It’s no big surprise that the T-shirt color of choice at last night’s Iron Maiden concert at Blossom Music Center was black. Audience members sported Black Sabbath, Queensryche, Slayer, and Maiden Ts. And everything from the merch table to the Powerslave-era stage set had a decidedly retro feel. Singer Bruce Dickinson is even putting his day-job skills as a pilot to work -- flying the band from gig to gig in a custom jet airliner emblazoned with Iron Maiden logos and artwork. Iron Maiden’s Somewhere Back in Time tour has a definite sense of purpose.
Last night’s concert was packed with a sea of metal fans from front to back, pavilion to lawn -- almost like it was an Iron Maiden concert from the mid-’80s. It’s appropriate, since the focus was on a gigantic cross-section of ’80s classics. Although there was one detour for 1992’s “Fear of the Dark,” which was greeted with groans from online-forum fans. But, for better or worse, it’s become a live favorite, complete with an audience sing-along ...
Dickinson remarked mid-set that “there are some people here tonight that weren’t even born when these songs were conceived.” Lots of young kids – including a large group of students from the Paul Green School of Rock – were there.
“Two Minutes to Midnight” came way before midnight and got the crowd fired up early for tracks like “Revelations,” which showcased the triple-guitar attack (yeah, three guitar players) of Janick Gers, Dave Murray, and Adrian Smith. Original members Murray and Smith looked like they did back in the day -- which probably has something to do with having to keep up with the energetic Dickinson night after night.
Although he sounded great, Dickinson seemed a bit subdued, hanging back and crouching menacingly near drummer Nicko McBrain during the set’s first couple of songs. Many of the songs at last night’s concert have been part of the band’s repertoire for years. But once they’re accessorized with fire, an elaborate stage set, and Dickinson’s album-period appropriate outfits, it’s obvious why this tour is one of Maiden’s all-time most successful.
There was even a 13-minute version of “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” complete with the original Live After Death “Riiiiime of the Anc-IENT Mariner!” intro from Dickinson. Still, for all of the metal clichés found at an Iron Maiden concert, the band leaves out just as many. Drummer McBrain didn’t take a solo (then again, when you’re showing off the entire time, you really don’t need one). Neither did anyone else. It was a lean, old-school rock show. As one fan summed it up: “It’s Iron Maiden, without all of the bullshit.” --Matt Wardlaw