“We got 25,000 people here. To the best of my knowledge everybody comes in alive and everybody goes out alive, alright?!”
Iron Maiden has long been regarded as a band with a vast catalog of songs, and one of the most impressive stage shows in the rock scene. For over 30 years the British metallers have amassed followers of all ages in a fanbase that continues to grow worldwide. Go to any Maiden show and you’ll see pre-teens, iGen, Millennials, Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, and oldsters alike.
Traditionally, San Bernardino’s Glen Helen Amphitheater has served as hallowed ground for Iron Maiden Southern California’s shows. Last Saturday, the spacious desert locale saw a crowd of more than 25,000 pour in for Maiden’s performance, the first of two California stops on the 2017 leg of the Book of Souls U.S. tour.
After earlier sets by Exodus, Kamelot, and Ghost, (the main support band for the Book of Souls U.S. tour), Iron Maiden took the stage, opening with “If Eternity Should Fail,” an eight-minute epic from the Book of Souls album. After the eerie, slow-building intro, the characteristic lights, pyrotechnics, and sound were in cranked up and in full array. “Speed of Light” followed, one of the brisker tracks from the album clocking in at 5 minutes. It was then evident, by the wild applause, that Iron Maiden had targeted their audience.
Except for drummer Nicko McBrain, shrouded behind his huge drum kit for most of the show, the band moved around the stage with energy and agility. At 58, singer Bruce Dickinson is the youngest member of the band. He nimbly worked each end of the stage, frequently leaping over the big monitors, occasionally airborne with mic stand in hand. The three-guitar attack of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and Janick Gers was ultra-tight, and Murray’s soloing was exceptional, evoking memories of the band’s younger years before the third axeman (Gers) came into the fold 27 years ago.
Six songs were performed from Book of Souls, roughly totalling 45-minutes. Perhaps the cause for lower-than-usual attendance was that it was anticipated there would be so much new material. Nonetheless, the band’s exceptional performance was convincing enough that “Two Minutes to Midnight,” “Run to the Hills,” and other Maiden staples weren’t missed.
The lavish stage production, with its Mayan ruins backdrop, was reminiscent of the Somewhere Back in Time set from the 2008-2009 tour. Dickinson, donned the mask of a luchador for “Powerslave,” working the stage tirelessly while belting out the song’s prodigious lyrics. Eddie, the band’s ghoulish 10-foot tall mascot, made his appearance during “The Book of Souls,” and had his heart literally ripped out by Dickinson, who threw the bloody mass out to the audience.
“We kind of make it up as we go along,” Dickinson remarked between songs. “For all the occasional screw-ups we don’t have backing tapes, we don’t detune, we don’t have people hidden behind the amplifiers doing shit while we’re pretending that we’re singing. What you see my friends, is what you fucking well get, alright? We like it that way.”
By the crowd’s raucous reaction, it was apparent that “Fear of the Dark” and “Number of the Beast” satiated fans’ hunger for vintage Maiden. The closer, “Wasted Years” was spot-on to cap off the show.
Check out the video for the song “Speed Of Light”
Iron Maiden Setlist
01. If Eternity Should Fail
02. Speed of Light
04. Children of the Damned
05. Death or Glory
06. The Red and the Black
07. The Trooper
09. The Great Unknown
10. The Book of Souls
11. Fear of the Dark
12. Iron Maiden
13. The Number of the Beast
14. Blood Brothers
15. Wasted Years