Editor’s note: When I found out our very own Christian had tickets to three Iron Maiden shows in the same week, I just had to ask him to write about his experience. Here’s what he had to say of Maiden’s tour of Texas. - Allyson
OK, let’s get this out of the way first: Iron Maiden played almost all songs from the last three albums, and will do so for all of this tour. If you have tickets and expect the set list from the last tour, then you’re going to be disappointed.
I’ve been an Iron Maiden fan since 1981, but I only saw them for the first time in Toronto on the A Matter of Life or Death tour (the one where they played the whole new album and a few songs at the end). I was at the barrier for Somewhere Back in Time (I am on the full concert disc section of Flight 666, in "2 Minutes to Midnight"). So, when I found out that the world tour for 2010 was starting in Dallas, I knew I had to fly over from Australia to be there. I saw the first three shows of the tour: Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, so what follows is a review of all three shows. I won First to the Barrier for Dallas, which was even better. The staff at Superpages.com centre had no idea what was going on, so, following their directions, I ended up missing the line and thus being the last FTTB person admitted. I run pretty fast though, so I secured a spot right in front of Adrian and Dave. I’d seen the merch, which included images from the last three albums, and we could see a set list from where I was, so I had a fair idea what was coming before it started. I’ve always loved "The Wicker Man" and had guessed they may start with it, and they did. It’s a great, high energy song to start a concert with. From there, the set ran through songs like "Ghost of the Navigator," "Brighter Than a Thousand Suns," "Paschendale,""Blood Brothers," "No More Lies" and more.
As new song followed new song, I’m told that further back, the crowd got restless, and some people even walked out. I’ve read posts in the fan club of people saying they’d never see Maiden live again. I suspect that the SBIT tour has given people so much of what they want that they expect it to stay that way. I also suspect a lot of people couldn’t see Maiden on that tour, which only did a few US cities, but saw the DVD and decided to go next time. However, where I was, at the front, a lot of people were singing along to the new songs. I wasn’t as "Wicker Man" was the only new song I knew well. Some of the songs they’ve chosen are not really that strong (everyone I’ve seen discuss it, singles out "Wildest Dreams" as a poor choice, for example ).
In Houston they swapped out "Brighter Than a Thousand Suns" for "Wrathchild" and "Paschendale"for "Dance of Death." There was speculation that this was because Adrian messed up the intro to "Paschendale" on the first night, but given that the band uses the big backdrops for each song, it was obvious they came prepared to do these extra songs. I think "Wrathchild" is not a strong choice, but that the set list needed a song people know earlier on, and both nights I saw them do it, the crowd visibly got animated when it started. In San Antonio they did "Wrathchild" and "Paschendale," and Adrian played it fine.
Dave tends to throw out a lot of picks, and all four people in a row including me, got one. The guy next to me, caught two, AND a Dave wrist band. The girl next to me caught an Adrian wrist band. I’m not sure I see the point, I mean, Bruce threw out his Maiden beanie and it left a TRAIL of sweat over the crowd as it flew out. I love Maiden, I’m not sure I want something soaked in their sweat, though. What is the etiquette here, do you wash it, or keep it as it is?
Once the new songs were done, Maiden move in to the ‘classic’ songs that never seem to leave their set. First was "Fear of the Dark," then "Iron Maiden" to close the first set. I think that "Fear of the Dark" is a good song, but a little played out. "Iron Maiden" is not even a great song, but I see why they do it. The Eddie who walks out during this tour looks like the graphic currently on the Iron Maiden site to promote the new song, "El Dorado." It looks more like the Predator than an Eddie, which is a little sad, I think. He fights with Janick, then comes over, is handed a guitar, and pretends to play it before walking off.
Of course, there is an encore. Previous shows I’ve seen had two Eddies, one that walks on during "Iron Maiden" and one that ‘unfolds’ during the last song. This time, the first encore song is "Number of the Beast" and it’s the devil that appears in a corner and looks back and forth. NotB is another song that I think they could drop, if they are playing a set list designed for hardcore fans, they should be replacing these perennials with songs like "22 Acacia Avenue," "Children of the Damned," "Flight of Icarus" or "Revelations." "Hallowed be Thy Name" was next, and the last song was "Running Free" during which Bruce puts on a policeman’s helmet and does a "Hello, hello, what have we here" routine, ending in the obligatory sing along. When the band left the stage, the lights stayed off long enough that I thought they may come out again, but then they came up, and we walked out to the tune of "Always look on the bright side of life."
A couple of things I will mention: one thing I love about Maiden is that Bruce actually talks to the crowd: it’s not scripted. In this case, over the three nights, he was pretty worked up about the US/England soccer game that was coming up (and ended up being a draw). I am not sure at this stage if they are going to alternate the set list to give something extra to the many fans who will do more than one show, or if they were just experimenting before settling on the set list I saw in San Antonio. I suspect the latter, although I think the former would be a cool idea. I am willing to admit that I would have preferred more classic songs, or at least, more obscure classic songs. I also think that at least a couple of the songs they ARE doing are not very strong Maiden songs. But, I really enjoyed hearing some more obscure songs, hearing a very different set list to the last tour, and getting another chance to consider songs that frankly I bought, listened to twice, and put on the shelf. I buy so many CDs nowadays that it’s rare for one to really ‘stick’, there’s always something new to hear. Maybe that’s one reason the old albums are so ingrained, I’ve not just had longer to listen, but back then, to buy a record was a big deal, you saved up, and chose carefully. The best song of the lot is the new one, "El Dorado," in my opinion, which means I’m excited for the album release, but "Benjamin Breeg," "Paschendale," "No More Lies," "These Colors Don’t Run" are all songs from the recent albums that I had disregarded and that have been running through my head these past few days. I am still in the US, getting ready for M3 this weekend, but when I get home, before I listen to CDs that came while I was away, I’ll be listening to those three albums again and, I am sure, appreciating them more now that I’ve heard some of the songs live.