There’s always a buzz when Iron Maiden are in town, and as a black-clad horde descends upon Arena Way it’s clear that this occasion is to be no exception.
Having stocked up on the band’s own Trooper ale, Newcastle’s city centre bars begin filling up around lunchtime, and come 7pm the excitement among the Maiden masses has hit fever pitch.
A visit from the heavy metal icons isn’t in itself a rare occurrence, but this time feels slightly different. Whereas most tours are booked off the back of a new album, the current Legacy of the Beast run focuses predominantly on their peerless ‘80s catalogue; a shameless Greatest Hits making for their most anticipated jaunt in years.
It might seem like hubris for a group to talk up their ‘legacy,’ but in their case the privilege is more than earned. There’s certainly no shortage of aging rockers in fading tour t-shirts, yet tonight’s audience features just as many millennials – and that’s before we even get to the kid sat in front of me, who can’t have seen more than one album released during his lifetime.
Regardless of age, nobody could possibly leave an Iron Maiden show feeling underwhelmed. This time around there’s a typically ludicrous selection of stage props, a different stage set for each song, pyro galore, and as the six-piece race onstage with Aces High they do so in the shadow of a full-size
After more than four decades, the group’s showmanistic flair remains unrivalled. One of rock’s great frontman, Bruce Dickinson undergoes a string of costume changes, bounds about the stage with a flame-thrower, and at one point launches into a sword fight with the band’s 10-foot mascot, Eddie.
He’s drenched with sweat from the outset, and little wonder – his performance would be an exertion for a man in his prime, never mind one who turns 60 next week.
Amid the madness, Dickinson’s voice remains in freakishly fine fettle, while the rest of the band – founding bassist Steve Harris, drummer Nicko McBrain and the famous three-guitar attack of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers – continue to prove an evergreen powerhouse.
Of course, two hours isn’t nearly enough to enjoy the complete gambit of Maiden classics, yet tonight’s setlist is nevertheless the thing of fans’ dreams.
There’s a smattering of cuts from the ‘90s and ‘00s – staples Fear of the Dark and The Wicker Man stand out, alongside an excellent For the Greater Good of God – but mostly we’re treated to the songs on which their legend was built, sourced from arguably the greatest run of records any metal
group has ever produced.
2 Minutes to Midnight, for instance, is an indispensable pillar pairing electric pace with one of the all-time great riffs; The Trooper showcases the iconic Maiden gallop in all its glory, while a closing couplet of Hallowed Be Thy Name and Run to the Hills sees a remarkable evening end on the highest
It’s easy to be churlish about men in their 60s rolling out the hits and reliving their youth, yet this is a night where any form of cynicism is eclipsed by sheer wow factor.
There’ll be plenty of sore ears, heads and necks come the morning, but it’s a small price for the greatest metal show on Earth.