Concerts

Iron Maiden, Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion, 8/6/12

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But as heavy as things got -- and they got plenty heavy -- I was struck even more by the finesse of the band.

The band has it: Vocalist Bruce Dickinson raced around the stage and sounded impossibly good for a 54-year-old; the trio of guitarists -- Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and Janick Gers -- pulled off spinning displays of prog- and classical-level harmonized lead work; drummer Nicko McBrain navigated the band through the knotty time signatures and pummeling punk speed of the early material; and bassist and primary songwriter Steve Harris, clearly the heart and soul of the band, led the instrumental charge, his bass emblazoned with a West Ham United football club sticker.

Following an opening set by Coheed and Cambria (a sort of curious choice, except when the band's punk rock roots -- something shared with Maiden -- are taken into account), Maiden stormed the stage. Images of glaciers collapsing flashed on the screen (Dickinson would later joke this was to help keep the black-shirted fans cool, but guess what -- it didn't), and the band tore into "Moonchild," from its 1988 concept record, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.

Wearing a long coat (quickly shed), jeans, and athletic sneakers, Dickinson strutted, sprinted, and jumped around the stage. The guy isn't your typical frontman -- can you think of any other lead singers who fly the band's airplane? He wouldn't stop darting for the rest of the show, and the band did their best to match his verve and gusto. Gers got close, often playing guitar over the neck or summoning some sort of distorted ghosts from it with spirit fingers and a maniacal grin.

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.