this and how much fun they have with the audience and with each other on stage, that was very heartening. The three guitar line-up was sublime at times as they harmonised and reeled off solos and Bruce was in very fine voice, more so than I’ve seen him in some recent live clips too.
Following up with ‘Speed of Light’ was a great way to undercut the seriousness of the opener, I’ve always liked the way the ‘hard rock’** sound of this track stood out on the album and I have to give total credit to Janick Gers here. He was great to watch, he wasn’t still for a second, throwing his guitar around, putting his foot up on his speakers and just clearly rocking out and having a whale of a time.
I swear my legs went all wobbly as soon as I heard that bassline, as Steve Harris gives it some real welly and ‘Wrathchild’ blasts out loud and still menacing even after all these wasted years. It’s probably my favourite track of the night, comparatively short and punchy in this set and we all bounce up and down as one in appreciation. ‘Children of the Damned’ was another interesting set choice, I like the track but it’s never come close to being an essential Maiden track for me but last night, live it was brilliant and you could see how much the band enjoyed playing it out too.
In a set heavily weighted towards The Book of Souls^ ‘The Red and the Black’ was the one most rapturously received, the one that looks the most like it was here to stay – the audience really getting into singing the melody back to the band. Some folks were a little disgruntled at the fact the band played so many new numbers but I really liked it a) Because the tracks came over a lot better than they did on the album^* and b) as my friend Andy put it, ‘it stops them becoming their own tribute act’. It also shows how strongly they back their new material, which probably also feeds back into how much fun they looked to be having.
I won’t give you the full track by track but obviously ‘The Trooper’ was a real highlight, Bruce draping his Union Jack over Janick Gers’ face from above as he played his solo and Steve Harris doing that cool pointy-bass-thing; ‘Fear of the Dark’ was a really unexpected highlight too – great tune; ‘The Book of Souls’ where Eddie took to the stage was an epic to end all epics, yet didn’t overstay its’ welcome; ‘The Number of the Beast’ was a great choice for the encore as was finishing the set with ‘Wasted Years’, that guitar line just gets me every time.
In between tracks Bruce was on great form, telling us it was far too long since they’d played Liverpool, wondering how many of us were conceived to ‘Iron Maiden’, giving his speech on ‘unity’ before ‘Blood Brothers’ and talking football. Oh and there were a good few ‘scream for me, Liverpool!‘s too.
Maiden really exceeded all my expectations last night, I thought they’d be really good but they were great and I enjoyed being part of such a big, friendly crowd for the first time in many years. I departed all happy and sweaty into the dark vowing to see Maiden again as soon as I can. Maybe they’ll even play ‘Women In Uniform’ for me next time around?
Women in uniform, sometimes they look so cold
Women in uniform, but, Oh! They feel so warm
760 Down (still)
PS. ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ was replaced by ‘Wrathchild’ and ‘The Great Unknown’.
PPS: Check out the ‘Soup of the Day’
*1981!! That’s like back in history before iPhones, when there were still knights and dragons and Churchill was prime minister. It was in the Metro Club apparently, Samson were on the bill (possibly Marseilles too) and Eddie was a man wearing a mask.
**as opposed to metal, I mean.
^6 tracks from it here, the only other LP contributing more than one track was The Number of the Beast.
^*which can be a bit clunky I think.