Iron Maiden Write Brooklyn Chapter of ‘The Book of Souls’ With Sold Out Show [Photos + Review]
In early 2015, Iron Maiden fans learned that Bruce Dickinson was diagnosed with two cancerous tumors on his tongue and many had feared that his performing days were in jeopardy. Fast forward one brilliant double album and 116 shows into the tour behind The Book of Souls and not only are the singer and the rest of Maiden doing fine, they're still bringing the same youthful intensity and electric performances that built their reputation as one of the world's top live acts back in metal's '80s heyday.
Their sold out Friday night show at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn was supposed to mark the final night of their world tour, which once again saw them jetting around the globe in a custom-rigged jumbo jet adorned with Maiden iconography and the menacing new Eddie visage. With an overwhelming demand for tickets, a second show was added the following night due with the back-to-back gigs being one giant celebration in the New York hotbed. Add in the masked Swedish Satanic clergymen of Ghost and it's easily one of the most sought after tickets this year.
Kicking off the weekend on Friday, fans filed in from the streets and emerged from the subterranean sweat dungeons of the subway, decked out in various Iron Maiden shirts. It's the one show you're allowed to forego the cardinal sin of wearing a shirt of the band you're going to see and hundreds were sporting shirts they had already snagged on previous dates on the tour. As Dickinson would point out later in the night, those in attendance ranged from South America to Norway and Sweden, flying in from every pocket of the world to see Eddie and the Boys tear through a 15 song set.
Before the rush of elation washed over the crowd as Maiden's perennial intro tape of UFO's "Doctor Doctor" resonated through the speaker stacks, Ghost stepped under the lights, onto the stage and in front of a highly-decorated triptych backdrop which bore visual representations of their iconoclastic themes. Opening with the ever-catchy "Square Hammer," the Nameless Ghouls of the Swedish troupe prowled the stage, leaping off mounts, instantly winning over any in attendance who had doubted the band or were unfamiliar with their music.
Opening for Iron Maiden is often double-edged as it is a dream to share the stage with the British legends, but poses many challenges as bands have often attested to. Simply put, the fans are there for one band. Ghost managed to overcome this, having experienced tremendous success on their rise to international stardom, thanks to more subversive offerings like "Ritual," the Grammy-winning "Cirice" and the crowd-contributing set closer, "Monstrance Clock," and were received with an overwhelming applause. They'd even get a nod from Dickinson, who later encouraged the crowd to give it up for the group.
The familiar notes of "Doctor Doctor" finally rang out and the crowd erupted, singing along with raised fists and horns. After two LED screens bookending the stage played a video clip of Eddie running through the Mayan jungle, Dickinson appeared behind a smoking cauldron, belting out "Here is the soul of a man," the opening line from "If Eternity Should Fail." The black curtain cleared, revealing a Mayan temple backdrop and the sold out venue nearly drowned out the singer as they passionately shouted every word.
Janick Gers was seen twirling his guitar, doing near splits to plant his leg on top of an angled speaker on the corner of the stage, Steve Harris gunned down the fans in the front with his signature stage move, Adrian Smith's power stance kept things grounded, Dave Murray's guitar was pointed in the air and Dickinson leapt across the stage, spinning his mic stand, tossing it around with precision and seasoned perfection. After "Speed of Light," Maiden dipped back to '81 for the quick-strike of "Wrathchild" and Bruce tipped the mic stand over ever so gently, waving his hand, motioning for the stand to fall toward him at his command.
After a lengthy spiel about parental sex, Dickinson asked the crowd if they had been born in 1983 or '84, raising the prospect that they could have been conceived to the opening moments of a The Number of the Beast fan favorite, calling them all "Children of the Damned." While he'll be 59 in August, Dickinson challenged his 23-year-old self on the song, opening up the high end of his voice with an impressive closing note.
The set mostly alternated two new tracks with two classic ones and it was time to open more chapters from The Book of Souls. Dickinson donned a monkey mask for the hard-charging "Death or Glory," adoringly embracing the "climb like a monkey" lyric and even draped his black hoodie (which he was somehow still wearing this far into the set) over Janick's head during the Harris-penned, melody-driven "The Red and the Black."
