This came not so much as a surprise. Iron Maiden have been doing intermediate tours in between album cycles reviving their glorious 80’s days for almost 15 years now and this tour was no different. If they have followed the strict timeline, this would have been a tour about their most obscure and less popular albums like “No Prayer Of The Dying”, “Fear Of The Dark” and the Blaze Bayley era, which would have been an amazing tour to watch of course, but the band had other plans. They decided to go for a full on best of set, playing songs from all eras. Mind you, it was not a retro revival thing, but rather a proper retrospective of their career aesthetically inspired by the recent Legacy Of The Beast video game. In the internet era it is very hard to avoid spoilers, especially since the artwork the band released prior to the tour revealed the songs that were about to be played in a cryptic way. So, as soon as the first gig in Helsinki was over, I just went through the setlist very quickly and saw some videos that looked oh so promising and started counting the days for the first show that was one week after the kick off.
Copenhagen, 5th of June 2018
My travelling Maiden crew met at the Copenhagen airport the day before and since the weather was excellent a lot of tourist stuff ensued before it was time to head to the venue. A very much organized indoors arena, ideal for concerts and we took our spot in the front early on. The chill when “Doctor Doctor” starts is always the same, no matter how far you have travelled, how tired you are, what your problems back home are, it’s Iron Maiden time. The theatrics started early on, two roadies dressed in military uniform were standing in the corners of the stage that was covered in similar colours giving us the impression that shit will get serious. Sounds of plane machines roaring and Churchill’s speech, the recorded intro and the entrance of the band with a blast. It was happening again, but this time even more spectacular. Before you realize, an almost real size spitfire appeared hanging over Nicko’s drum kit, that was hidden behind camo and Bruce came in jumping like a professional athlete. I felt like the first time my parents took me to a fun fair, it was that much fun and even more. The progression of the songs and the show was so well thought, so well rehearsed and so well performed that I barely moved my head, because my eyes were stuck to the stage. Another thing that was striking was the physical condition of the band. How can they all look cool even at the age of 60 or more? They are lean, fit, still have their hair and do acrobatics. Yes, they don’t run as much as they used to on stage, but they are the same effective and the show they have to offer is overall astonishing. Actually that day it was Nicko’s (6)66th birthday, which was celebrated accordingly with caustic comments by Bruce, a lot of laughter and the appropriate song to wish him – second time I managed to do that after the gig on the same date in Paris in 2013. As for the first impression of the songs, the succession of “Aces High” with “Were Eagles Dare” and “Sign Of The Cross” with “Flight Of Icarus” was so intense I think I didn’t move a limb, only my jaw was wide open. And when the complete stage makeover took place unveiling this magnificent stained glass backdrop that had this 3d effect I thought I was in a museum. Then Bruce appeared in his black robe and enter “Revelations”, one of my favourite Maiden songs and still the best lyrics the band has ever written. I can’t say much more about that gig besides that I couldn’t believe my eyes of the spectacle that was unfolding in front of me and that this time I would need to watch it several times, not just for repetitive enjoyment, but to get all aspects of it. Well done Maiden, well done.
Hannover, 10th of June 2018
Taking a Sunday midday bus from Berlin to Hannover is a piece of cake. The city is not something to remember, so I just arrived and found my way to the venue following the Eddie t shirts. Not exactly a venue though, it was something like a big parking lot, an area outside the big Expo building of the city. The conditions were a bit old school with the people swarming the place and standing on concrete stairs, but who cares. I met Maiden friends from all around Europe that were there for the gig and got in a bit late because we were busy on the Trooper beer stand that was strategically placed on the way to the gates. As usual in Germany, there was a division between back and front and since we didn’t get a stamp on time to be able to cross it, we were left a bit on the back. This was the more lose gig I saw in that tour, being mostly on the side and just rocking out with other drunkards. I have to say that even from a very weird angle, Iron Maiden was kicking serious ass and especially the fires that Bruce spews look fucking cool from the side. That’s the first time I listened to his ‘Freedom Speech’ before “The Clansman”, in Copenhagen it was all about Nicko’s birthday, this time he mentioned Stalin, the next he mentioned Hitler, but all in all it was about what freedom means to everyone and what it takes to achieve or retain it. That was the only time when Bruce actually speaks to the crowd, this time they certainly let the music do all the talking. When the others had already started the intro of “Revelations” Bruce said the powerful words ‘Welcome to the church, get down on your knees and puke’, which is something that I didn’t expect from him, but shook me completely. After the show I think this is the most I have ever hang out at the actual site of the gig, waiting for the hordes to leave and making friends with enthusiastic young Germans that follow the band as much as they can. We all ended up in the afterparty bar, which was full of familiar faces that I have seen many times in the first rows around Europe and many others that live and breathe Iron Maiden. The dj was kind of decorative, I think he just pressed shuffle in the whole discography and was pretending he was choosing songs, it would have the same effect anyway. The bus back home had a good percentage of Eddie t shirts as well. And home was the next stop of the tour, for the band as well.
