Live Report - Iron Maiden & Airbourne – 28th July 2011 – MEN Arena, Manchester, UK
Live Gig

Release year: 0
Reviewed by Goat

Having Iron Maiden play in your locale is about as much of a non-brainer as you get! I booked tickets months ago before I was even aware who the support was, willing to risk having to sit through some crap like Trivium or, worse, Bullet For My Valentine in order to see the first metal band I ever loved live. Fortunately, things turned out alright, Aussie rawk crew Airbourne preparing the way, and although I missed the first song or so of their set due to a seat mix-up, was more than entertained with their brand of AC/DC worship. I’d never heard the band before tonight, not expecting many surprises from a group who even their supporters admit are one-dimensional. Yet so engaging is their beer-drenched stomp, and so cheerful and in love with their music are Airbourne themselves that you can’t help but love them. And love them I did, kin with a small number of flat-capped fans at the front of the crowd who cheered through all of their samey-sounding songs and almost gave off the impression they were there solely for Airbourne.

Almost, but not quite, it soon becoming plain just who the packed stadium were waiting to see as the roadies hurriedly prepared the Maiden stage set and the levels of crowd noise rose in expectation. Iron Maiden circa 2011 are a band over three decades and fifteen albums old with experience and songs by the bucketload, as they proved again and again with the fantastic show I saw. Opening with the electronic experimentation of Satellite 15 as an intro (far more exciting live than on disc) and launching properly with The Final Frontier and El Dorado, the band managed a flawless show. Mixing eras and styles interestingly, 2 Minutes To Midnight and Coming Home surrounded epic The Talisman, with favourites The Trooper and The Wicker Man having the crowd screaming in pleasure and soon-to-be-classics Dance Of Death and Blood Brothers receiving almost as warm a response (the latter having an emotional introduction by Bruce referencing the victims of the recent Norwegian Utoya atrocity).

Interestingly, the band haven’t mimicked the Matter Of Life And Death Tour by playing The Final Frontier in its entirety – probably listening to criticism from those who tired quickly of that album’s less varied feel. The wonderful When The Wild Wind Blows was a highlight tonight despite that, although I was on my feet with the rest of the crowd when The Evil That Men Do and Fear Of The Dark followed, caught in the tribal ecstasy of a much-loved band playing much-loved music. Iron Maiden preceded a short encore, after which a glorious triptych of The Number Of The Beast, Hallowed Be Thy Name and Running Free proved that some songs are so damn good that however many times you hear them you’ll never be tired of them. And yes, Bruce can still scream.

The band are rightly famous for their stage show, and they didn’t disappoint tonight, a giant Eddie appearance during The Evil That Men Do being topped by an even bigger Eddie peering malevolently at the audience during Iron Maiden and Satan himself making an appearance in The Number Of The Beast. Such distractions are a cherry on the cake when a man of Bruce Dickinson’s age is running around like a man possessed, and the dancing Janick and cheerfully mischievous Dave made a good contrast to the intensity of Steve and Adrian. I was interested to find that my side-on seat meant I got a glimpse of the backstage area, and early on saw Bruce running up and berating the sound man several times for some unknown crime. Those facing the front of the stage saw only professionalism and perfection – Iron Maiden still clearly love what they do as much as the fans do, and care about them having as great a time as the band. Moments of band-fan interaction were frequent and spontaneous, Bruce taking the time to greet a group who’d travelled from Sweden. Towards the end, he even wore one of the aforementioned flat caps when their wearers gleefully threw them onto stage along with colourful plastic sunglasses, passed out to the rest of the band during the now-traditional introductions midway through Running Free.

All in all it was a wonderful, warm experience, as uplifting as the band’s music. To conclude, in one of Bruce’s little between-song rambles, he mentioned that some people had thought that Iron Maiden would split up due to their latest album being titled The Final Frontier. “That’s bollocks!” he barked. Amen to that.

Killing Songs :
All were killers, but especially murderous were 2 Minutes To Midnight, Dance Of Death, The Wicker Man, Blood Brothers, When The Wild Wind Blows, Fear Of The Dark, The Number Of The Beast, Hallowed Be Thy Name
Goat quoted
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