In an era oversaturated with music, it's often hard to pick the winners out of the crowd. Who do you invest your time with? Which bands are going to be around long enough for you to really enjoy them?
It should be no secret that Iron Maiden, currently touring in support of their sixteenth studio effort, The Book of Souls, is one such band. Their studio history begins in 1980 with their self-titled debut album, and they've virtually been legends ever since.
This time around, Maiden's fifteen song setlist largely consisted of new material, while still providing plenty of classic staples and a few rare cuts, too.
The evening opened with a set from The Raven Age, a melodic metal act from the UK. Having just finished carrying support from Anthrax in South America, it was hard to imagine how a new band with none of the name recognition of Anthrax would stack up. Fortunately, North America is being treated to a young metal act hungry for success and eager to earn the attention from every member of the sold out crowd in attendance. The Raven Age took us through a seven song set consisting of the entirety of their debut EP, as well as three additional songs. As a first time attendee, it's hard to pick out favorites, but "The Death March" definitely was a stand out.
Singer, Michael Burrough commanded the stage with the movement and confidence of a veteran, and the rest of the band followed suit, interacting with a crowd who, moments earlier, was counting the minutes until Iron Maiden would hit the stage. After a roughly 40-minute set of melodic and catchy tunes, The Raven Age took their leave.
The Raven Age setlist:
The Death March
Eye Among The Blind
The Merciful One
Angel In Disgrace
Finally, the moment the 15,000 fans had gathered for had arrived. Iron Maiden took the stage with one of their most dramatic openings in recent memory, as a shrouded Bruce Dickinson stood atop the stage to speak the opening lines of the lead song from The Book of Souls, "If Eternity Should Fail." Maiden went right into the second track on the new disc, "Speed of Light." By now, it was made abundantly clear for any first time attendees, that these guys are still writing the rule book for stellar live performances. Bruce Dickinson, at 57 years young, still bounds about the stage with energy that would leave most modern bands completely exhausted. The rest of the crew kept pace with him every step of the way.
Next, Maiden ventured back to their classic Number of the Beast album for a rare cut of "Children of the Damned," immediately followed by another pair of new songs "Tears of the Clown" and "The Red and the Black."
It was after this that the first time fans started to satisfy their appetite for the "hits" when Maiden took us through a charging rendition of "The Trooper" and a show-stopping performance of "Powerslave." Again, they countered with a pair of new tracks "Death or Glory" and the title track "The Book of Souls." From here on out, it was all classics, save for one modern-era hit as we were treated to "Hallowed Be Thy Name" followed with an equally epic performance of "Fear of the Dark" before closing out the first set with "Iron Maiden."
As the stage lights went dark, no one was about to leave yet. A band with a catalogue as vast and deep as Iron Maiden can't possibly please everyone, but they weren't done. They came out quickly and took us through "The Number of the Beast" followed by "Blood Brothers" off the Brave New World disc. Lastly, Iron Maiden bid us farewell with "Wasted Years."
One could argue that they left half of their essential material off the setlist, with classics like "Run to the Hills," "Aces High" and "2 Minutes to Midnight," just to name a few, all missing from the set. I found it refreshing, though, to see a band focused on creating new material and providing their fans with new experiences 36 years into their career. The audience was an impressive mix of new fans and old, proving once again that Iron Maiden is one of the most legendary acts of our time.