As Iron Maiden’s classic album, Somewhere in Time, turns 30 years old, local tribute act Mauron Maiden put together a special evening to celebrate. As the sole performers of the evening, Mauron Maiden promised to play the 80’s classic in its entirety along with some other beloved Iron Maiden tracks at On the Rocks on September 30th. Fronted by 2012 The Voice star Mikko Herranen, Mauron Maiden tour extremely seldomly, therefore making this a doubly special event. Based entirely on a handful of videos on Youtube however, I found myself excited to see them tackle the pivotal record. I’ve seen my share of lackluster tribute bands and at least I could trust Herranen to be professional.
I was actually very anxious to see this show. Somewhere in Time was my very first Iron Maiden studio album way back in the day, so obviously I view it as one of their definitive works. It was the next logical step from Powerslave but without the orchestral lavishness of Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. On the other hand, as a huge Iron Maiden fan I found myself worried about whether or not Herranen’s English pronunciation was up to the task. Most Finnish singers are notorious for their cluelessness in this field. This is something that can really spoil a show for me, especially in a case like this, where I know the material like the back of my own hand.
The promise of a celebrity-led Iron Maiden tribute drew in a decent crowd of long-haired folks. The place wasn’t full per se, but it was by no means a failure, even for a Friday night. The 30th anniversary show seemed to attract a predominantly over-30 male audience who were likewise over themselves. On the Rocks has been named the best rock bar in Helsinki on multiple occasions and does largely cater to this demographic in general, and shows like this are no exception. Regardless, there was a lingering air of excitement as the people were clearly determined to hear this album specifically. In passing I heard people share their enthusiasm to hear songs like “Alexander the Great”, “Sea of Madness”, and “Stranger in a Strange Land” played live.
A hush fell over the crowd as the iconic first notes of “Caught Somewhere in Time” sounded off. My first gut reaction was that they hadn’t put a whole lot of thought into nailing the exact guitar sound of SiT but perhaps that wasn’t necessary. Herranen, the man of the hour, took the stage in a confident stride to thunderous applause and began to rapidly scream out the lyrics in his trademark raspy voice. Right away it seemed as though he was unsure of the words – nearly every line had a half-second delay before he seemed confident that he was in the right place.
This would become a constant annoyance throughout the set. The vocals were often comprised of either the wrong line or some garbled nonsense in an attempt to mask the fumbles. By the time the set had reached “Stranger in a Strange Land”, even the drunkest audience members could tell that the SiT songs had not been rehearsed to their full potential. Herranen would not only forget what to sing, but also when – the ultimate sin for a vocalist. ”I’m not applauding that,” I heard a fellow patron say. Regrettably, I had to agree. These songs may have been some of my all-time favorites but this half-baked portrayal was not doing them justice.
Herranen’s voice isn’t generally the smoothest around and he has a habit (especially with Maiden songs) to simply go as loud as possible when he can’t match the Bruce Dickinson-range required to pull off something like “Sea of Madness” or “Deja Vu.” In all fairness, I’d probably have done something similar myself had I been in his shoes, but this ended up sounding like karaoke. He did attempt to garner sympathy by mentioning that he had a cold; that may excuse some of the vocal problems but doesn’t quite explain the fact that the lyrics hadn’t been memorized. This crowd had gathered to see a professional performance, which the band simply failed to deliver. Despite all of that, the crowd wanted to support the band. The banter between songs was geeky and awkward but all of that was instantly forgiven any time a new song came on. Everyone was obviously just too invested in hearing some Maiden, no matter how rough of a ride it was.
The wait paid off in the end though, as Mauron Maiden had prepared an impressive six encore songs, starting with “Moonchild” and even including a monster like “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” These were clearly far more rehearsed, as Herranen did a much better job in both remembering and pronouncing the words. The band themselves got to show off their skills with the difficult time changes in “Alexander the Great” and “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” I only picked up on one or two minor goofs where one guitar came into a section too early or too late. Overall the guitars worked well together, but played mostly in unison instead of properly harmonizing. Apart from Herranen, the band stood perfectly in place, only ever swaying with their upper bodies (as is of course tradition for Finnish bands), so that’s a definite point to Herranen’s credit.
At the end of the night I did feel like I had a good time and from what I could surmise of the audience, people felt quite satisfied. It may not have been the most meticulous execution, but for the masses who crave Maiden at all times, the thirst had been sated, and it was a long set that included a lot of songs rarely heard live. And… at least it wasn’t Coverslave.
1. Caught Somewhere in Time
2. Wasted Years
3. Sea of Madness
4. Heaven Can Wait
5. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
6. Stranger in a Strange Land
7. Deja Vu
8. Alexander the Great
10. 2 Minutes to Midnight
11. Can I Play With Madness
12. Rime of the Ancient Mariner
13. Number of the Beast
14. Iron Maiden