Why Iron Maiden Still Matter
To the unfamiliar and/or lame, Iron Maiden may merely seem to be a nostalgia act, a once-great band holding on to the last scraps of fame, drugs, groupies and other rock 'n' roll clichés. Their audience consists solely of aging metalheads either unwilling or unable to move on with their lives — the Heavy Metal Parking Lot crowd, 25 years later.
Anyone with a clue, though, knows that they've quietly remained one of the biggest bands in the world, despite a lack of mainstream attention in the past two decades or so. There's always a glut of articles fawning over how remarkably enduring and influential and blah blah blah people like Paul McCartney or Elton John are whenever they tour, so why no love for Maiden? It's been 27 years since "The Trooper," and they're still fully equipped to rock your balls clean off. Here's why.
They're still selling out shows, like, everywhere. 2008's "Somewhere Back in Time World Tour" was an unmitigated success, and the band wasn't even promoting an album (rather, the DVD release of a 1985 concert video — not the most forward-looking idea, but clearly something hardcores were anticipating). Playing a smattering of older tunes like "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," Bruce Dickinson and crew sold out nearly every stop on the six-leg, 90-date tour. Their currently unfolding "Final Frontier World Tour" faces the considerable challenge of matching those heights, with 36 initial dates in North America and Europe, plus they'll be playing new material instead of just back-catalog faves. That said, it's a good bet the shows will be packed, as Maiden fans tend to be an intensely loyal bunch.
They're still selling records, even if no one else is. Sure, this might be an added benefit of the Iron Maiden fan base being a bit older and, thusly, not hip to the world of torrents and rapidshare, but they're one of the few acts left that can do the impossible and get people to pay money for recorded music. Their last record, A Matter of Life and Death, sold a million copies worldwide in its first week, with 56,000 sold in the United States. Compare that to, say, a Pitchfork darling like Grizzly Bear, whose 2009 release, the nearly unpronounceable Veckatimest, sold 33,000 copies in the U.S. in its initial week. It's a metaphorical wedgie from metal fans to wussy indie kids everywhere.
They know how to reach new audiences. A lot of folks probably heard Iron Maiden for the first time when "Run to the Hills" conspicuously appeared as the most difficult song in the first installment of Rock Band, making the task of pressing buttons on a guitar-shaped video game controller surprisingly challenging. Much of the rest of their hits became available for the game later as downloadable content. They've even kept their iconic zombie mascot Eddie fresh, with noted comic book cover artist Tim Bradstreet presenting a distinctly modern take on the character on the A Matter of Life and Death album art.
They don't stop doing what they do best. Iron Maiden's latest single, "El Dorado," from this summer's The Final Frontier, their 15th studio album, pretty much sounds like it could have appeared on any Iron Maiden record since Dickinson replaced former lead singer Paul Di'Anno in 1981. That's a good thing — where other bands muck around with their formula in an attempt to be progressive (see Load and Reload, if you must), these dudes know what their fans want and how to do it well, ensuring that their legacy will be a lot more than being mentioned in that awful Wheatus song "Teenage Dirtbag."
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.