Iron Maiden, one of the world’s all-time most popular heavy metal bands, brought their Maiden England Tour through Olympiastadion in Helsinki on July 20th, 2013. The Maiden England Tour was mainly a reboot of their 1989 live video of the same name, and featured a set that seemed to be a combination “best of” mixed with a reasonable amount of material from the 1988 album, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.
Each opening band brought their own unique flavor to the menu. Ghost (also known as Ghost B.C.) has a rather unique stage image, with six ‘nameless ghouls’ as band members, and the skull-masked cardinal, Papa Emeritus, on vocals. Their live show is a bit more suited to a club venue, since the lights and smoke give them the best ambiance to match their sound, but unfortunately, the open air impedes the lighting and the wind takes away most of the smoke. While it might be a nicer watch from up close, those in the stands didn’t get to see how it comes together. The musical quality, fortunately, does not diminish in the outdoors.
Sabaton also came over from Sweden, with all their unrestricted energy, and were a great match for Iron Maiden with their story-style songs and exuberant stage presence. For anyone who had been at their last show in November 2012, you might’ve noticed vocalist Joakim Brodén was repeating many of the same statements from the last show about the quality of the crowd and the chills their cheers were giving him. Nevertheless, they brought out their A-material for the set and it was clear that the band just loves the Finnish crowd. Robban Bäck was also back from his paternity leave, taking his place once again at the drum kit!
Amorphis was the stand-in band for Bullet for My Valentine, who had to cancel due to an unavoidable scheduling error in their busy summer schedule. Guitarist Esa Holopainen had been quoted saying that opening for Iron Maiden would be one of the highlights of the band’s career, and they showed their full enthusiasm during their performance. However, the full crowd didn’t officially take over the stadium until it was Iron Maiden’s turn.
It’s always incredible to see the ground level of a stadium nearly packed to the brim with bodies, while the seating area is simultaneously devoid of open spaces. “Doctor Doctor” by UFO acted as the intro track while drummer Nicko McBrain came out, waving to the crowd as he took his place in center stage. As the track faded out, his bandmates burst onstage playing “Moonchild,” one of the aforementioned tracks from Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. The song had been reintroduced during the Somewhere Back in Time Tour in 2008-2009, and has now been bumped from encore to starting track. With the promise to stick close to the Seventh Son album, the second song they delved into was “Can I Play with Madness.” The stage was set up in icy blue platforms, replicating the cover art from Seventh Son. A few of the other tracks performed from Seventh Son, not including the encore, were “The Clairvoyant” and the title track itself – a song they haven’t played live in years.
Most of the songs from the tour were old favorites, like “The Trooper,” “Number of the Beast,” and “Fear of the Dark,” and it was exactly the kind of set you’d want to see if you were a first-timer at a live Iron Maiden gig. There were a few unusual but good choices mixed in, such as “Afraid to Shoot Strangers” from 1992’s Fear of the Dark album. With the great collection of songs, fans both old and new were sure to enjoy themselves. A particularly memorable moment was when they started up “Wasted Years” and Bruce Dickinson told the crowd that Finland has drank more of the new Iron Maiden brand The Trooper beer than the entirety of the United States… and we do not need to worry about those wasted beers.
Iron Maiden’s live show is so amazing that it’s almost unfair to the rest of the world’s bands. It’s hard to compete with frontman and vocalist, Bruce Dickinson, who could make men a third his age weep at the thought of reproducing his combined enthusiasm, vocal quality, and energy at the age of 54. With at least three different outfits, and a small village worth of staging to climb around on, you wonder what he’s fueled with.
Steve Harris, the original mastermind of Iron Maiden and one of the most influential metal bassists of all time, was recently seen in Helsinki with his side project, Steve Harris: British Lion, though it wasn’t nearly as outstanding a performance as Iron Maiden produces. Nevertheless, with Maiden, he kept up his token act of keeping that galloping rhythm going with one foot up on the amps – a move often copied since Maiden’s inception by bassists of all sounds and styles. He manages to stand out on stage, which says something in a band that sports three guitarists.
Dave Murray and Adrian Smith occupied stage right, and their main focus sticks closer to tight playing and ensuring that the sound is top notch at any given moment. Though all three guitarists have a unique style to their playing, Janick Gers is the one to keep an eye on during live shows with his high-kicks and guitar tossing. Each time his guitar soars into the air, you’re left to wonder how he catches it so infallibly every time.
Nicko McBrain, dubbed by Dickinson to be the handsomest man in all of the UK, was atop his own special platform during the show, right in the middle of the action but perhaps in a place that isn’t as crowd-visible as he could be, particularly to those situated off to the side, as he was walled-in by the staging. Nevertheless, behind his massive drum kit, the cameras managed to pick up a few of the wild faces he was making for the enjoyment of anyone who caught one on the big screens. It is evident, not just with Dickinson, but every member of the band seems to take particular care of their health to be able to perform at the level that they do, at the age they are, and after such a long time.
Eddie, Iron Maiden’s iconic mascot, was also present at the show in several incarnations. During the first sighting, he was in a proper Civil War getup and made his appearance during “Run to the Hills,” wandering around and attacking the band members with his bloody saber. However, the stage Eddie wasn’t the only wild prop they used. During “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son,” a massive version of the Eddie from “The Clairvoyant,” complete with a large glowing orb and burning candles the size of pillars, took over the backdrop. Also, when they played the final track, “Iron Maiden”, before the encore, they had the Eddie from the cover of Seventh Son, complete with the strange fetal creature in his hand, wriggling about as though it were alive. Some of the other backdrop art included the newer-style Eddie from The Final Frontier, their 2010 release, and of course, some more basic Seventh Son art.
Of course, backdrops alone wouldn’t be enough to satisfy the desire to put on the ultimate live performance for Iron Maiden. Their lighting setup included five massive flats of assorted lights to challenge even the long-lasting Finnish sun, as well as pyrotechnics that were not merely saved for the end of the show.
“The Churchill speech” and a deafening roar from the crowd welcomed the band back for an encore. It was comprised of three more old favorites, “Aces High”, “The Evil that Men Do”, and “Running Free”; a perfect set of feel-good tracks that leave you craving for more. Though the crowd did their utmost to summon the band back for a second encore, the show was indeed over and after several minutes of tossing their picks and drumsticks and whatnot into the crowd to the Monty Python tune, “Always Look at the Bright Side of Life”, they took their bows and headed offstage.
Iron Maiden is one of those bands that everyone should see once. Though this show didn’t have any problems with set-up or sound, it is possible that you might occasionally catch a show with a sub-par setlist, or you might find yourself in a place with questionable sound quality. If you’re on the floor in a venue that’s not set up properly, you can even find yourself at risk of being literally crushed to death by thousands of fans with their fists in the air. With that in mind, despite any faults or flaws the show might have, it’s still nearly impossible to imagine an Iron Maiden concert that you come out of without a big grin on your face and an energized feeling coursing through your body!
Intro – Doctor Doctor, by UFO
2. Can I Play with Madness
3. The Prisoner
4. 2 Minutes to Midnight
5. Afraid to Shoot Strangers
6. The Trooper
7. The Number of the Beast
8. Phantom of the Opera
9. Run to the Hills
10. Wasted Years
11. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
12. The Clairvoyant
13. Fear of the Dark
14. Iron Maiden
Intro – Churchill’s Speech
15. Aces High
16. The Evil that Men Do
17. Running Free
Outro – Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, from Monty Python
Photos: Jana Blomqvist | Photo editing: Bear W.