Ah, the universality of IRON MAIDEN: an American, working for a Canadian owned company, covering an English band, in Germany (with Swedes opening), small world after all! It's also an all ages affair these days. In some instances three generations of fans in the same family, attending together, in a all shapes and sizes: mutton chops, ponytails, goatees, Old World mustaches and mullets that would embarrass Joe Dirt... and that's just the women (I kid, I kid). MAIDEN fans are metal fans, as opposed to someone like METALLICA or OZZY, which cater to a more mainstream musical crowd. Those fans often don't consider the music “metal” and many are not a fan of the genre at all. While Eddie grimaced menacingly from their t-shirts, there were also plenty of obscure bands, even local affiliations, represented in the crowd. Must be a big deal as there were numerous helicopter fly-overs, a blimp and hot air balloon.
Today's venue was not a venue at all, but rather the parking lot of Centro, Germany's largest mall, behind the Konig Pilsner Arena. Quartered off exclusively for this one-off performance (sold out at legally announced 26,500 paid), the weather cooperated with brilliant sunshine, temperatures hovering around 30 degrees C (near 80 F), which saw the fair skinned diving for any shade they could find: behind lighting trusses, speaker towers, beer tent awnings, even dumpsters. The stiff breeze was a win-win, as the black shirt brigade (many still unfamiliar with the idea of deodorant) began to sweat, it blew the stink away.
After the 'Doctor Doctor' (UFO) intro, the twin jumbo-trons on either side of the stage began a short video, depicting the melting polar ice cap, crumbling icebergs and the like, until the men of MAIDEN took the stage, in a flash of pyrotechnics. The setlist (apart from something really special) is a foregone conclusion on this tour. No matter, it's about delivery. With the beginning 'Moonchild' and throughout the show, the presence of SABATON, a kinetic live act, preceding Steve Harris' crew, has given MAIDEN (no spring chickens themselves) a swift kick in the butt, even the usually reserved guitar tandem of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith were more energetic. Bruce Dickinson, in coattails, sports a noticeable hint of gray in his hair, began the night on the upper tier of the horseshoe shaped stage, but was soon leaping downstairs, to get closer to the adoring throng. 'Can I Play With Madness' saw the always expressive guitarist Yanick Gers kicking his leg up onto the side-fill, as cones of sparklers shot up, behind the band.
The intro speech to 'The Prisoner' (lifted from the English television program) is so well known at this point, that Dickinson stood stage front, mockingly mouthing the words, as clips from the TV show played onscreen. Throughout, the singer utilized the mic stand as a prop, much moreso than I remember. He and Harris have always carried the bulk of the visuals, the two dynamos zipping across the stage, leaping over monitors and in Harris' case, using his bass to take 'aim' and machine-gun the crowd. During the initial trio of songs, when photographers were in the pit, each guitarist, at one juncture or another, played their instrument vertically. '2 Minutes To Midnight' was followed by 'Afraid To Shoot Strangers', during which Gers toyed with Smith's tuning knobs.
Then it was a glorious, uninterrupted run through the early hits, beginning with 'The Trooper'. As with each song, the backdrop changed, often sporting single or album artwork, with the ubiquitous Eddie mascot, in one form or the other. The first of many wardrobe changes, there was Dickinson on the second deck, in white trimmed red military outfit, waving an oversize Union Jack. Old b&w cavalry movie clips played simultaneously. The ominous voiceover to 'Number Of The Beast' was amplified by twenty thousand voices, Adrian Smith and Steve Harris side-by-side to kick off that familiar riff. The backdrop now an extreme close-up of Eddie's eyes, Bruce was now dressed in black t-shirt, as plumes of fire sprung from all corners of the second floor.
During the lengthy instrumental start to 'Phantom Of The Opera', Gers and Harris were headbanging madly. The bassist and Smith providing back-up vocals. It was 9:30pm on the clock and the sun was just beginning to dip below the treeline. “Scream for me Oberhausen' became Dickinson's rallying cry this evening, as the stage was virtually engulfed in flames, even more pyro! For one of the rare times, there was a band point-of-view camera, from the stage, shooting into the impressive gathering. Behind the band, cones of sparklers (Hey, I did miss July 4th back in the States) were launched during 'Run To The Hills'. No dopey Indian/Native American footage (as originally utilized in the video) this time out, although a giant Eddie, in General Custer cavalry uniform, did make an appearance. Drummer Nicko McBrain was lit in a green hue for part of 'Wasted Years' as Harris galloped the width of the stage and back, as Dickinson flopped up and down the multiple levels.
10pm and it was still light enough to play a round of golf, or through the baseball around, without any fear of getting hurt (Fear of the dark? No, that was coming later). With the backdrop now featuring a illuminated, pink eyed Eddie, looking like a Planet Of The Apes outtake, it was 'Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son'. Bruce adopted a greased DANZIG devil lock, donning a waistcoat/cloak/cape. The lengthy track allowed many to queue for the portable toilets, or more likely, get another beer. A thick layer of fog enveloped the stage during the subtler section, but enlivened once more, onstage fireworks pop overhead. Harris solo bass plucks out the start to 'The Clairvoyant', eventually joined by the rest of the band, the singer now in a sleeveless number (of the beast). More pogoing in the crowd. Funny how those old-timers who mocked the SABATON doing so, earlier in the day, were now jumping for joy.
With a crash of McBrain's cymbal, it's off to 'Fear Of The Dark'. Murray's arms outstretched overhead, as the crowd sings the titular chorus. A rejuvenated Dickinson tears around the upper ring, where he spends the majority of the song. The signature tune, 'Iron Maiden' signals the end of the proper set. After a short break, the crowd yelling for more, despite knowing things were far from over, the booming voice of Winston Churchill portents 'Aces High'. Now watching from outside the fenced grounds, to get a headstart over the eventual mass exodus, it became evident there were a couple hundred onlookers (some fans, over just curiosity seekers) who could watch/hear the show, free of charge, and more importantly, drink their own booze. Never thought 'The Evil That Men Do' belongs in the encore, but there it was, before an exaggerated 'Running Free' provided the final opportunity for an audience sing-along.
Maiden England, Appreciated Worldwide!
More photos from Oberhausen can be seen here