As has happened before RTM turns up at The Academy to be greeted with huge queues. Not, it has to be said for the band we are here to see, but for flavour of the month singer Emeli Sande, who is playing a second sold-out show in the space of two days at the main room.
As often happens during the course of these things, we are watching the gig from the viewing balcony of the Academy 2 and the odd fan of the popular act pokes their head around the door, turn their nose up and go.
It is doubtful that any of them who do so after 8.45 realise that there is a chap onstage who is directly responsible for some of the finest music ever recorded in history and is bass player in what in the opinion of RTM (and millions of others around the world) is the greatest band of all time. Hell, look at the backdrop we use for this blog. Steve Harris and Iron Maiden are the face of music as far we are concerned.
The elephant in the room tonight is a quite simple one. ‘Arry is here playing with British Lion, a band that he apparently formed in the late 1980s with a bunch of mates and didn’t tell anyone about until late last year when they stuck a record out. RTM needs to declare at the outset that we aren’t fans of this album and consider it to be fairly dull, lumpen and dated, but just like we forgive our football team for being consistently rubbish and still watch them every week, then you can support Steve Harris without caring for the music necessarily.
That is not the case with Zico Chain, who as we have written before on these pages, are excellent. Tonight they largely use their half an hour to sell their “Devil In Your Heart” album as all seven songs are from it. No problem there, as it’s an excellent record (making our top 20 of last year) but we do miss earlier material like “Pretty Pictures.”
The likes of “New Romantic” with its chorus meant for much bigger venues than this, make up for it, as does the pounding rhythm of opener “The Real Life.” This is a big chance for the band and they take it with aplomb – and are doing brisk business at the merch stand below us at the end of their set.
The five members of British Lion stride confidently out about half an hour later and immediately kick off with album opener “This Is My God” it has more life than it does on record and is better than expected. Neatly, it is a metaphor for the gig itself.
Of course challenge for the band is to flesh out a set to a decent length with only having one album out. There are many ways to do this of course (and thankfully no Maiden songs are played) what they actually choose to do is air five songs tracks that weren’t on the debut. It could have been a risky move, but for the fact they are all really good. “Father Lucifer” chugs along nicely, while “The Burning” is full of twin guitar bombast, best of all perhaps is “Guineas and Crowns” which is catchy and heavy all at once. Against these the actual album songs don’t quite cut it, with perhaps the most overtly Maiden-esque one of all Last Chance” coming over best.
The encore contains a cover of UFO’s “Let It Roll” and we end just after 10pm with “Eyes of the Young” which sounds like something you might hear on daytime TV as a theme tune.
Whatever quibbles there are about British Lion, there are three inescapable facts. First the guitarists David Hawkins and Graham Leslie are extremely good. Second singer Richard Taylor is less so – his voice lacking the power to carry some of the songs – and three Steve Harris is playing this gig because he wants to. He doesn’t need the money, he doesn’t need the fame, he just fancied playing some low-key gigs with his mates and good luck to him for it.