Iron Maiden

support Killswitch Engage
author AP date 05/06/18 venue Royal Arena, Copenhagen, DEN

As both of the previous times that I have seen Iron Maiden live have taken place around new albums from the NWOBHM legends (Roskilde ’11 and Hellfest ’14, respectively, to coincide with 2010’s “The Final Frontier” and 2015’s “The Book of Souls”), I have been looking forward to experiencing a more old-school set for a long time now. And as such, when the “Legacy of the Beast” tour was announced late last year, with the Britons promising plenty of retrospection, I was quick to ensure that I would be the one to review the Danish stop, ahead of anyone else in our team of writers. Seven months of eager anticipation thus conclude at last on Father’s Day, when close to 16,000 fans — yours truly among them — descend on Copenhagen’s Royal Arena to celebrate the first 25 years of ‘Maiden’s repertoire.

All photos courtesy of Michael Hyldgaard Løgtholt

(For a photo gallery, Click here)

Killswitch Engage

Some would argue that this Boston, MA-based metalcore crew is very misplaced as the opening act, but I’m not complaining — Killswitch Engage remains one of my all-time favourite metalcore artists. Two years have elapsed since the latest studio output from the band (“Incarnate”) and as such, the need to promote that disappointing effort has thankfully waned. Instead, we are treated to a setlist, which heavily leans against the golden era spanning from 2002’s “Alive or Just Breathing” to 2006’s “As Daylight Dies”, and for once the expectation that the support band must make do with a subpar sound mix, is negated swiftly and decisively by a bombastic rendition of the classic “Life to Lifeless” as the evening’s third song. Its heavy groove may differ with the interests of most of the attendees here, but my head is banging, even more so when the band throws “My Last Serenade” — another cut off the aforementioned “Alive…” — at us in a truly massive rendering. Nevermind the lack of compatibility with the headliners’ style, there has never been more convincing proof that Killswitch’ always was destined for the major league than the sweeping grandeur of “The End of Heartache” — the title track to their celebrated 2004 album — which vocalist Jesse Leach has no trouble owning despite his absence from the band when it was recorded.

Leach’s reunion with his former colleagues — guitarists Adam Dutkiewicz & Joel Stroetzel, as well as bassist Mike D’Antonio (drummer Justin Foley joined shortly after Leach’s original departure) — at the expense of Howard Jones is an old story by now, but even so it is still remarkable to witness the faithfulness with which he interprets the likes of “Rose of Sharyn” and “My Curse”, his clean singing sounding exactly like Jones’ at times. And with a showmanship that far outweighs the often languid performances by his successor and now predecessor, it is easy to forget that Leach was, in fact, missing from the line-up for an entire decade before his return in 2012. Watching his tireless headbanging and dashing from side-to-side, one does admittedly crave for the other musicians to unfold themselves with the same kind of energy. Dutkiewicz, who usually becomes the focal point by virtue of his goofy appearance and humour, is strangely placid tonight, with only a brief venture into the audience toward the end of the set excepting an otherwise ‘standard’ showing from the man. I use the apostrophes because he nonetheless remains the most active member on stage, rocking out twice as hard for every time that Stroetzel refrains. The show concludes in the famous cover of Dio’s “Holy Diver” and for the first time, the brunt of the audience awakens for a mass-singalong. But unlike so many other artists, who use covers to connect with an unfamiliar audience, Killswitch’ have truly made “Holy Diver” their own over the years and transformed it for the younger generation of metal fans, respecting its legacy yet adding their own touches as well, as evidenced by an improvised guitar solo by Dutkiewicz near the end. It provides a fine conclusion to a surprisingly excellent performance — but if I’m honest, you’d still be better off catching the band at a headlining show of their own.

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Iron Maiden

There can be little doubt in anyone’s mind that this is going to be spectacular; even the stage hands are dressed for the occasion, donning the khaki fatigues of Britain’s army in World War II, as they slowly unveil the amplifiers and drumkit to the tune of UFO’s “Doctor Doctor”. Once they exit the stage, Winston Churchill’s famous speech to the House of Commons on the 4th of June, 1940 (an almost perfect coincidence of dates!) erupts from the sound system, setting the mood for the first scene of a concert in which theatrics are used unsparingly. That scene is the sky above the English Channel of course, and its protagonist is a life-size Spitfire dangling from the ceiling as the six musicians kicks things off with “Aces High”, one of my personal ‘Maiden favourites off their 1984 album, “Powerslave”. Vocalist Bruce Dickinson plays his part too, wearing a flight mask and jacket over his absurdly tight leather pants, and true to tradition — and in defiance of his 59 years of age — the man seems to be everywhere at once, running, jumping and accosting the audience with so much gusto that most young and aspiring musicians might as well hang their coats and give up. It is not without a good reason that Iron Maiden is often described as the very best live band in the world; certainly, the enthusiasm with which the entire band rips through the following “Where Eagles Dare” (taken from the “Piece of Mind” opus of 1983), wildly swinging their respective instruments, lends serious weight to that argument.