Dickinson only took a couple breaks to address the crowd and noted that this was just the second time Maiden had played in Brooklyn, the first being at L'Amour back in their club days. Commenting on how much he enjoyed the vibe of the Barclays Center, he did attribute part of the otherworldly energy of the show to the crowd, who, for once, seemed to rival the standard ferocity of European fans.
The backdrop once again switched out, now revealing the next song: "The Trooper." As always, Dickinson came out waving a British flag in his battlefield jacket, mirror Eddie on the backdrop behind him. It was more wardrobe changes as he then appeared in a Lucha Libre mask for the Powerslave title track, catching some fans by surprise as they had thought the band shelved the song following the 'Somewhere Back in Time' tour in 2008 and '09.
Maiden tested fans by drawing out the intro and outro of "The Great Unknown," which was one of the more challenging songs in the set for the veteran singer and also one of the band's heaviest. Dickinson then explained it was time for the reason they brought everything seen onstage, which had tattered cloth hanging down from the rafters on the side of the stage and temple walls and platforms, which were etched with various cryptic designs.
Yes, "The Book of Souls" was up next, walloping the sold out venue with its delightfully clunky, "Mother Russia"-esque riff, sliding into a roaring sheen of epic melody. During the lengthy instrumental break, a massive Mayan Eddie walked onstage with an axe, doing battle with Janick, who was avenged by Dickinson. Taunting Eddie, the singer lured him over to stage right, ripped his heart out and then sacrificed it to the smoking cauldron seen at the beginning of the show. With the ritual now complete, he wrung the heart dry of any remaining blood and tossed it into a sea of outstretched hands up front.
No Maiden set is complete without the haunting "Fear of the Dark," which gathered the voice of every person in attendance as they followed the guitar line with the iconic "Whoa-oh-ohoh-oh-oh-ohoh..." chant. Following Harris' lead during key points of the song, the standing room floor exploded, jumping in unison with the prized bassist. While this is typically the loudest the crowd gets, this audience was relentless and deafening for the duration of Maiden's set, a far cry from the New Jersey fans we had witnessed around the opening of the North American leg in early June.
The iconic twin lead of "Iron Maiden" followed up and a hulking Mayan Eddie bust inflated behind Nicko McBrain's kit (the poor guy can never be seen past his heightened rack toms, but we managed to get a shot of him as seen above). Despite Eddie appearing at the set closer for decade upon decade, the trick is always fresh and one of the most anticipated moments of the set.
When the baphomet on stage left took its post, nearly 20,000 fans instantly put it together that "The Number of the Beast" would serve as the first song of the encore as they chanted "Maiden! Maiden!" instead of the dreadful "one more song" bit. Bruce unleashed the track's signature high scream while Murray and Smith traded those memorable solos with hair-singing effect, and that's not just because of the flames shooting out from the floor.
Speaking with the crowd one last time for the night, Dickinson addressed a bit of the current socio-political climate around the world as the divide seems to widen. Pointing out fans up front who had flown from various parts of the world, he condemned hating one another based upon skin color, creed, or anything else, stating that Maiden have never cared about any of that and are here to bring people together to have a good time and listen to music.
Exclaiming, "We are all blood brothers," Maiden launched into the Brave New World song Harris had penned in honor of his late father. The Mayan Eddie head was positioned inside a hoop that was lined with lights that was suspended from the rafters with a starry sky background setting the stage for the song.
Ending on a lighthearted note, "Wasted Years" summoned the last bit of energy left at the Barclays Center and illuminated smiles were seen from the stage to the back of the venue. With another Maiden show in the books, Monty Python's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," played out as fans emptied back out onto the streets, some anxiously awaiting to return the next night for round two... or five or ten depending on who you ask!
Iron Maiden got us all, no matter how far.
Iron Maiden Set List - July 20, 2017
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"
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