It has been said so much that it is almost a cliché, but it really is true. There is no crowd on earth like an Iron Maiden crowd.
This show – hastily arranged it seems given that it doesn’t appear on the tour T-tshirt – has sold out and there are well over 20,000 people in the O2. Nearly every one of them is clad in an Iron Maiden t-shirt and – judging by the flags that are on show - many of them have come from all around the world just to be here tonight. Bruce Dickinson says during the encore that it doesn’t matter who you are, what race you are what religion you hold, it is all “one nation under Iron Maiden.” Such a sentiment might seem trite if it came out of the mouth of any other singer, but here, somehow, it rings true.
Iron Maiden are quite simply, the greatest band in the world. They have the best songs, they have the best live show, the coolest logo. The coolest mascot, you name it. Just look at this blog. RTM owns – as we tweeted last night in a state of high excitement – around 8000 albums, and we like many, many bands, but it is only one that we choose to be our backdrop, because Iron Maiden are just the best there is, was and ever will be.
Given this atmosphere, sense of expectancy and downright adulation, it is sometimes difficult for a support act to open for the Iron’s. In that respect Voodoo Six are perfect. First of all they are pretty good and know how to open for bigger bands, second, as everyone in here knows, bassist Tony Newton is Iron Maiden’s sound man. He is also Steve Harris’s mate and 5 a side football partner and if we may torture a soccer analogy, songs like “A Little Something For You” and “Long Way From Home” are really very good, but a little bit too workmanlike to put them in British Rock’s Premier League.
So, at just after 8.35 the strains of UFO’s “Doctor Doctor” go up and 20.000 people go mental. It means, of course, that Iron Maiden are on the way and doing so with the Maiden England show, which by all accounts, even by their standards is spectacular.
A “re-imagination” of the original Maiden England show from 1988, documented so magnificently in the album and DVD which was released earlier this year. What it actually entails is most of the songs of that era being played together with the odd newer track like “Afraid To Shoot Strangers”. It makes for a show that is pretty similar in content to 2008’s Somewhere Back In Time jaunt.
Beginning with the proggy “Moonchild” it is everything we were told to expect for nearly two glorious hours. “Can I Play With Madness” follows, then “The Prisoner” and in the space of three songs Iron Maiden have rendered every other song you ever knew completely superfluous.
Amazingly from here it gets better. RTM has never seen them do “Phantom of the Opera” before, so that is exciting, but the centerpiece of the show is “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son.” 10 of the most incredible minutes you will ever see on stage, it really is quite staggering in its breadth and scope, proving – if such a thing needed proving – that those who dismiss Maiden as “just “ a metal band are so wide of the mark its untrue.
Of course the uproarious sing-along of “Fear of the Dark” and “Iron Maiden” follow – complete with flames shooting out of Eddie’s head – his third appearance of the night – and there is an encore of “Aces High,” “The Evil That Men Do” and “Running Free” before we can all get our collective breath back.
It is pointless discussing what makes Maiden so special, you either get it or you don’t, and those that do have had the time of their lives tonight. This is a band that is bigger than ever – all around the world.
Since Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith returned in 1999, essentially what has happened is that Iron Maiden, with their unbelievable albums (seriously, the last four are almost flawless) and even better live shows (whether they are album tours, or history shows like this one) have been on a massive victory lap which has seen them lay waste to pretty much every other metal band on the planet. No band is better at giving the public what they want, but also doing exactly what they want at the same time. Everything that is good about the band was released tonight in one glorious bust of song, light, pyrotechnics and glorious unbridled happiness, on one incredible evening.
Let’s be totally frank about this right now. Maiden England 3rd August 2013 was the gig of the year.