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

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But there's a kind of soulfulness and melodic power -- dare I say pleasantness -- to what Maiden does. The band's battering-ram power assures that they'll never be mistaken for arena-metal cheese, but songs like "Can I Play With Madness" and "2 Minutes to Midnight" are full of hooks and pop appeal, the sort powerful melodies that Def Leppard, another of the NWOBHM cast that eventually rode melodic sounds to the top of the charts. (Maiden, meanwhile, never got much radio play.) The vocal mix started off a bit muddy but cleared up nicely only a few songs in. The adjustments were greatly appreciated: You don't really get a sense of what a top-notch vocal group Maiden is until hearing the intricate harmonies of "Wasted Years."

Dickinson's banter ("Scream for me, Phoenix!") got repetitive, but who was there to hear Dickinson rap? Fans were there for a greatest hits set (delivered), and a couple of Eddie sightings. The band's longtime mascot appeared on the stage art, which changed and morphed beautifully as the set went on, reveling in the band's comic book and sci-fi-inspired portfolio, and onstage a couple times, in the form of a lumbering, sword-wielding giant and a massive, eyes ablaze idol.

They were production gestures to the fans, and the audience cheered and roared during the entire 90-minute set. Weed smoke wafted through the arena, and its evidence was notable when the folks near me tried (unsuccessfully) to clap along to the space rock excursion of "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son."

No matter. Iron Maiden was on point enough for everyone, offering up their string of original, powerful odes to individualism, nonjudgmental protest rock, and spinning progressive suites. There's a reason Iron Maiden is beloved. To paraphrase a Wolverine quote: Its members are the best they are at what they do. And what they do is, occasionally, very pretty.

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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.