This was my first gig, ever, and this is my first live review, so it might not be great.
I won't bother with a backstory. I mean, it's Iron Maiden.
Okay, on we go...
You really have to feel sorry for Sweet Savage -not only are they opening for Iron Maiden, it's also their new drummer's first gig with them, and they're replacing Heaven And Hell. So from the start, they face boos and yells of "DIO" from some of the more hardcore crowd members. However, aforementioned new sticksman Marty McCluskey is a total powerhouse, and their crunching brand of NWOBHM-esque metal and cracking songs like Powdermonkey and Metallica favourite Killing Time, as well as the gurning antics and relentless enthusiasm of bassist/vocalist Ray Haller soon wins the crowd over, and by the time new song Warbird rolls around(which bodes well for their forthcoming new album), they've totally won the crowd over, and when they (somewhat inevitably) sing along to their closing cover of Whiskey In The Jar, it's an absolute triumph.
Though, really, nothing was ever going to compare to the stunning stage show, jaw-dropping musicianship and the sheer legend factor of Iron Maiden . I was right at the front, and as soon as the intro tape of UFO's Doctor Doctor came on, I was nearly crushed in the surge forward. You know when the crowd goes mental for the fucking intro tape and sings every word it's gonna be a good gig. The curtain falls, the lights dim, and to the strains of Holst's "Mars, the Bringer of War", drummer Nicko McBrain emerges to massive cheers, and once the music shuts off...well, man.
The only way to describe it is they literally explode onstage to "The Wicker Man", guitarist Adrian Smith and bassist Steve Harris charging on, soon followed by fellow six-stringers Dave Murray and Janick Gers, before vocalist Bruce Dickinson speeds out from behind the stage, leaps over the speakers, right to the front of the stage, without missing a single note.
The legendary Bruce Dickinson.
Any of my doubts that a post-Brave New World set would be a letdown were washed away immediately by the ecstatic roars of "Your time will come!" at the anthemic chorus. From there it's straight into "Ghost Of The Navigator", another underrated anthem-hell, everything they've done since the Bruce/Adrian reunion has been great. It just took seeing it in the live setting to convince me.
A pumelling, groovy "Wrathchild" comes next, and that's when the show really starts to gain momentum, the crowd bellowing every word of the now-30(!) year old song, Bruce leaping around the stage with the voice and energy of a man half his age (he's 53, people!). New song "El Dorado"'s up next, and the crowd already know every word, which has my hopes up for new album "The Final Frontier" being as good as 2006's dark, progressive and stunning "A Matter Of Life And Death".
I'll be honest, the next few songs were a bit of a blur for me. A barrage of songs from Maiden's 2000's albums, particular highlights included a fantastic retelling of "The Reincarnation Of Benjamen Breeg", Dance Of Death's Celtic-influenced title track, and a vast runthrough of Blood Brothers, preceeded by a dedication by Bruce Dickinson to "the sadly absent, greatest little man on Earth", prompting a chant of "DIO!" from the crowd. After heading to the back to get some water so I didn't die, having sweated out what felt like half my body weight, I got back to the front just in time.
From the second the opening chords of "Fear Of The Dark" were struck, the crowd roared along to every note, the anthemic "Whoa-oh-oh-OHHH-oh-oh-oh-oh" singalong providing one of the night's most spine-tingling moments. Followed by perpetual set-closer "Iron Maiden" (complete with guitar-mangling new-look Eddie), the band leave the stage triumphant.
Ed The Motherfucking Great.
...that is, until the immortal "Woe to you, oh Earth and sea..." intro to "The Number Of The Beast" rings out, Bruce's legendary scream before the first verse echoed by the crowd, making an utterly cacophonous din. After that it's time for legendary ballad "Hallowed Be Thy Name", the clap-along intro and Bruce's crowd-baiting routine the icing on the cake of an incredible, incredible gig. A final run through "Running Free" with Dickinson's usual policeman-shtick routine making the crowd laugh and cheer in equal measure. Once they finally depart, the endlessly chirpy strains of "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life" blare through the PA, and 14000 sweaty metalheads singing along to that is quite an, um, experience.
Like I said at the start-this was my first ever gig, and man, did I pick a fucking good one. I was in the pit for every song, I was punched, hugged, ran into, everything. I went down at one point and literally 2 seconds later I was back on my feet-everyone rushed to help me. As Bruce Dickinson said himself in one of his speeches during the gig, there's 3 types of people-music fans, metal fans, and Iron Maiden fans. He went on to say it was like a family, and welcomed anyone whose first Maiden gig it was to that family-and for once, it actually felt like it. Sentimental bollocks it was not.
Really, the defining moment of the gig for me was this person who I'd never met, who I glanced at beside me, and he yelled "It's fucking Steve Harris, man!" and we put our arms around each other's shoulders and roared along to "Wrathchild".
Up the mother fucking Irons.