by Ross McTaggart Contributor | Photos by John McMurtrie

Tags: Iron Maiden 

Live Review: Iron Maiden at The O2, London, 27/05/17

'Itís a cacophony of hard rock cliches but this is exactly what the crowd has come from all over the world to hear and see'

 

Iron Maiden tour review The Book Of Souls Bruce Dickinson Photo: John McMurtrie

The house lights dim, a hooded figure hunches over an altar that billows smoke across the stage. A soaring operatic voice pierces the silence and spotlights bathe the auditorium in a sinister red glow. If you’d never been to an Iron Maiden concert before you could be forgiven for thinking this was perhaps a performance of Faust or Phantom of The Opera - but it’s actually something far more theatrical than that.

Back on the road for roughly the millionth time to support their 16th studio album The Book Of Souls, Maiden are here to delight their legion of loyal, denim clad fans with a masterclass in stadium stagecraft.

And it’s a glorious if somewhat gaudy spectacle from start to finish. From the Mayan stage setup complete with flaming structures to the tribal painted, inflatable Eddie that looms behind the stage, there is nothing of the ‘gig’ about this band. It’s a cacophony of hard rock clichés but this is exactly what the crowd has come from all over the world to hear and see.

That’s what’s kind of incredible about Maiden. In today’s always-on world, novelty and newness are our most-prized commodity and acts often reinvent their sounds or styles in order to remain relevant. But Maiden have barely changed their format in nearly 50 years, a luxury that perhaps only a band who, while hugely successful, have for the most part remained out of the mainstream for almost their entire career. They’re the monster that’s been multiplying in the shadows and tonight we get to see it at full tilt.

We’re treated to all the usual visual treats: Steve Harris machine-gunning the front rows with his bass, Janick Gers twirling and pirouetting like some sort of hair metal cheerleader, a never ending stream of harmonised solos and, of course, the peculiarity that is Bruce Dickinson. Dressed tonight in a plain black hoodie and khaki trousers, his wardrobe is more Ed Sheeran than Eddie The Head - but he’s on fine form nonetheless.

Dickinson’s role in this particular piece of theatre is to play the cheeky imp, or the scampish Artful dodger who taunts and teases his fellow performers. Whether that’s while he’s wearing a monkey mask and tickling them with plastic bananas or while he’s running across the stage in a Mexican luchador mask, he’s in constant flow and his energy and dynamism are palpable even right up in the gods.

Despite the pomp of it all, Dickinson takes a moment to recognise and honour those who lost their lives in the attack in Manchester and he couldn’t be more right when he says that we send a message by gathering together at events like this despite the horror that unfolded last week.

It’s a moment of sober clarity in an otherwise wildly ostentatious show, but a casual look across the sea of people here tonight reveals at least 25 flags from countries across the world, a reminder that while they may have flown under the radar in some respects, Iron Maiden have succeeded by being a truly open church for all. Just so long as you’re happy yelling along to 'Number Of The Beast' that is...


Ross McTaggart

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