As someone who really doesn’t like tribute bands, going to see Maiden uniteD may seem like an odd choice of gig, but while they only play Iron Maiden covers, unlike most tribute bands, they don’t just try and replicate the originals. Instead, Maiden united rearrange the songs and play them acoustically, which means they sound very different to the Iron Maiden originals we all know. So good are they that former Iron Maiden guitarist Dennis Stratton regularly joins them on stage.
Formed by Within Temptaion guitarist Ruud Jolie and Joey Bruers the band are playing their biggest Dutch gig so far tonight at Amsterdam’s Koninklijk theatre Carre (which is as prestigious for Dutch musicians as the Royal Albert hall is for uk musicians.

On vocals for most of the show is Damien Wilson, but we didn’t have to wait for the show to start to meet him – he was in the audience saying hello to fans till a few minutes before the start. Once things kicked off we got to enjoy a group of talented musicians playing fantastic versions of Iron Maiden songs. The songs sound so different to the originals but still have a familiar feeling to them. Despite being acoustic there’s still plenty of power and energy when needed, with the cello really adding to the songs. We get great acoustic guitar playing and some truly beautiful piano playing – far more beautiful than many non metal fans would expect from heavy metal songs.

Another great thing about tonight’s set is it’s not the same set you’d hear from Iron maiden (who seem to alternate between playing the latest album in full, and greatest hits sets), so while we get some real classic hits such as “The Trooper” and “Aces high”, there are songs you’ll never hear Iron Maiden play live – most notably the epic “Empire of the clouds” which was originally an 18 minute epic but has been re-worked by Maiden uniteD who have split it into 4 parts. Even with their work it’s an incredibly demanding song, and for the four parts, Damien Wilson steps aside and is replaced by Dutch singer Wudstik who does a fantastic job with it.

Throughout the set, Damien Wilson is joking with the crowd with one recurring theme being him promising he’s going to stage dive…”but not yet”, and Dennis Stratton jokes with him a lot as do most of the band members.

In the second part of the show (being a theatre show with no support act, Maiden uniteD have split their set into two with an interval in the middle), Ruud’s bandmate, Within Temptation singer, Sharon den Adel joins the band on stage to sing “The evil that men do”. After that, Damien Wilson keeps joking about stage diving and says Sharon told me “If you’re going to stage dive, there is absolutely no way I’m going to”. Toward the end of the night, Damien Wilson gets the large guys in the audience to come to the front saying he’s going to stage dive, before adding “but not yet”. Sharon and Wudstick join the rest of the band on stage for the finale and mi-song, Damien finally stage dives into the waiting arms of the crowd and crowd-surfs most of the way to the back of the venue before returning. After some persuading, Sharon den Adel did something she said she’s never done before – not quite a stage dive, but she did crowd surf – now that’s something nobody expected to see.

This really was a fantastic show – three great singers and some very talented musicians brought Iron Maiden songs to life with a completely different feel than the one we’re used to – the acoustic interpretations really sound fantastic. Maiden uniteD are no mere tribute act – they’re head and shoulders above any tribute band.