Iron Maiden touched down in Newark, NJ, at the Prudential Center on October 21st to continue The Legacy of the Beast Tour to support their most ambitious album, “Senjutsu”, and celebrate their vast musical catalog. The band is constantly rewriting the limits of what metal should sound like in the 21st century, and fans love it.
The concert unfolded on a stage built like a garden surrendered by a series of Buddhist temples to correspond with the theme of the band’s latest album. Bruce Dickinson [vocals], Adrian Smith [guitar], Steve Harris [bass], Dave Murray [guitar], Janick Gers [guitar], and Nicko McBrain [drums]hit the stage with a sense of purpose to deliver the best metal show possible. As soon as the first chord of “Senjutsu” was struck, thongs of fans in the GA section lunged forward toward the stage. Ravenous worshipper rock rocked back and forth, chanting “Maiden” while pumping their fists in homage to the band’s legendary mascot, Eddie, who appeared mid-song dressed as sword-wielding Samurai. As “Senjutsu” came to a close with Adrian‘s blazing solo, Iron Maiden delivered the perfect one-two punch with “Stratego” and then “Writing on the Wall,” with Adrian playing acoustic guitar on the intro. By the final addictive hook rang out, Maiden had Newark in the palm of their hands. Iron Maiden have single-handedly brought a renewed call to arms to metal fans worldwide.
Every song in their 2-hour set was played with the unbridled passion and energy of when they were written. Their set list covered 15 songs from nine of their 17 studio albums, including “Iron Maiden,” “Run to the Hills,” “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” “Number of the Beast,” “Fear of the Dark,” and even “The Clansman” from “Virtual XI” and “Sign of the Cross” from “The X Factor” both when Blaze Bayley fronted the band.
Having three of metal’s best guitarists gave the songs the heft and lift they needed to capture exactly how they were originally recorded. Adrian, Dave, and Janick worked in perfect harmony to ensure that the nuances and intricacies that make up these tremendous songs were not lost or overlooked. All three have unique musical personalities, and the fans can see and feel it. They carefully and systematically took their respective parts with vigor, as the sum of the whole is always greater than the individual parts when it comes to performing Maiden songs perfectly. When they stood shoulder-to-shoulder during “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “The Trooper,” it was a soul-crushing display of sonic guitars, ensuring they were heard well beyond the venue’s walls.
Keeping up with the guitarists playing was Nicko on drums. His playing propels the galloping songs like “Run to the Hills” and keeping a smooth jazz-like touch for the more subtle songs like “Revelations” and “Blood Brothers.” He methodically kept perfect time but in a highly technical fashion using his monstrous drum kit with artwork from all of Maiden‘s albums. It often seemed as if he was hitting his drums to get more volume and power, hoping to match the monstrous sound emanating from his band-mates.
Steve is the man laying down the low end, giving the songs their snarl and bite. You have him to thank when you feel the beat punch you in the chest and stimulatingly kick you in the ass, like on “Number of the Beast” when the song kicks into high gear with Bruce‘s steel-belted scream. He always brings the energy to the front of the stage for the big moments and understands the subtle ones when he played acoustic bass on the intro to “The Clansman.” He makes the music sound and feel good. He’s been the engine room for Maiden for over 42 years and one of the best songwriters of our time.
Dressed as swashbuckling Errol Flynn, Bruce wore black leather pants and a flamboyant black shirt. He is an outstanding front man who has led the charge for metal since his first album with the band. His range and power perfectly match the band’s thematic and emotional songwriting. His voice soared melodically above the ferocious rhythms and complex arrangements the band puts forth. He was our tour director for the show, guiding us into the dark recesses of his mind lyrically and then bringing them to life visually. This is all done meticulously while he tirelessly ran the two-tiered stage, only ducking backstage instantly for song props.
The stage production was an equal spectacle on par with their music. Colorful thematic backdrops were used to elevate each song’s musical appeal and provide a sense of presence for the audience. This was brilliantly achieved while pillars of flames belched high into the air with a degree of ferocity to accent critical moments during “Iron Maiden” and “Sign of the Cross.” On “Flight of Icarus,” a 50-foot blazing white Icarus statue in full flight appeared out of the shadows as Bruce shot flames across the stage with a portable flame thrower. On “Iron Maiden,” a huge Eddie head with horns appeared behind the band, staring down the audience with a menacing look. During the final encore of “Aces High,” a full-size Spitfire plane hung precariously above the band’s heads from the lighting rig as the band rallied underneath it to celebrate a perfect show! No Maiden show would be complete without the band’s notorious mascot, Eddie, making multiple appearances, first as Samurai and later as a British soldier during “The Trooper.” This incredible spectacle wouldn’t matter if Maiden‘s music weren’t so powerful.
What has always impressed me about Maiden is their uncanny ability to develop songs that offer a wide variety of styles, as only true innovators can master that art, then ties the collection together with a ribbon, so they all sound like a cohesive unit whether written four decades ago or from the most recent album. For this tour, they assembled the perfect combination of songs in the set-list and married it with big production elements to mirror the sentiment. Not only are the members of Maiden terrific entertainers, but also a tremendous group of musicians who can easily deliver epic performances.
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