In this increasingly digital age, it also warms my heart to discover that ‘Maiden has taken the old-school route with regard to the stage production for this tour. Periods of darkness and silence mark the points at which the entire stage is redressed with a variety of analogue features, transforming into a medieval Scottish battleground, completed by the band’s mascot, Eddie, looking like William Wallace on the backdrop, before the phenomenal, yet rarely heard “Clansman” off 1998’s “Virtual XI” is aired for the first time since 2003, as far as the entire tour goes. It is the first of many rarities that have found their way onto the setlist and once the 1983-staples “Trooper” and “Revelations” have united the audience in deafening sing-song and witnessed a sword duel between Dickinson and a stage-hand as Eddie, who is dressed as a 19th Century British trooper, we are given another such offering with 2006’s “For the Greater Good of God” — aired for the first time in Denmark since its parent album, “A Matter of Life and Death”, was toured in 2007. The presence of these songs affords the concert a special, nostalgic atmosphere, revisiting the very history of heavy metal. No track is more emotionally felt, however, than “Flight of Icarus”, which has been buried deep in the archives ever since it was last played live in 1986 — that is, 32 years ago, one year before I was even born! As you can imagine, there is not a soul inside the arena not roaring ”Fly, on your way, like an eagle! Fly as high as the sun!” as a huge statue of the winged Icarus arises behind the band and Dickinson unleashes plumes of fire with a flamethrower strapped to his back. It is not often that tears well up in my eyes because of a concert, but this is one of those moments; this song alone is enough to justify the high asking price that most people have had to shell out in order to be here.

I have always loved ‘Maiden’s exploring history, myth, religion and popular culture through their music but I have yet to see the themes so comprehensively reflected in the show as here. There are times, such as during “Sign of the Cross” (taken from 1995’s “The X Factor” and making its return after a 17-year absence) and of course “Number of the Beast” (off its namesake 1982 record), when the entire stage resembles a huge, cavernous church, complete with stained glass windows and, in the case of the latter song, an ominous, three-dimensional depiction of the Beast. It is possible that some people might consider it an excess, but theatre has long been a part of Iron Maiden’s appeal and tonight, the band takes it to another level. Still, the magnitude of the production never seems to overshadow the showmanship of Dickinson, let alone guitarists Dave Murray, Adrian Smith & Janick Gers, bassist Steve Harris or drummer Nicko McBrain; in the midst of all the drama, they are still just six musicians rocking out and having a blast at it. The audience responds in kind, singing its throats hoarse to favourites like “Iron Maiden” (off the 1980 album of the same name), “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “Run to the Hills” (both appearing on the aforementioned “Number of the Beast” LP) and ensuring that 1992’s “Fear of the Dark” is as hair-raising as ever by not just singing, but humming along to the melodies throughout the seven-minute colossus. Not many bands command this kind of authority in the live setting and you would be doing yourself a gross disservice should you fail to seize every opportunity that the future may still bring to watch Iron Maiden live. The level of energy that the six musicians still bring is staggering, but with all members in their 60s come August, who knows how long it will be before Eddie & co. retire? One can only hope that a cure for old age is invented before that happens so that spectacles like tonight will not become consigned to the annals of history.

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Setlist:

  • 01. Aces High
  • 02. Where Eagles Dare
  • 03. 2 Minutes to Midnight
  • 04. The Clansman
  • 05. The Trooper
  • 06. Revelations
  • 07. For the Greater Good of God
  • 08. The Wicker Man
  • 09. Sign of the Cross
  • 10. Flight of Icarus
  • 11. Fear of the Dark
  • 12. The Number of the Beast
  • 13. Iron Maiden

— Encore —

  • 14. The Evil That Men Do
  • 15. Hallowed Be Thy Name
  • 16. Run to the Hills

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