UFO’s classic ‘Doctor Doctor’ announces the band will be on imminently. It’s all dark and Churchill’s June 1940 speech echo’s around the arena supplemented by big screen video of Spitfires in action in the Battle of Britain. Then the Maiden guitar assault launches with a gobsmacking ‘Aces High’. Bruce runs on and leaps over his camouflaged foldback speaker, resplendent in flying goggles, leather hat and pants. Out of the rafters comes a 90% sized Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vb replica that manoeuvres round the stage in mock combat. What a spectacle! The sold-out O2 went mental.
For the first 5 songs the stage is totally covered in camouflage netting, including Nicko stuck in his drum set alcove. Are we going to see him? Bruce only speaks twice, once after the first few songs to give us a stirring rendition of the sacrifices the young men of the RAF made during the Battle of Britain to give us our current freedoms and again at the end of the show to say thanks (see video link further in the piece) and drink some Trooper beer. He mentions Luftwaffe Commander-in-Chief Hermann Göring thinking they were going to overrun the English easily – “well FUCK him” – queue great applause and much cheering! “We have our freedom thanks to the brave men who fought in WW2”.
So, the first 5 songs are all to do with war and with each song appears a fascinating new curtain backdrop mostly featuring Eddie in one of his guises. Bruce introduces ‘The Clansman’, a song about William Wallace (Braveheart) who “stood up to his oppressors” the English in this case.
Generally, the sound was somewhat swirly and Bruce’s vocals were not to the fore of the mixing so often it was hard to catch the words – but hey, it was a spectacle and we all know the words off by heart anyway don’t we #Maiden!
Eventually Nicko appeared for ‘Revelations’ (some irony there I think!), well sort of appeared as he was hidden behind his huge multi-coloured kit which itself was indented within the speaker stack so you didn’t really see him at all. Nor did he get much air time on the giant video screens, just as well he’s not paid on viewing time!! We finally got to see him at the end of the gig when he threw in a few drum sticks and drum lids to the baying audience.
There are pyrotechnics galore, bursts of flame, firework sparkles, a hand-held flamethrower, vast models of Icarus and The Beast, Eddie the trooper mock fighting Bruce, a giant swinging noose, various costume changes (depicting the songs inc. a Dracula-style cape, Venetian mask and light, a large cross with bright lightbulbs that Bruce carried around the stage), gargoyles and a brightly coloured stained-glass chapel set covering all the speaker stacks and Nicko’s drum kit. You had to really concentrate to keep up with everything going on. Plus ever changing backdrop curtains.
Iron Maiden’s setlist at the O2 London 11 August 2018
Winston Churchill’s Speech
- Aces High [Powerslave, 1984]
- Where Eagles Dare [Piece of Mind, 1983]
- 2 Minutes to Midnight [Powerslave, 1984]
- The Clansman [Virtual XI, 1998]
- The Trooper [Piece of Mind, 1983]
- Revelations [Piece of Mind, 1983]
- For the Greater Good of God [A Matter of Life and Death, 2006]
- The Wicker Man [Brave New World, 2000]
- Sign of the Cross [The X Factor, 1995]
- Flight of Icarus [Piece of Mind, 1983]
- Fear of the Dark [Fear of the Dark, 1992]
- The Number of the Beast [The Number of the Beast, 1982]
- Iron Maiden [Iron Maiden, 1980]
- The Evil That Men Do [Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, 1988]
- Hallowed Be Thy Name [The Number of the Beast, 1982]
- Run to the Hills [The Number of the Beast, 1982]
All three guitarists interlock on most songs, each having a quick bit in the spot light. Janick Gers swings his guitar around his head and hop, skips and runs around the stage like a demented imp. Dave Murray and Adrian Smith are more stationary and stay mostly stage right and do what they’ve been doing for 38+ years with immiserate skill and professionalism i.e. play great guitar licks and solos. Steve Harris as usual is dressed in shorts and West Ham themed vest and guitar strap, in truth he plays better than them (couldn’t resist that Steve!!). Steve and Nicko hold down the tempo on the rhythm section like their lives depended on it. All told a bunch of musos at the top of their game and genre! I bet it’s fun being in this band.
It’s all held together by Bruce’s omnipresent stage presence – surely one of the greatest front men of all time. He’s just turned 60 and his hair is starting to grow longer once more since his cancer treatment. Sweat-drenched early on he never stops running stage left/right/up/down all night. Leaping jumping and shouting his trademark “scream for me [fill in your city here] London” he gets the devoted audience involved and singing along to the classics. You can’t take your eyes off him and his theatrics, so it’s good that he disappears behind the set during the extended solos to give the rest of the band some admiration (plus he’s got to do the costume changes).
60% of the songs are from 1980-4 and the rest singular ditties from a smattering of 1998-2006 LPs. Classics and some rarely played songs. ‘Where Eagles Dare’ has the backdrop of the famous cable car scene from the classic film of the same name. Their mascot, Eddie, appears only once as a 12-foot cavalryman, sword fighting with Bruce during ‘The Trooper’. On ‘Revelations’ and ‘For the Greater Good of God’ the stage transforms into a stained-glass chapel. ‘Sign of the Cross’ ushers in monk chants and Bruce carrying a large cross around the stage dressed like Dracula. During ‘The Flight of Icarus’ a huge winged figure straight out of Greek mythology appears at the back of the stage with Bruce having fun armed with his mic and a flamethrower in each hand (aka doing a Rammstein). And when a red-eyed, horned satanic demon appears you got to know it’s going to be ‘The Number of the Beast’ as the band play inside a mocked-up Hades.
Iron Maiden seem to raise the bar every chance they get, and boy did they spend some money on this lavish extravaganza. A giant swinging noose appears from the rigging during ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ and the climax, ‘Run to the Hills’, goes out all guns blazing, lights galore and ends with Bruce detonating a massive TNT explosive. And so endeth this brilliantly staged, two-hour rock show – a heavy metal opera of sorts. It covers war, religion, hell and damnation (they must surely take on the 4 horsemen next!) all done in the best possible taste. This theatrical heavy metal show is a classic, it won’t be outdone – unless that is Maiden do it themselves – are you up for a challenge boys?
So, in my mind Maiden have totally out done any of their previous shows by pushing the boat out to the limit with this fantastic theatrical set. It’s visually their most extravagant show by a country mile. So, if Nigel Tufnel can get his amp knob to 11 (oh err missus) then Maiden certainly ratcheted this gig up to 11 as well!
Marko [12 August 2018]
Ps – a massive thank you to AEG from whom I got free tickets for the gig. They are a new client of my company and I cheekily asked if they had any spares 24 hours before the gig – you don’t ask you don’t get!! Two great seats waiting for me at reception.
PPs – they were supported by a band called Killswitch Engage. Not for me, it sounded the same for every song and the only person that gets away with shouting on songs is alas no longer with us – RIP Chester Bennington.