If fairies wear boots, like the old Black Sabbath song says, then wizards wear fanny packs.
Or at least the row of 'em sitting directly behind me at Wednesday night’s Iron Maiden concert at Talking Stick Resort Arena did. Those dudes spent most of opening act Ghost’s set conjuring up who knows what with their gestures and hand commands. The masked band from Sweden played their doom metal to a crowd content to keep a collective fist perched in the air in their honor.
There was a hearty break while a massive stage crew came out to get things prepped for Iron Maiden, currently on the Book of Souls Tour. When UFO’s “Doctor” came pouring through the speakers, many Maiden fans knew the show was about to begin. The band has been using that '70s track as a set kickoff for a while now.
And then it happened – the lights went down and the covers were removed to reveal the stage’s conversion to resemble a stone temple, complete with pillars of fire. At the top, there was singer Bruce Dickinson, hovering over a cauldron of steam.
They opened with “If Eternity Should Fail," one of the tracks from 2015 release The Book of Souls. But the night wasn’t a total trip to the past; the band mixed it up, including a few tracks from that record. The sound was a little muddy off the bat but seemed to sharpen up by the second song, “Speed of Light," and stayed on point for the night.
The band attacked the set with full force. You could see it in the sweat and vein-y grimaces that come with rocking out, but it did seem like the volume could have come up a bit, overall.
Probably, no one really cared. The crowd was seeing Iron Maiden and didn’t have any fucks to give about specifics. As the band played, fans passionately sang along, every word forced through teeth gritted in excitement. They threw the sign of the horns. Many attendees were proficient masters of the air version of their instrument of choice. Some were a whole air-band unto themselves.
Dickinson, who looks more like MacGyver on steroids than a classic metal dude, was as responsible for keeping the show’s energy up as the wall of guitars and thundering drums. His voice was none the worse for age. He belted it out full force as he ran non-stop around that faux temple, delivering fan favorites like “Children of the Damned” and, of course, “Iron Maiden."
He addressed the crowd throughout the night – everything from the requisite Phoenix shoutouts to asking where people were from – to emphasize the crowd’s diversity along with a nice message about showing general respect to one another despite our differences. When he asked people where they were from, a lot of fans held up flags from their respective heritages. I don’t know if that’s an Iron Maiden thing, bringing a flag to concerts, but it seemed par for the course Wednesday night.
Visually, there was plenty going on.
Fire pillars shot flames, dark and twisted cartoons played on the screens, and even the band’s mascot, Eddie the Head, came out to rock with the guys. For the first encore, “Number of the Beast," a blow-up beast was one of a couple inflatable creatures that rose from behind the stage to survey the situation and add a little satanic flair to the song.
They played a couple more songs before wrapping it up and letting a predominately older crowd – or “legacy people,” as Dickinson called them – get home before midnight.
The spirit of '70s and '80s arena rock reigned supreme. Skinny jeans plus white high-top sneakers and bullet belt fashion combos still command respect in some circles. Mainly though, it was 15 new and classic tunes by some metal pioneers (who still seem to be digging it with a vengeance) that kept the crowd righteously engaged. That, plus Satan. And weed.
"If Eternity Should Fail"
"Speed of Light"
"Children of the Damned"
"Death or Glory"
"The Red and the Black"
"The Great Unknown"
"The Book of Souls"
"Fear of the Dar"
"Number of the Beast"
Last Night: Iron Maiden and Ghost at Talking Stick Resort Arena
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The crowd: Dude-centric
Overheard: Guy one: “Dude, what kind of beer are you drinking?” Guy two: “I dunno, K.I.P. or I.P.A. or some shit that cost 12 bucks.”
Notebook dump: Satan. Lots of talk about Satan.