Berlin, 13th of June 2018
There they were again, in the same place, Waldbühne, which they apparently liked the first time and chose it for this year’s show. For some reason, whereas the Book Of Souls gig was sold out, this one was not for a few hundred tickets, but who cares. It was an ideal cloudy summer day, lots of friends were in town for the gig and even though I was smashed by a commando trip to London the previous day to watch another band (I pretend there is life beyond Maiden sometimes…), the spirits were very high and we arrived early enough to secure a nice place in the small arena –check last year’s review for more details about the site- and watch Killswitch Engage trying decently, but failing to be more inspiring than just being the background sound for our impatience. These mid summer open air gigs in Northern Europe have the disadvantage that they force the band play half their set under the light of the day, which is a turn off for the fans especially when the light show is so refined, as Maiden’s. Another thing was the very warm days the city was experiencing, mostly in “Flight Of Icarus” and even more in “Fear Of The Dark” fans were jumping up and down and we had to inhale all the dust, something that could have been avoided if they watered the soil a bit before the doors open. Having seen the show already twice, I was enjoying watching my friends watching it for the first time, when the band said the first goodnight after “Iron Maiden” three of them simultaneously asked for a cigarette, you know, that feeling after sex. Once more an impeccable performance, everybody was commenting on the ease with which they were moving around on stage and delivering the classics one after another.
Athens, 20th of July 2018
Now that was something. Not only because Athens is the city I grew up in, fell in love with the band and saw them the first couple of times, but because they hadn’t played there for 7 years and they were coming back with that particular tour that for sure would attract the masses. It was an ultimate heavy metal alert, everybody who considered themselves relevant with the scene had to be there and so it happened. More than 40.000 people (don’t believe the official numbers) swarmed that lovely place 35km outside of the city centre to watch the band reclaiming its throne –not that they ever lost it in that area- as the night before Judas Priest, Saxon and Accept couldn’t gather more than 20.000 altogether. A lovely site I said, but that’s only when the attendance is not more than 20.000, like the previous night. With the mess that Maiden created, conditions were marginally humane and in many cases dangerous. Overpriced and not so fresh food products, lack of toilets and utilities in them, narrow exits non lit properly and ridiculously inadequate parking spots. It was over cramped and moving around was an issue, not to mention to exit, get to your car and return to the city. Nevertheless, watching Iron Maiden again in Athens surrounded by all of my crews, some of which I haven’t seen for years, was the pinnacle of this tour for me. I will never forget the face of my mate from primary school when he turned around and whispered with his eyes wide open: “Bruce has a fucking flamethrower”. Yes man, and he is going to use it. The atmosphere and the reactions were just insane. You didn’t need to be very much in the front to feel the energy and the heat, not to mention the pressure and the sweat. As always, the band responded with yet another stellar performance and Bruce’s excitement was hard to hold back in “Fear Of The Dark” and the interaction with the crowd. Of course, as always, he teased us with a verse from “Alexander The Great”, but maybe it’s time to listen to Nicko (part. 666) and play the damn song at some point, as he explicitly has stated recently. All in all, it was an extraordinary performance that was the talk of the town for days after and reunited some old fellas with their beloved music and brought many old friends together. Iron Maiden is helpful to society, in case you haven’t noticed it by now.
Plovdiv, Bulgaria, 22nd of July
Not even a day of rest after the Athens saga, a plane to Thessaloniki the next evening and from there an early morning bus especially for the concert, not the only one leaving from the north of Greece. A trip to Bulgaria takes the same time and is even cheaper for the Greek Northeners, so at least a few hundreds went there that way and many more with private cars. The drive was interesting, crossing borders in the Balkans is always entertaining and the driver seemed to be in something just short of a suicide mission, so we were a bit on our toes the whole time. We managed to have a 2-hour stop in the city centre, which was cute and full of ancient ruins mingled with socialist remnants. On the way to the site, which was another plain open area next to a football stadium, we had to make the same circle three times watching the fans going towards a certain direction, while we were heading to the opposite one, it’s hard to convince a driver he is wrong, we found out. Despite the heat (around 33 degrees), a huge storm occurred for maybe 10 minutes, making people soaking wet, but at least calmed the soil, because some strong winds before were making it hard even to walk with all that dust they would bring up in the air. Fortunately, I was under the merch tent at the time, buying all kinds of t shrits that I didn’t in the previous gigs, knowing that this would be the cheapest because of the currency difference. So, intact and with many dry t shirts to change if needed, I started taking my place somewhere to the front. The band was killing it as always, but the crowd wasn’t. I saw Maiden live in Sofia in 2007 and it seemed that nothing changed. No movement, not even singing, just sitting there and watching and maybe dancing around. Whatever gets you off, but when I listen to “Revelations” and “Run To The Hills” I feel going at it a bit more than usual, but whatever. We saw another flag waved by Bruce while shooting Trooper Eddie from safe distance, after he had fought him with his sword with a balanced result, but the next time it would be the original one.
