Standing in line usually sucks and often the reward is not worth the wait. Standing in line at an Iron Maiden show is quite the opposite though. Being surrounded by thousands of eager metal fans is an immensely uplifting experience, especially Maiden fans.
Hell, just being able to attend a proper arena rock show is a rare opportunity these days. But when one band can bring out over 16,000 people to one spot for one purpose, you cannot help but feel the power and magic that great music holds, which reminds the world that metal is never going away. In fact, this tour is helping solidify the idea that metal is starting to become more popular than it has been the last 10 years.
While the stage was being set up, the arena was fairly quiet. People were patiently waiting for the lights to dim and Iron Maiden to walk on stage. All of a sudden “Doctor Doctor” by the legendary ’70s rock band UFO began to echo through the venue and the whole place started cheering and singing. This was an excellent way to start the show and it seemed to set the mood just right for what was to come. Once the song ended, our attention was directed to two large screens showing the crash landing of Ed Force One (Maiden's Boeing 747-400 jumbo jet) in ancient jungle ruins. After several failed attempts of the plane trying to free itself, good old Eddie the Head offered a giant helping hand and launched the plane into flight.
As the lights came up, the stage was finally revealed. A horseshoe layout of what appeared to be the decorative walls of a Mayan temple could now be seen, with a massive backdrop of a Mayan pyramid and surrounding jungle. Suddenly lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson appeared center stage on top of the temple walls, attempting to conjure strength from the magic of a smoking cauldron. Dickinson started to sing “If Eternity Should Fail,” the epic first track off their new album The Book of Souls.
The first minute and a half of the song was Dickinson singing alone on stage, while he stirred his cauldron, his voice echoing throughout the Tacoma Dome. As I tried to focus on getting the perfect shot, it started to set in that Iron Maiden was really on stage in front of me.
Suddenly, we heard a big boom as flames shot out of the Mayan walls and the rest of the band ran on stage. The amount of energy that came from every member of the band was remarkable. Sometimes seeing a band live that's been active as long as Iron Maiden shows that the best years have come and gone, but that was not the case with Maiden—these guys have more energy and charisma on stage than most people in their 20s. They sprinted from one side of the stage to the other without missing a beat, making sure every inch of the space was being utilized.
Back behind the wall of toms and cymbals, Nicko McBrain set the pulse of this combustive energy with a smooth but strong technique. This amount of finesse and power only comes from decades of honing a craft and loving every minute of it.
Because of all the running around, Dickinson had to stop to tie his shoe between songs, which was met with a huge cheer from the crowd. He was taken aback by the enthusiasm everyone had and was quick to respond to it: “I could understand the cheer if I were a 5-year-old, but I'm 57!” he said, a big smile on his face. “I should be able to tie my shoe!”
After the third song, the backdrop fell down to reveal the iconic image of Eddie as a red coat, signaling it was time for “The Trooper.” This prompted Dickinson's first wardrobe change, and he emerged wearing a British military smock. He ran back and forth waving tattered Union Jacks while belting the lyrics. At times the volume from the audience singing along overpowered the PA system, drowning out Dickinson almost entirely. Hearing that kind of passion come from such a large crowd is incredibly inspiring and powerful, especially when everyone is singing a song like “The Trooper.”
Hopefully this tremendous stage show and outstanding musical ability will inspire at least a handful of the thousands in attendance to create their own massive spectacle with like-minded, dedicated people so that this relatively recent human tradition will live on.