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Way back in the 80s I was a little kid and I didn’t listen to Iron Maiden. The first time I became aware of the band was from seeing t-shirts often worn by young men depicting the band’s mascot, Eddie, a horrific zombie like creature. As I grew into my teen years I got into the alternative and punk rock of the 90s and wasn’t too into metal. I eventually listened to some metal such as Metallica and Pantera, but it certainly wasn’t my favorite music. In college I finally started listening to Iron Maiden because a friend was really into older heavy metal. After listening to bands like Marilyn Manson in the 90s and initially seeing the fearsome Eddie on t-shirts, I was taken aback at how not dark the band was. The guitars shredded and Bruce Dickinson’s vocals wailed like an anguished opera singer in each track. This music wasn’t really spooky or negative, nor was it like hair bands such as Motely Crue that I always thought were kind of lame. It was fun, technical, and badass in its own way. It took me until the early 2000s but I had finally developed an appreciation for Iron Maiden.
A few months ago a friend asked if he should buy an extra ticket for the show that was to happen at Xcel Energy Center on Friday, June 16. It had been at least two years since I’d gone down to the Twin Cities for a show and considering how long Iron Maiden has been around, it was quite possible that this would be their last show anywhere near the area.
We were able to get tickets, but it was second level seating. It wasn’t the worst because we were on the second row of the level with a pretty good view from the side. I was a little worried about the fact that the show was sold out and thought that lines for everything from getting in to getting beer would be ridiculous. Whoever designed the place must have thought of that because I’ve gone to shows with a fraction of the people that have seemed way more packed. The only way I knew it was packed was because there didn’t seem to be an empty seat in the place once we sat down overlooking the arena. With around 15,000 or more people, this was by far the most heavily attended indoor concert I’ve been to.
The opening band was Ghost from Sweden. I guess they don’t get much airplay on The Current because I hadn’t heard of them before this show. The band puts on this look like they’re a bunch of demonic ghouls, but once they started playing, it kind of reminded me of more recent AFI if they were more metal. For how Satanic they made themselves look, I found it to be a little weak. It dawned on me that considering the crowd, this might be a good thing. While the standing room on the floor was packed like sardines, there was very little moshing. Only a small pocket of maybe ten to twelve guys were bouncing around at each other and they eventually quit. I’m guessing either security told them to stop or they realized no one else wanted to join them in moshing.
Once Ghost cleared the stage a small army of roadies and stage hands descended upon the stage bringing in piece after piece of set and props. While the floor would have been quite an experience, I found having an assigned seat was pretty nice for getting a beer, getting to the bathroom, or going out for a cigarette. I’m sure there were people on the floor who held their bladders or bowels through the whole show just to keep a place towards the front.
Once Iron Maiden got on stage the energy level increased significantly from when Ghost was playing. Bruce Dickinson made his way to center stage and he kind of looked like someone’s uncle. He had shorter graying hair and was wearing a long sleeved black shirt. My first thought was that he was going to get really hot with that shirt, but he made several wardrobe changes throughout the set. While Dickinson’s clothes changed a few times, never have I seen a band change guitars so often, each member seemed to have a different guitar for each song. I guess when you become one of the cornerstones of British metal, a massive collection of guitars goes without saying.
While the lights, pyrotechnics, and props where all pretty amazing, the sound wasn’t the best. The vocals cut through so heavy that they left the guitars in a bit of a blur at times. I realize I only got half the sound by sitting off to the side, but several people seated towards the center mentioned it too.
Another complaint that I had to agree with among fans was that the band played a lot from their latest album “The Book of Souls.” Honestly, I haven’t heard the album. Keep in mind that I appreciate Iron Maiden, I have not listened to all 38 albums they have released. It wasn’t until they played “The Trooper” when I finally recognized a song. A number of people were a little disappointed that they also left “Run to the Hills” off the set. Apparently, most of my favorite Iron Maiden songs are from the 80s.
There were a number of theatrics throughout the show and Dickinson used the entire stage to run around on. One highlight being when he stood on top of a wall and fought with a nine or ten foot tall Eddie and ripped his prop heart out. Some older fans said that he even had more energy years ago, but I was still pretty impressed. The band dated itself by asking the crowd who was born after 1982. There weren’t a whole lot of hands that went up. Dickinsen went on to say, “if you were born in 1983 or 84, it’s possible that your parents were listening to this next song when they were making you.” The band went on to play “Children of the Damned.” Overall, most of the crowd was white guys in their 30s to 60s. There were very few people who looked under 21, and those that were seemed to be with their dads.
The biggest moment of the show for me was during their encore when they broke out with “The Number of the Beast.” While I did wish they would have played some more of the older material, I can’t say I regret going to see Iron Maiden. As far as rock and metal goes, that was a big one to check off the bucket list.