Words Ed King / Pics by Eleanor Sutcliffe
It’s no secret or hyperbole that Iron Maiden fans are amongst the most loyal of the heavy metal fraternity. But seeing over 15,000 rockers donning party hats, holding balloons, and waving birthday messages to Maiden’s longest standing lead singer was a large scale surprise.
Whether you’ve followed the band from the start or jumped on with any of their 16 studio albums it’s a pretty special atmosphere tonight, as a sea of Iron Maiden t-shirts and merchandise (along with the people wearing them) stand as a living museum to the band’s 40 year career.
But there is also theatre in the air, as a packed out Genting Arena have come to see Iron Maiden play one of six UK dates on their Legacy of the Beast World Tour and were promised a ‘very special show.’ Known for ‘having fun’ with their stage sets, this could mean nearly anything with Iron Maiden, and speculation and anticipation run rife through the crowd. That and a few plastic pints of Maiden’s very own Trooper beer.
First up though is Killswitch Engage, the Massachusetts spawned metalcore five piece who are joining Iron Maiden at all of their UK dates. Opening with ‘Strength to the Mind’, the lead single from their last studio album Incarnate, it’s a pretty lively affair – with the band’s lead guitarist, Adam Dutkiewicz, jumping around like an adderall adolescence, wiping pantomime amounts of sweat from his brow, and giving head high kicks during ‘Life to Lifeless’.
After a short break, with an en masse attempt to get served… not easy with over 15,000 thirsty people, we hear UFO’s ‘Doctor Doctor’ coming over the arena’s PA system – the longstanding cue that Iron Maiden are making their way from the dressing room. Scenes from the battlefields of World War II play out on the screens at the back of the stage, with quotes from Winston Churchill being somewhat drowned out by a soundtrack of explosions and gunshots.
Then it happens… Iron Maiden launch into their set with ‘Aces High’, as what looks like a full scale Spitfire swoops in to stand as the most outlandish set piece above the stage. Someone said there might be pyrotechnics tonight, which indeed there (including Dickinson strutting around the stage with a portable flame thrower) but no one warned me about a bloody plane.
Even more pertinent in the city that made the Spitfire, with Castle Vale only a stone’s throw down the M6, it’s a simply phenomenal opener – replete with Dickinson dressed in full fighter pilot paraphernalia and the swagger of man who could probably fly the thing. I remind myself it’s the lead singer’s 60th birthday today, then quietly question ‘what have I done with my life..?’
So the theme is ‘war’, with camo netting covering the stage and the first part of Iron Maiden’s set marching through a tracklist including ‘Where Eagles Dare’, ‘Two Minutes to Midnight’ and ‘The Trooper’. But it’s also a cherry picked selection of Maiden’s extensive back catalogue, with ‘Fear of the Dark’, ‘The Number of the Beast’, and the band’s eponymous closer from their 1980 debut album being a fitting full stop – as well as a generous hat tip to the band’s original lead singer.
The power, ferocity, and noise levels don’t falter, from Iron Maiden’s spectacular start to their three track encore which ends with ‘Run to the Hills’ – sending the Genting Arena into an almost dangerous state of hysteria.
Luckily, and making the finale almost as memorable at the beginning (…an actual plane), we are left with Monty Python’s ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’ coming over the PA, creating a more subdued sing-a-long to send us all home.
Iron Maiden have enjoyed four decades as one of heavy metal’s most successful ensembles, with a gold star reputation for high octane live shows, a tireless work ethic, and a fiercely loyal crowd that will (sometime literally) travel oceans to see them. If tonight is anything to go by, with the passion and production coming off stage a clear cut above anything you would call ‘the norm’, then it’s it’s a well earned trophy.
And happy birthday Bruce Dickinson… what an unbelievable way to celebrate six decades on this planet. Let’s raise a pint of Trooper and toast to many more.
Iron Maiden @ Genting Arena 07.08.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe
For more on Iron Maiden, visit www.ironmaiden.com
Killswitch Engage – supporting Iron Maiden @ Genting Arena 07.08.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe
For more on Killswitch Engage, visit www.killswitchengage.com
For more from Live Nation UK, including further event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.livenation.co.uk
For more on the Genting Arena, including venue details and further event listings, visit www.gentingarena.co.uk
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