IRON MAIDEN w/ KILLSWITCH ENGAGE – Hartwall Arena, 29.05.2018

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Iron Maiden needs no introduction. After hitting Hämeenlinna on their last album tour in 2016, it was time again for another best-of themed tour. This time it went under the banner of Legacy of the Beast, which is also the name of their free-to-play mobile game. They had proven earlier that they weren’t above promoting a video game with a tour, or vice versa, with their Ed Hunter tour in 1999. This tour brought them to Hartwall Arena in Helsinki for two days, on May 28th and 29th.

As a journalist, I always strive to be at least somewhat objective when I write. In this case, however, that may prove to be challenging. My background on Iron Maiden can not be overstated. They were the singular most important factor in my discovery of heavy metal music back in my early teens. I’m a fan club member, I’ve sunk more money on their collectables than I’d care to advertise, and have seen them about a dozen times in the span of some 15 years. My friend and I embarked on a min-tour to see them in both Tallinn on the 26thm as well as both nights at Hartwall Arena. The opening act, Killswitch Engage I knew of but hadn’t really listened to as it wasn’t my genre.

Killswitch Engage came on as the only warm-up. They had their own brand of metalcore which I’m sure a lot of people like. I spent most of the set wondering if metalcore as a genre should be over by now. It was big in the early 2000s but I’ve always seen it more as a gateway genre to actual extreme metal. All their songs had what was practically the same chorus and they broke up the monotony by over-using breakdowns. The backing vocals were consistently off-key and the whole performance felt like a sad reminder of my days watching MTV.

They finished the set on “Holy Diver” which is best known as a Dio song (RIP). It tried to be interesting enough by having every verse be in a different rhythm. It was ambitious, at least. The crowd seemed really into it and sang along, but admittedly that may just be because they liked ” Holy Diver” and not this version in particular. Until this tour I’d forgotten that these guys existed and will no doubt forget them the day after I’ve finished this report. I recommend it to fans of beating a dead horse.

 

Just before Iron Maiden started, they played the usual “Doctor Doctor” by UFO as an intro tape. The fans enthusiastically clapped and sang along, as expected. Most Maiden fans knew by this point that they start off every show like this these days. Even though it was the second night in the same venue, the excitement seemed practically unrivaled by almost any other show. Following that was the intro tape, known as “Churchill’s Speech” which was, of course, followed by “Aces High.” As the song began, a gigantic, inflatable Spitfire plane emerged above the stage. It moved up, down, and diagonally most impressively. The band was as accurate as ever. The singer, Bruce Dickinson, was in particularly good spirits. Not only was he running and jumping about as much as he did, some 10 years ago, but his voice and delivery were in rare form.

This was followed by another intro tape and a modest costume change for Bruce. The song was “Where Eagles Dare”, which my friend and I had hoped to be the intro, but was obviously usurped by “Aces High.” The song was the opener to Piece of Mind, which is one of their most classic and revered albums. It hadn’t been played since their Early Days tour in 2005, so the fans were absolutely thrilled to hear it. This was followed by “2 Minutes to Midnight” – a beloved song that everyone surely knew, and even in the seats, people clapped and sang along. Bruce changed shirts into a camo-vest, which at the end of the song he flung away.

At this point in Estonia, Bruce did a whole rant about how the longing for freedom is a universal feeling. He did something along those lines on the first night in Hartwall Arena but on the second night, he simply talked to the crowd and noticed they had some drumsticks in the front already. The crowd chanted for Nicko, referring to their charismatic drummer, Nicko McBrain. Bruce then pointed out the founder, bassist, and mastermind of the band, Steve Harris, saying he has four strings but has only figured out how to use two, which in this business is referred to as, “a sick burn, dude.” Steve then began to play an acoustic bass intro to “The Clansman.” Bruce said, “This is a song about freedom, in a Scottish accent.” The song is from the era in the 90s when Bruce was replaced by Blaze Bayley. They had previously done this song with Bruce on the Brave New World tour in 2000, as well as the live Rock in Rio DVD show. It was very well-received and the fans clearly knew how to sing along.

Then came the obligatory “The Trooper.” This time Bruce didn’t wear his iconic red cavalry jacket. Instead, they had the usual man on stilts dressed as Eddie come on wearing a The Trooper – themed outfit. Bruce had a play-swordfight with him. He finished it by picking up a Finnish flag, which had a small pyrotechnic shot in it. He fired it at Eddie on the lyric, “he pulls the trigger and I feel the blow.” The crowd went nuts, for good reason.

Between every song, the background image would vanish, only to be replaced by another. Up to this point they had had a military camouflage theme to the stage design, but once “Revelations” started, they change the look into a cathedral feel. This signaled the theme changing from war to religion. This was, in itself, very interesting and previously unseen in a Maiden show. This coupled with “Revelations” being one of their rarely played greatest songs, to which the crowd responded with extreme vigor.

