Review: Iron Maiden's gamble on newer material pays off


Band performed Sunday at Calgary's Pengrowth Saddledome

Iron Maiden lead rocker Bruce Dickinson in 2008.

Iron Maiden lead rocker Bruce Dickinson in 2008.

Photograph by: Archive, Calgary Herald


Iron Maiden performed Sunday at Pengrowth Saddledome. Attendance 10,000.

The last time the heavy metal machine known as Iron Maiden rumbled through town, two years ago, the night was all about the band's triumphant past.

It was the Somewhere Back In Time Tour, dedicated to Maiden's 1980s output – a period that rightfully made them one of the most revered metal bands in the world.

Virtually every song they played was a classic of the genre, carnivorously devoured by the headbangers who flocked to see their heroes. It couldn't fail.

Sunday night's Maiden concert, on the other hand, wasn't such a sure bet.

This was the Final Frontier Tour and the evening was dedicated almost entirely to the Maiden of the 2000s, an era that began when singer Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith rejoined the band after departing in the '90s.

While the albums released in the last decade were acclaimed, its fair to say they haven't made the impact of Maiden's earlier work, so to dedicate a concert almost exclusively to those releases, at the expense of so many crowd favourites, was risky business.

It's a gamble that the British band pulled off impressively though, for the most part.

Bounding upon the stage with explosive energy to put rockers half his age to shame, Dickinson, 51, kicked off the show with the anthemic cries of Wicker Man as the band launched into its unstoppable, trademark gallop.

Dickinson's voice is a powerful tool and he knows how to project his might. Sunday night it was felt at the furthest reaches of the 'Dome as triple axes dueled behind him and the juggernaut rhythm section that is bassist Steve Harris and drummer Nicko McBrain made backbones rattle.

The set, composed by about three quarters of newer tunes, worked because most of those tunes proved themselves in the live arena, even if they couldn't quite match the heavy metal greatness of Maiden's very best work, like Run To The Hills, Aces High and The Trooper, none of which was played.

Still, the pounding fury of No More Lies came bloody close. Wildest Dreams, Dance of Death and the brand new track El Dorado were worthy inclusions too.

But there's no doubt that the less than hardcore portion of the audience wasn't as riveted as they might have been during certain parts of the show.

All of that was immediately forgiven, however, as the show hit the closing stretch with a string of long awaited favourites including smashing versions of Fear of the Dark, Number of the Beast, Running Free and Hallowed Be Thy Name – all of which caused 10,000 fans to lose their minds.

Of course the band's ghoulish, disfigured mascot Eddie made an appearance too, the giant lug lumbering across the stage during the band's namesake tune, Iron Maiden.

At the end of the day, good on Maiden for not simply pandering – for having the conviction and the guts to push fine new material which they have every right to be proud of.

But striking a more even balance between that new material and the unsinkable, ironclad battleships of yesteryear, would have made an incredibly satisfying show that much greater.

As for Dream Theater, meanwhile, the cult, prog-metal vets from Long Island, NY, who opened the show, they made for a knockout warmup act. That's down to the stunning chops of its musicians, even if Dream Theater's songwriting never equaled that of their early heroes, like Rush, Pink Floyd, and – who else? – Iron Maiden themselves.



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Iron Maiden lead rocker Bruce Dickinson in 2008.

Iron Maiden lead rocker Bruce Dickinson in 2008.

Photograph by: Archive, Calgary Herald


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