IRON MAIDEN – “Scream For Me Philly!”
June 6, 2017, a year ago
Few, if any, could ever touch Iron Maiden, their success and longevity speak for themselves. They write the rules others live by. Now playing to a third generation of fans, it's impossible to play every song the people want to hear. True, the omissions would make a great set, in and of themselves, but as has been the Maidens' want, alternating tours between reminiscing and looking forward, The Book Of Souls Tour (as the name implies) concentrates on their newest material, with a smattering of classics, but no "Run To The Hills", "2 Minutes To Midnight", Flight Of Icarus", "Aces High" ...you get the picture.
The night begins with a short CGI video, traipsing through an Amazon rain forest, until happening on the remnants of an ancient civilization. Later, these screens will offer close-ups of the band, especially Nicko McBrain, nearly invisible behind his drum fortress. Cue lights, as hooded Bruce Dickinson is alone, on the upper tier of the giant stage, face down in a bubbling cauldron of stage fog. Like an old horror film, the dry ice fog creeps across the stage, set to look like a South American stone temple. Around the upper ring are four flaming torches and after some primal scream therapy for Bruce Bruce, the rest of the lads appear for "If Eternity Should Fail".
By the second song, "Speed Of Light", Dickinson is sweating profusely. His attire, black hoodie, cargo pants and work boots, wouldn't distinguish himself from many in attendance at the all but sold-out arena. Throughout the night, he'd make several "costume" changes. The heavy bass thump heralds "Wrathchild", eagerly greeted as an old friend. The guitar trio generally stakes out their own territory, although Adrian Smith and Dave Murray, stage right, are in the same vicinity. Opposite, there's the dancing/prancing Janick Gers, amazingly spry for a man of 60, frequently playing on one leg, the other extended (sideways) and perched above his waist, atop the side-fill cabinet. With each song comes a changing backdrop, often a visual tie-in to the music performed. It ends with Steve Harris training his bass, rifle-like, on the adoring crowd.
A blue tinged "Children Of The Damned" is followed by another newbie, "Death Or Glory", the singer sporting a big floppy fur hat, with ears. Might have had in on backwards, since it actually had a chimp face on the back and Dickinson was making some outlandishly animated movements. For a while, he wore the mask and pretended to be a simian, even holding a banana or two aloft. An appropriately colored "The Red And The Black" begins with some solo bass work, courtesy of founder/mainman Harris. Long a staple of the live set, "The Trooper" sees Bruce in Redcoat military regalia, waving a tattered Union Jack, from the upper tier, as the four musicians below charge the bulkhead of monitors, center stage. Later, he playfully drapes the flag (from on high) over Gers' head, obscuring the guitarist from view. He eggs on the fans, stage left, as to whether or not he should remove the flag from Gers.
Another legendary tale, "Powerslave" sees Bruce in Mexican wrestler's mask, as the stage is bombarded with dozens of pulsating white lights. Murray is front and center for the solo and Harry makes a rare foray to stage right. Eventually, Smith's guitar takes over, as Steve and Janick interplay, on the left. Dickinson eventually returns to the lower level, running wildly about the stage, imploring the crowd. Like a three ring circus, there's more than one thing happening, simultaneously. Blue lit "The Great Unknown" begins with clapping along. Bruce has ditched the hoodie and is now balanced atop the side-by-side wedge monitors, while Janick spins in place.
Prior to the latest title track, Dickinson gets a little political, talking about "all the lunatics in charge, around the world." Equating our possible demise, to that of the sudden/mysterious disappearance of the Mayan culture, he ad libs, "One day they might dig up the Liberty Bell and ask, 'How did they fuck up?'" The flour flames ignite and when a larger than life Mayan Eddie comes onstage, towering over Bruce (even though he's on the second tier), the singer rips out the giant character's heart. Holding his trophy aloft, the singer then wrings out the fluids on an unsuspecting Gers, down below. Ultimately, Bruce return to the spot he began the night, alone atop the center ring, as the fire cauldron burns.
Murray, Harris and Gers are in front of the drums, to begin "Fear Of The Dark". The audience cheers this inclusion, as clotheshorse Dickinson returns in black tank top. When he tells everyone, "Your turn," they fill in the missing titular phrase. The band members become action men, sprinting about: Janick astride the centrally located wedge monitors. Meanwhile, the Wells Fargo Center general admission floor is a sea of pogoing, fist thrusting nutters. Lights go up, the whole house is packed and apart from the upper deck of the arena, most are not using the seats for which they paid.
In this day of technology, Gers still uses a long run of guitar cable, as he moves about the stage. He joins Murray in the middle. As for much of the night, Harris starts the band's signature track with his left foot propped on a monitor, mouthing the lyrics he made famous. On the upper ring, the fires are relit and a huge Eddie's head, the same gracing the current album artwork, rises from behind drummer McBrain, to dwarf the stage. It ends with Gers doing his best histrionic Ritchie Blackmore, lobbing his guitar into the air, swinging it violently overhead (by the guitar strap). Not content, he created a wall of sound by repeatedly dragging the strings over the edge of the monitors and standing atop of face down six-string. Even Bruce referenced the display. Fitting end to the proper set, but by no means done.
A matrix of green lights shine down on the blackened stage, everyone awaiting the encore. From the darkness comes the ominous sounding voiceover, announcing "The Number Of The Beast". When highlighted, the reappearing band are all in red (in stark contrast to the otherwise dominate greens) and a three story, crossed arms horned statue now resides stage left. Come the first chorus, the flames shoot skyward and the band is clearly illuminated. Plenty of pyro, the flames reoccur, sometimes in alternating bursts as they travel across the upper ring. Prior to "Blood Brothers" Bruce again speaks from the heart, telling everyone assembled (lest they think otherwise), that a Maiden gig is accessible to all faiths, colors, sexual persuasions, i.e. a "free zone" to "rock." I stood outside, before the show, watching the cornucopia of humanity that filtered into the venue, he knows of what he speaks. Final song of the night, "Wasted Years" is lit in green, with Bruce singing from a perch above Nicko, as Dave and Janick chase each other in circles. The silliness is contagious, as Bruce repeatedly moves Adrian's backing mic, until the guitarist is forced to play with his back to the crowd. Clearly, the band is enjoying life. You will to, when you see them live. Don't miss it!