After that, in Estonia and the first night in Helsinki, Bruce had done a whole speech explaining the change in theme from war to religion and how they are in nature, not entirely separate. On the third night, however, he did no speech at all. I felt like the first Hartwall night he had ranted a bit too long. My guess is that they were looking for a good balance. The song that followed was “For the Greater Good of God”, which hadn’t been seen since the A Matter of Life and Death tour in 2006. At Tallinn they had been been frequently off tempo with each other and it was a pain to listen to. On both Helsinki nights however, they were nigh perfect in execution. That is, of course, aside from guitarist Dave Murray’s incredibly messy solo, which is objectively the worst solo ever recorded. Bruce’s delivery on the maudlin outro, in particular, was absolutely special.

Though the last one may have divided opinion, “Wicker Man” from Brave New World followed. This was a song everyone loved and could sing along to. Thematically this was a detour into paganism. The crowd screamed their lungs out in the chorus and the chant at the end. After this they graced us with a very surprising addition, “The Sign of the Cross” from X Factor. It wasn’t a very popular record but most fans still knew the song well enough to sing along with the chorus. Judging by how many people clapped along in the slow beginning, it would be fair to assume many people were excited to see it live (again). Bruce had donned a large reflective black cloak and carried around a huge cross/mic stand with lights on it. They employed massive pyrotechnics in this one. At the end they even had Bruce crouch behind a cross amid the huge pyrotechnics. My assumption was that the cloak must have been at least heat resistant. On the third night of the tour, Bruce dared to stand among the flames with relative ease.

They then piled on the rare gems with “Flight of Icarus”, which most fans love, but hadn’t been played since the World Piece tour, which was the album tour from which it’s from. The cloak Bruce had been wearing had apparently been hiding a harness with flamethrowers on each hand. An enormous inflatable Icarus rose in the center of the stage. This time Bruce missed his first cue by a few seconds because his mic was caught in its holster, but he then quickly recovered. Bruce seemed to love the flamethrowers and fired them with glee and seemingly at will. At the end more fireworks shot down from the ceiling to simulate the Icarus bursting into flame, as he crumpled and descended below the stage.

The religion theme seemed to veer into a psyche theme roughly at this point. “Fear of the Dark” came on with Bruce wearing a Victorian era jacket and mask with a greenlit lantern. This being a classic that was sure to be played, the crowd was pleased and sang along as seen on countless live recordings from around the world. Bruce had taken every opportunity to go off stage; according to his autobiography, his saliva glands were damaged from the chemotherapy he received 2 years ago, which required him to wet his mouth regularly. Perhaps he took the opportunity to also change clothes more often.

The hits kept on coming with “Number of the Beast.” Bruce put on, if not his classic leather jacket, then one just like it. They really leaned into the fire theme on this one as they had lanterns and pyrotechnics all firing on full blast. On the final verse, they changed up the lyrics from, “and I’ll make you burn” to “I’ll make Finland fucking burn.” On the previous night they did “I’ll make Helsinki fucking burn”, which accidental or not, was a cool bonus for hardcore fans.

They then did “Iron Maiden”, to which the crowd shouted the words, as usual. At the end, an enormous inflatable horned Eddie came up and moved about seemingly disregarding the lit pyrotechnics all over the stage. They generally do a different Eddie on every tour. This one was modeled after the horned demon Eddie from the promo material. It was an extremely interesting design with the added detail of a self-carved pentagram on his forehead with the middle piece having fallen off.

The crowd then screamed and stomped their hearts out for an encore, which they soon got. It was “The Evil that Men Do” which, though a fan favorite, they seldom play. Having seen it thrice, I was surprised Bruce managed to mess up the same lyric on every night in the second verse. “Hallowed be thy Name” was next. They had a prop cage on stage for Bruce to emote against in the beginning. Soon after a hanging rope was to come down but on this night it came all the way down by accident. On previous nights Bruce had had the hanging rope to knock around and play with. The song itself had been under legal issues lately which had, thankfully, been settled before this tour, meaning the band was free to play it live again.

Finishing the show was “Run to the Hills.” It’s one of their biggest commercial hits and it worked as well as ever to get the crowd pumped. They had a background image straight from the mobile game they were promoting. To be fair, the basic image was Eddie fighting the devil just as he did on the single cover from 1982. The image just incorporated more imagery from different eras of the band. As the song ended, they let the crowd walk out to the tune of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” by Monty Python, which was of course, per tradition.

 

Out of the three shows I’d seen, this was the second best. Iron Maiden performed the set tightly and aside from a few minor, technical glitches, the show went smoothly. Had I not seen the show before, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed them. For my money, I missed the adorable rants Bruce went on during the other shows, though. The setlist was surprisingly daring, with lesser known songs from all through the band’s career. Their stage, with its props, pyrotechnics, etc. was spectacular. Iron Maiden always puts on the most massive shows and this tour had been no exception. Tying the tracks together with themes was inspired. It made the whole experience that much more exciting. I can’t wait to see what the next tour will bring.

Setlist:
1. Aces High
2. Where Eagles Dare
3. 2 Minutes to Midnight
4. The Clansman
5. The Trooper
6. Revelations
7. For the Greater Good of God
8. The Wicker Man
9. Sign of the Cross
10. Flight of Icarus
11. Fear of the Dark
12. The Number of the Beast
13. Iron Maiden

Encore:
14.The Evil That Men Do
15. Hallowed Be Thy Name
16. Run to the Hills

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