Have lost none of their potency

Some things in life are constant. The passing of time, a parent’s capacity to humiliate and embarrass, and of course Iron Maiden. For over thirty-years, the metal titans have been delivering their own brand of theatrical fret bothering to thousands, and with little change to the basic recipe. It’s pure spectacle; Bruce Dickinson and company living in their own carefully crafted realm of macabre horror and chantable choruses, like a nasty, hairier side of Bon Jovi never intended to be shown to the public. Tonight at the O2 is no different, and for that the near 15,000 sweaty punters in attendance are thankful.

Support act Dragonforce warm up the venue with 80s-indebted operatics and face-melting solos, debuting new singer Marc Hudson too much for the crowd – this only being his second gig. Not that you could tell: sure there’s something more homely and approachable about the new recruit, as his pipes do the talking, filling the arena with ease. As ever Dragonforce remain an acquired taste, a relentless stream of pounding drums and high-pitched scales that sound like Maiden in fast-forward. It’s not for everyone, but in terms of sure energy and proficiency they’re a hard band to beat. Closing hit ‘Through The Fire And The Flames’ winning-over everyone in the building. A new album drops next year.

It’s a short wait for the main attraction, but the anticipation is tangible. Iron Maiden have a level of fanaticism surrounding them that is unseen in nearly all other bands, fans having travelled as far as Israel and Seattle just to catch this, the first night of two at London’s own Big Top. Ninety per cent of the audience are adorned in tour t-shirts, with the age of the average concert-goer ranging from about seven-years-old to as high as sixty, proving that the band is idolised beyond measure. With last years’ ‘The Final Frontier’ LP going to number one in a staggering thirty countries, tonight helps end one of the group most extensive and rewarding tours.

Complete with a space station set, Maiden open with ‘Satellite 15… The Final Frontier’ from last year’s fifteenth studio album offering, before following with a charged ‘El Dorado’ and timeless metal classic ‘2 Minutes to Midnight’. Three songs down and the band already have the audience eating out of their hands. “SCREAM FOR ME LONDON!” soon becoming Dickinson’s mid-song Tourettes. And scream they do, the front man reminding us all why he’s so highly regarded in the industry, bringing theatrics and atomic power to every number.

‘Coming Home’ finds the arena in sing-along mode, while ‘Dance of Death’ and ‘The Trooper’ causes those willing enough to mosh and thrash around. Music snobbery has no place during such fun and high jinks, and all are content in the knowledge that (when on form) these eternal fashion victims on stage deliver some of the best rock music ever produced. ‘When The Wild Wind Blows’ is as enthusiastically received as the older hits, while a manic performance of ‘The Evil That Men Do’ easily becomes the set highlight. Dickinson remains a cheeky chatterbox, noting that the O2 makes very little sense as a music venue (“They stick a massive dome over it and it’s the wrong shape inside.”) or revealing that there will be at least one more album. A brief five-minute break is taken before returning for a three-song encore starting with trademark track ‘Number of the Beast’ complete with devil statue and smoke machine. ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ causes uproar, which is further fuelled by ‘Running Free’ – a fan favourite from their 1980 debut to end the set.

As the fans exit into the night, chanting like hooligans at an away football match with beers in hand and their long hair now glued to faces, smiles are seen all around. Iron Maiden, yet again, proving that they have lost none of their potency.

Words by Sam Walker-Smart
Photo by Stephen Fourie

View an accompanying live photo gallery of Iron Maiden live at O2 Arena London HERE.

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