Monday, July 12
Madison Square Garden
There is, still to this day, an Iron Maiden dress code. It consists of denim. A black T-shirt with the band’s logo in that inimitable Metal Lord font. And somewhere in this ensemble–could be on this same shirt, could be on a jean-jacket backpatch, could be inked on skin–there must be horror-comic mascot Eddie in one of his variously ghoulish manifestations. Additionally, acceptable: clothing proclaiming allegiances to Slayer, Motorhead, or Dio. The curly-haired jock in the Loverboy shirt? You looked foolish.
Last night at Madison Square Garden, 35 years after this heavy-metal behemoth first formed, eight out of every 10 human beings inside the arena were dressed exactly like this. Sure, heshers have a costume, but this was so prevalent that if you were, say, a younger woman alone and wearing a black dress with a pink sash, three different complete strangers would approach you separately on the escalator, or in the bag-check line, ask where your Maiden shirt was. “You don’t have the uniform on,” one possibly intoxicated fan observed. “You don’t really want to be here?” Not true, sir.
Witnessing Bruce Dickinson dart around relentlessly, for two fucking hours, it’s not surprising this is the same guy who piloted his five bandmates, roadies, and 12 tons of stadium equipment safely around the globe in a Boeing 757. We are talking Iggy Pop levels of inhuman onstage activity with this man. From the upper-deck stage-left seats, Dickinson was visible running sprints before the curtain lifted at 8:50; then he barrelled out in a shirt that said PSYCH WARD and proceeded to leap over the monitors into flying splits, again and again. His favorite move is to dash at full speed to the end of an upper riser, then stop abruptly and crouch, arms-out like the Silver Surfer. It was like watching the high-school football quarterback simultaneously do drills and practice for the lead in the spring musical. I mean, dude sweltered in a knit-cap for 90% of the show and he’s not even going bald.
So let’s ignore the shamelessness of Dickinson’s repeated sales pitches for The Final Frontier, the new Iron Maiden release that hits stores on August 17. (“Don’t go fuckin’ downloading it,” he demanded, not at all kidding.) Let’s also ignore the corny part of the encore where the 52-year-old donned a Scotland Yard hat and addressed everyone as a “criminal.” Let’s forget this was the tour in which Iron Maiden stuck to their post-2000 catalogue, material all written since front-lung Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith returned after the band’s particularly harrowing stint with Wolfsbane’s Blaze Bayley, so there would be no Headbangers’ Ball staples like “Run To the Hills” or “Can I Play With Madness.” Because for a first timer, none of this mattered.
Let’s instead focus on the fact that Dave Murray, who our photographer thinks looks like David Carradine, simultaneously smiles like Bob’s Big Boy and murders music theory with his bare hands. Or that perpetually grinning cymbal-monster Nicko McBrain seems, and plays, like the best dude ever. Let’s chuckle at how when a giant green space-alien version of Eddie materialized during “Iron Maiden,” ambled around on unseen stilts, then pretended to play the guitar, it was both totally schlocky and completely amazing. But most importantly, let’s remember Bruce Dickinson’s genuinely stirring dedication right before “Blood Brothers” to former tourmate Ronnie James Dio. “He did actually sing a lot of songs about the Devil, but there wasn’t a bad fucking bone in his body,” Dickinson said. And let’s not forget how he had everyone throw their metal horns up in the air in tribute–and that dudes in the Iron Maiden uniform were actually crying.
Set list, helpfully provided by Phil Freeman
The Wicker Man
Ghost of the Navigator
El Dorado (new song)
Dance of the Dead
The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg
These Colors Don’t Run
No More Lies
Brave New World
Fear of the Dark
The Number of the Beast
Hallowed Be Thy Name