Words & Pictures: Adrian Hextall / MindHex Media
5 years since they last played here, Iron Maiden returned to London for a duo of sold out nights. As befits the global fanbase, the sea of country flags and Maiden t-shirts stretches as far as the eye can see, all with the same purpose… get inside the venue and get the best vantage point to watch their heroes perform. As you head inside, giant video screens with the half ‘Somewhere in Time‘ Eddie mixed with ‘Senjutsu‘ Eddie beckons to us, reminding us that we are here to celebrate the old with the new and material recorded over 30 years apart. With the tour being aptly named ‘The Future Past Tour’, we would soon see how well the old would gel with the new.
Lord of the Lost
Before Iron Maiden take to the stage, the support on the first of the two nights at the O2 is Lord of The Lost, the German industrial rock outfit that garnered more than a little recognition by being their country’s entrant in the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest. Their placement, more political than based on their talent is irrelevant. The fact that people had arrived to hear the band play Blood & Glitter and more is testament to their determination to succeed no matter what obstacles are placed in front of them.
For those in the know… and there were many present at the O2, the band hit their purple patch with 2018’s ‘Thornstar’, rapidly eclipsed it with the immense ‘Judas’ in 2021 and late in 2022, ‘Blood & Glitter’ surfaced and immediately became a fan favourite.
As such, the band did not disappoint with a set list to die for. 50-mins is a decent slot for the main support and would again be given the following night to the every popular rising young rockers The Raven Age. The opening night at the O2, with a crowd notoriously difficult to please (that’s Iron Maiden fans for you. If you’re not Maiden then we don’t care…) Lord of The Lost did everything necessary to hook in the doubters, reaffirm their presence to those in the know and delivered a set that proved that sometimes… just sometimes, Iron Maiden fans can be open and receptive to new music.
The Curtain Falls
Kill It With Fire
The Future of a Past Life
Dry the Rain
Under the Sun
Full Metal Whore
Blood & Glitter
Drag Me to Hell
UFO’s ‘Doctor Doctor’ chimes across the PA. As the volume reaches a crescendo, so does the crowd. If ever a song brought out the best of the crowd, this was it. There was simply no doubting who 20,000 excited punters (and a dancing security guard or two) were here to see. Iron Maiden arrive on stage at 2 minutes to… well, no, exactly 9 o’clock and for the next two hours reminded us just why they continue to headline festivals and arenas around the world. The may have started out in the 70s and arguably been at their commercial studio peak in the mid 80’s to early 90’s but somehow their live experience continues to go from strength to strength.
Opening with the double header of ‘Caught Somewhere in Time’ and ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ from the 1986 classic, the band look and sound better than ever. I make that statement not as a fan but as a genuine critic who has seen multiple acts from that era over the last week or two (what a week it’s been as well) and I can honestly say that if one band needs to keep their pedal to the metal, it’s Iron Maiden. Bruce Dickinson sings like a man half his age and then some, Nicko McBrain plays drums like a teenager with more testosterone than he knows what to do with and the rest of the band feed off this energy. As such with Janick Gers galloping around like his privates have been wired to a 12V battery the remaining trio of Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and Steve Harris had to up their game to match and the end result is probably one of THE gigs of 2023 if not this decade.
Bringing ‘The Writing on the Wall’ and ‘Days of Future Past’ from ‘Senjutsu’ into the set early on really showcased how well the new material sits with the old. I’d never thought of the band’s latest album as a ‘classic’ per se but hearing the songs played like this in a live environment truly hammered home their quality and effectiveness in a Maiden set list. The energy didn’t diminish one iota with Dickinson sprinting around the stage, even jumping over the monitors in front of him. I couldn’t do it, I wouldn’t even try.
With the widely anticipated ‘Alexander The Great’ getting an airing, with Adrian Smith getting a moment in the spotlight, we then get to head into one of the band’s all time classic singalongs.
With a bassline that sends shivers down the spine, the intro to ‘Fear of the Dark’ gets the chants going and then the gallop kicked in which resulted in mosh pits opening up on the floor. Those pits continued as the set closed with ‘Iron Maiden’ before the band left the stage, albeit briefly.
Did someone order extra pyro? They must have as the epic ‘Hell on Earth’ threatened to open a pit directly to the underworld. Huge song, huge fire and a receptive crowd were all that we needed and could have finished the show there and then in style. But no, we kept going with ‘The Trooper’ much to the joy of the old-school fans in the crowd before closing with ‘Wasted Years’
I have no idea where the 2-hours went but 20,000 people seemed to drift out with sweaty bruised covered bodies thanks to a full metal pummelling from Iron Maiden. One constant on all of those people walking out of the O2 though, the smile. Not many bands instil that sort of loyalty and then deliver to the fanbase that they have around the world.
One of their best and that’s a fact.
[Intro Tape] Doctor Doctor (UFO song)
[Intro to Band] Blade Runner (End Titles) (Vangelis song)
Caught Somewhere in Time
Stranger in a Strange Land
The Writing on the Wall
Days of Future Past
The Time Machine
Death of the Celts
Can I Play With Madness
Heaven Can Wait
Alexander the Great
Fear of the Dark
Hell on Earth
[Outro Tape] Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Monty Python song)