"We're going to get this place...hotter than hell," oops, wrong band, but right sentiment as the mercury climbed near 100 today. Risky weather to wear all black, topped with denim and/or leather, while downing a frosty (albeit overpriced) beverage. Other east coast tour stops see the venerable Brits indoors (Newark, NJ) or oceanside (Jones Beach, NY), but Friday, June 29th, the official kick-off to an elongated Independence Day weekend, it was the unforgiving urban blacktop of America's most dangerous city (based on murders per capita), Camden, NJ that hosted IRON MAIDEN's Maiden England retrospective. They say you can never go home again, but via alternating tours, Maiden has sought to either relive past glories (as was the case this evening) or to completely immerse fans in a new record (old hits be damned). Know which I prefer!
The Maiden England video was originally recorded on the Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son tour and five tunes off that disc are still in the set, with half of the quarter-century old running order remaining intact, although apart from the opening 'Moonchild', thankfully jumbled around. This was no mere live playback. There's even a pair of post- Seventh Son songs included this time around, 'Afraid To Shoot Strangers' and 'Fear Of The Dark', both off what would be singer Bruce Dickinson's "last" album with the band, for eight years. Could have done with one less, in exchange for just one song off Killers (title track was on the original format), or, if need be, in place of 'Phantom Of The Opera', as situated between two of their biggest hits ('Number Of The Beast' and 'Run To The Hills'), its reception was rather chilly, even on this steamy night.
Is there anyone who doesn't know UFO's "Doctor Doctor' is the unofficial call to arms for the show to start? Nicko McBrain strolls to his place behind the drum kit as that song ends, the stage motif a frozen planet, iced over images of Eddie as The Trooper and Killer artwork emblazoned on the walls of the semi-circle that rings the stage. The second/upper tier is solely (why?) the province of singer Bruce Dickinson. On the main floor the trio of guitarist each knows his place, almost as if there are definitive demarcations, forbidding Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Jannick Gers from crossing into the other's "territory." Actually the mainstay Murray-Smith tandem are afforded the most liberal space, while Gers seems content to dance alone on his side of the (otherwise barren) stage. Of course Dickinson and founder/bassist Steve Harris are all over the place.
In talking about past gigs, Dickinson mentions Washington, DC, the previous tour stop, which segues into 'Afraid To Shoot Strangers', with its almost political speech (or as close as Maiden are about to get), "DC, where all the decisions are made. We keep trying to kill all the bad guys, but that hasn't worked." The stage lit in aqua and purple until the more raucous section, where the lights go orange as Gers leads. Dickinson has lost the suit coat he began the show with, revealing a sleeveless black tee, and there's no need for that toque he wore throughout the last tour (at least not tonight). Speaking of the quick change artist of a frontman, he dons the red coat outfit and appears on the top rung, waving an oversized Union Jack for 'The Trooper'. He runs around both sides of the horseshoe above McBrain's head, as the electronic jumbotron screens inside the protected section of the amphitheater and outside, on the back wall of the shed, display the same black & white movie footage that was part of the promotional video. Murray solos as the singer taunts Gers, with the flag, from above.
The booming echo of a spoken intro to 'Number Of The Beast' is nearly drowned out by the roar from the audience, as Harris and Murray are center stage, bathed in red. Flame throwers, as many as six (six, six) at a time shoot skyward from the upper platform. Harris is a blur of activity, charging across the stage like it's 25 years ago, as Gers puts his leg up on the side monitor for the first time. At its conclusion, Dickinson takes a seat on the front monitors, basking in the ovation. Next is the rather static delivered 'Phantom', although once the initial verse is over, they begin to move, as the colors change from purple to green to blue. Bruce leaves the stage as the trio of guitars takes over, Gers pogoing in place, while the bassist stands towards the back. Like a metallic Nuremberg rally, the crowd's sea of hands overhead greets a pink and purple lit 'Run To The Hills'. As the song breaks into its gallop, Dickinson is once more upstairs, as a spotlight hits the crowd, come the chorus. Eight sparklers shoot upwards as the giant Eddie comes onstage, decked out in a General Custer theme.
During 'Wasted Years', I wondered if the lively Dickinson would (foolishly) attempt to jump from the upper tier to the main floor. Years ago he probably would have, but he seemed so spry this evening, the thought did occur and then, as if on cue, he bounded from the heights, to Nicko's riser and down, like a man half his age, nor someone worried about the insurance or future monetary concerns of an injury! "Scream for me Philadelphia' works, as a montage of less focused green lights pelts the stage. From the lawn, an adjoining display of July 4th fireworks are partially visible, but nothing like the human incendiaries onstage. Couldn't possibly been cold (especially after running around for an hour), but Dickison put on a long coat for 'Seven Son Of A Seventh Son', the high collared leather could have been in the movie Dune. A fiery eyed, Buddah-looking Eddie structure now stood center stage, a flame thrower either side of the idol.
Know many fans enjoy the song, but this overly long piece sapped the energy, which 'The Clairvoyant' follow-up did nothing to rectify. It was the closest we got to all four stringed musicians being in the same place simultaneously, center stage under blue lights. 'Fear Of The Dark' sees vintage Bruce, frantically rumbling, bumbling around. For once, Gers ventures to the center. A virtual sing-along, start to finish, 'Iron Maiden' finishes the proper set.
Bit of a quirky encore, although no one can fault the heretofore absent 'Aces High', complete with smoke explosions and rousing Churchill opening (prior to band re-emerging in a burst of energy). Dickinson returns to his overhead perch, careful to avoid the flaming torches shooting off around him. Know it's part of the Seventh Son motif, but think you'd have to go pretty far down the poll of great Maiden tunes to find 'The Evil That Men Do', particualrly in lieu of some more favorable material. Much like their signature track, 'Running Free', also from the epynomous debut album, was helped along by thousands of voices. Drenched in sweat, Dickinson skipped around the white lit stage, swinging his arms, as he sang the rather simplistic finale. He referenced the heat, even wringing out his shirt a couple of times before needlessly indroducing the members of the band, during a succession of choruses. Not sure how the next tour (undoubtedly to plug a forthcoming album) will be, but few can compete with a live, hits-filled Maiden show.
More photos can be seen here