Iron Maiden’s Legacy of the beast tour reached Birmingham tonight. It’s fair to say fans were excited and ready to party with the bars nearby all full of Iron Maiden fans for hours before the doors opened with some bars running out of Trooper.
The ticketless entry seemed to work very well with no queues to worry about when I arrived, although I do miss having a proper ticket, even though I can understand the desire to cut down on touting.
First up before Iron Maiden was Killswitch Engage. Talk about a double edged sword – on the one hand supporting Iron Maiden means playing to packed arenas, but on the other, Iron Maiden fans are notoriously indifferent of support acts, and tonight the arena is probably only half full for their set with the remaining fans staying in the bars. Despite that, Killswitch Engage come out and immediately dive straight into a great set that would normally have fans going nuts, but tonight there are no circle pits, there’s no moshing and quite a lot of fans down at the front looking unimpressed at having to listen to anyone other than Iron Maiden. Despite that, there are clearly plenty of people there who are enjoying the set although it seems to be mainly the younger fans. It’s certainly a tough crowd but Killswitch Engage don’t seem put off and race around the stage and generally give it everything they’ve got. It’s a performance that would have gone down a storm at any festival, but tonight just isn’t their night.
After a short interval it was time for the main event – Iron Maiden. It’s fair to say fans are excited with a main topic of conversation being “the plane”. After their usual intro tape (Doctor doctor), we get Winston Churchill’s speech before the band take to the stage – with a full-size replica of a Spitfire aircraft above their heads. Most bands would bring out something that impressive as the finale to the show – maiden bring it out for the first song as they’re one of the only bands in the world that can do that and not have the rest of the show feel like an anticlimax. Kicking the show off with that spitfire as the band peform “Aces high” is one hell of an impressive start to a gig, but that’s just the start. They then move into “where eagles dare” before “2 minutes to midnight”. The first part of the set does have a military theme and people in army uniforms on stage at times and camouflage netting around the stage. Behind the stage, the backdrop changes for each song, and there are plenty of other visuals.
For “Flight of Icarus” Bruce comes on stage with a pair of flamethrowers and seems to be having a lot of fun as he fires jets of flames all around. For a man celebrating his 60th birthday that day, Bruce Dickinson is amazing to watch – he never stops and races around the stage, regularly leaping into the air.
As you’d expect from Iron Maiden it’s a flawless performance – this is a band that tour so much that they’re totally polished and professional and watching the show there’s little sign of them ever wanting to slow down and cut back on touring (thank goodness).
There’s one departure from the standard show – at the end of the set, Nicko McBrain comes out from behind his drum kit and gets the crowd to sing Happy Birthday to Bruce Dickinson.
The setlist on this tour is simply fantastic – it’s a greatest hits type of tour, so it’s packed with the big songs that everyone wants to hear, but they’ve also thrown in songs that they don’t usually play such as “For the greater good of god”. I think they’ve got the setlist pretty much spot on – there will always be songs we’d love to hear that they can’t fit into the time, but whereas normally you’ll hear fans bitching about the setlist that a band is playing on tour, with this Iron Maiden tour I’ve seen/heard almost none of that – the reaction from fans has been almost universally positive.
As a live band, Iron Maiden are like a fine wine or whiskey – they seem to get better with age. This was an absolutely fantastic show – probably the best I’ve seen from them. Flawless performances, a great setlist and a superb show – what more could you ask for?