London, England, 10th of August
Going to the UK in the middle of August is something I would never do. Usually at that time of the year I am in Crete having the holidays of my life and actually this is exactly what was happening, but everything was arranged months ago and I would leave literally anything to go and see a Maiden gig, so I just got on a plane (2 of them to be precise) in order to find myself in the British capital and the birthplace of the band. The transition of the summer island vibe to a very warm urban one was not ideal, but then again who cares, I was there on a mission. As last year, I arrived the day of the show with minimum rest and maximum excitement. After several beers at The Dev in Camden, I took my way to O2 early on for the most vibrant gathering of Iron Maiden fans of the tour. Meeting old friends and making new is the way to go when hanging out of the venue and after a huge mess and misunderstanding about the paperless tickets and the exchange of them that included IMFC members, security stuff and almost the police, I found my place somewhere in the seats on the right side of the stage with a lovely Bulgarian family who was my company during the gig. No need to say that it was full to the rafters with a lot of people coming from all over as always and I also spotted some locals that their name will ring a bell, like Steve ‘Loopy’ Newhouse and Dennis Stratton. As soon as the lights went off, or should I say from “Doctor Doctor” on, the crowd started moving towards the barriers making waves of people moving, a rather entertaining spectacle for us up there, but probably not so enjoyable for those down there who didn’t feel like moving or being pressed against the ones in front of them from the ones behind. And then the usual madness, the spitfire, Bruce talking about the Battle of Britain and RAF and boosting his countrymen’s national pride a bit, ‘scream for me London’ was coming and going all throughout the show. I could talk about their approach to their back catalogue for hours, but on that show I swear I heard Smith putting some parts of “Caught Somewhere In Time” solo into the “Revelations” one. The London factor always plays a role for the band and that resulted in a royal performance and huge crowd reactions. You can’t beat an Iron Maiden show in London, this has been proved again.
O2, London, England, 11th of August
Actually there is one thing that beats it and that’s a second Iron Maiden show in London in a row (said the same thing in last year’s review, but hey, it is still valid). This time I went there even more drunk, met more friends that came for the show, but this time I had an arena ticket and it was time to let go. Took a spot at the front since early on, felt the crowd moving when it was time for the show to start –and yes, it wasn’t as enjoyable as it was watching it from above- and remembered my youth watching them crashed on barriers unable to move. Well, I found out I could still do it and I didn’t give a shit moving along with the human waves and being soaked to the bone with sweat. I felt the collective passion more than in any other gig on that tour (besides Athens which was collective paranoia…) and could actually see the white of the band members’ eyes. Indeed, Bruce’s leaps seemed more athletic than ever, at some point he swung through Adrian Smith touching his shoulder and his hair and scarf moved from the air he produced. On another occasion he put his sword in between Gers’ legs and poor Janick turned around and told Smith: “He ripped my pants”. As if this was not enough, I saw very clearly how shiny was Bruce’s eyes when he got hold of that flamethrower and started pointing it into every direction, even burning some covers of the stage set, or trying to set monitors ablaze. Now the revelation he made in his autobiography that he is a ‘lifelong pyromaniac’ made absolute sense. I can’t describe the joy I took by watching them being happy on stage, talking to each other, exchanging smiles etc. They were eye contacting the crowd, Harris was singing verses looking straight in your eye, even picking certain faces to point his bass at them. It might be a cliché and just the internal jargon of people who are into the band, but these small symbolic gestures is what made the band great and watching them going at it again and again after so many years just gives you hope for the future. At the end of the show the band gathered in the front of the stage to wave goodbye and share a gigantic Trooper to celebrate the end of a spectacular tour. Ok, not Nicko, he was cheering with an empty glass, but on the spot Bruce dropped the idea to make a non alcoholic beer for him, so you never know what will come from the Trooper Beer front. After the band had their share of fun after the gig on stage, made the final bow for the tour and left, the fans stayed a bit for their own party. Dozens of flags, hundreds of pictures and thousands of people singing “Always look at the bright side of life”.
Early Days Tour might have been the first one to touch upon the band’s earliest and rawest material, Somewhere Back In Time Tour the one that touched the glory 80s Bruce days and blew our minds ten years ago, Maiden England Tour was the one with the best set list ever, but my dear God, The Legacy Of The Beast tour must have been the best over all I have ever seen them doing and I barely believe I am saying that. The division of the stage set in the three themes of war, religion and death made it look like several different shows within the show. Everything taken care of until the last detail, amazing succession of scenery and imagery, 4 songs from ‘Piece Of Mind’, ballsy choice to put the two epics from the Bayley era (“Sign Of The Cross” and “The Clansman”) in the setlist showing how much they honour the whole of their legacy, insane stamina and form from all the members, especially considering their age and still that burning flame in their eyes, mostly on Steve and Bruce, the one that got them where they are in the first place. This tour took my respect for this band on a whole different level, they are a musical phenomenon of perseverance, straightforwardness and truthfulness to their music. Still in awe weeks after the end of the tour, I have nothing else to say than that I will be with them till the end.
- Aces High
- Where Eagles Dare
- 2 Minutes To Midnight
- The Clansman
- The Trooper
- For The Greater Good Of God
- The Wicker Man
- Sign Of The Cross
- Flight Of Icarus
- Fear Of The Dark
- The Number Of The Beast
- Iron Maiden
- The Evil That Men Do
- Hallowed Be Thy Name
- Run To The Hills