Review for the following night: Iron Maiden AECC Aberdeen (17/5/17)
It is two minutes to midnight… seventeen minutes past to be truthful and I’m sitting in my hotel room with a sore throat, two ringing ears and an eight year old child who I think just saw the most incredible concert of his (so far) short life. This is all the end result of seeing Iron Maiden on The Book of Souls tour at the gigantic SSE The Hydro.
I do not have much experience with Iron Maiden live after I fell out of favour many years ago due to the poorly Dance of Death. The album itself didn’t live up to my expectations as a teenager with songs that stretched on too long, one of the worst singles in the bands history and a final master that is easily the worst in the bands entire back catalogue. Unfortunately my negative experiences was not only with their studio material but with the tour that followed.
In 2003 Iron Maiden toured the UK coming to my local gigantic venue, Glasgow’s SECC. Unfortunately I found out too late that the band planned on playing the majority of their new album with so little in a way of classic material. The set list was boring, dragged on way too long and the performance itself wasn’t that great. This was all topped off by the fact that there were noticeable audio issues (the PA literally blowing at one point) and hands down the worst crowd I have ever been too. Since then, I have never been able to re-connect my love for this band… until now.
When it came to the bands recent studio album, The Book of Souls, I was naturally a bit hesitant. The idea of Iron Maiden releasing a double album just seemed excessive and another example of the band amusing their own ego’s. I was quite mistaken as the album not only contained some great musicianship but also the best songs that I personally think Iron Maiden have released since Brave New World. With a great set of new songs, it only felt right that I take the chance to see them in the live and I’m glad that I did.
Before we get onto Iron Maiden, let’s talk about the support band Shinedown. These guys had a reasonable length of time to blast out one song after another and they did so without hesitation. The group seemed full of confidence and energy, all of which was noticeable in their performance. I recognized a couple of songs, enjoyed two or three but found the overall style to be quite dated by heavy metal’s perspective and a bad choice for the support band.
Much like Funeral For A Friend back in 2003, Shinedown simply did not fit in. They boast this terribly dated nu-metal style of the early ’00s that appeals more to the young teenage girls and the boys they came with them looking to score. You know this group of kids, the ones who go to an Iron Maiden show only to hear The Trooper and Number of the Beast, the kind of people who don’t enjoy the band but prefer to use their T-Shirts for street cred. I’m not saying they were bad live, just not for the target audience of an Iron Maiden show. The mix at the start of the show was quite horrible, we couldn’t hear anything but drums and bass. Thankfully this was rectified and they sounded great by the end of their set with everything coming across clear. I did enjoy it for what it’s worth but I found absolutely no reason why I’d want to see them again. It’s all painfully average and a little behind the times, the real highlight was blasting Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy before the band hit the stage. It brought back some pleasant memories of seeing the Purple One in that very same venue. The question is, can we not get Gamma Ray or some actual heavy metal instead? It seems a little more fitting for a metal concert… or you’d think so.
Just as Iron Maiden’s set was about to start, the stage cleared and UFO’s heavy metal classic Doctor Doctor started blaring over the PA system. This song has been the go to song for Iron Maiden for god knows how long and provided the fans with a great sing a long to get them pumped up. The lights dimmed, the fog machines started spewing their toxic mist and we were treated to a charming heart exploding intro video. This immediately led into two songs from The Book of Souls, the opening number If Eternity Should Fail and Speed of Light. The band were using some cool looking pyro that spewed out of their impressive looking back drop. Unfortunately the group were having noticeable audio issues with the over all sound being a little too treble heavy drowning out a lot of the guitars and making Bruce’s vocals a little irritable on the ear in such a loud environment.
This was all cleared up for the Killers classic Wrathchild and a cracking rendition of Children of the Damned from Number of the Beast. The band sounded extremely tight on these oldies, they didn’t miss a beat and Dickinson sang the songs better than I have heard him on any previous recordings that I own. The next batch of new songs came out. Death or Glory was quite fun, had a good thick sound and a classic Iron Maiden chorus. This went into The Red And The Black, a rather excessive song that features a Brave New World knock off chorus and leads into a rather lengthy guitar jam. The constant changes in tempo and rhythm kept this near fifteen minute epic from tiring us out. The band did a great job show casing their talents during this number. Next came every casuals favourite, The Trooper. The band sounded great on this one with the solos taking centre stage and Nicko sounded extremely tight. The same couldn’t be said for Bruce Dickinson who was clearly struggling to hit the high notes in this song, maybe a hint that it either needs down tuned or retired altogether. Powerslave followed, a real pleasure on the ear and a song I have never been too keen on but enjoyed never the less.
The last portion of the set came with The Great Unknown, a favourite of mine from the latest album. The ten minute title track The Book of Souls which was clearly the heaviest song of the night. This track was easily my favourite due to the band performance and the over all stage theatrics. Seeing the fight between Eddie, the not so delicate removal of his heart and the pyro were all great fun over the top of one serious heavy riff. The two melded together quite nicely and I hope it gets featured in a feature length concert video. The set finished on the live set mainstays Fear of the Dark and Iron Maiden. During these two songs there were a couple of mishaps with I think Dickinson coming into the chorus too early on Fear of the Dark and Nicko destroying the tempo on Iron Maiden, but nothing major or too disastrous. The bands encore consisted of a gigantic Satan, lots of fire, a great sing a long to The Number of the Beast, the criminally underrated Blood Brothers and the always sloppy Wasted Years.
Looking back on the set list, the band did a fantastic job of making it work. I personally am not a fan of bands playing too many songs from their new album live. In fact, I would have liked a bit more album variety (Paschendale, Wickerman or even Alexander the Great) to show off more of their back catalogue. This practice they chose tends to lack any kind of consistency and has effected bands of all kinds from Deep Purple to Europe and even Motorhead. It also has a habit of ousting the casual listeners who have either no interest in or haven’t bothered listening to the new songs. But the band took their new songs, fuelled them with a lot of energy and confidence mixing them with an odd choice of oldies. I can’t respect them more for that.
I’m not saying Iron Maiden at Glasgow’s SSE The Hydro was a perfect concert, it wasn’t. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t have a bloody good time, because we most absolutely did. Shinedown were an odd choice but a good tight band never the less and Iron Maiden themselves sounded well rehearsed, energetic and have a superb stage show for all to see. I’m not sure that I still approve of £60 asking price but I am glad that I finally got back to checking them out at a point where they have such quality new music and are playing it live with such love. As a long lost fan, Iron Maiden have redeemed themselves in my eyes and it’s a good time to reconsider my status as an ex-fan.
After saying all this, my next concert is tomorrow (17/5/17) at Aberdeen’s AECC for Iron Maiden w/ Shinedown. Stayed tuned for more concert reviews!