July 25, 2017 Iron Maiden Take Soul Of Brooklyn, NY 7-21-17
There is nothing quite like an Iron Maiden concert experience. All around the venue, for blocks, for miles, their devotees can be seen preparing to enter the chosen temple of the night’s proceedings. Clad in their myriad Eddie paraphernalia, they comprise all generations, all races, and all walks of life. Such is the breadth of followers of these lads from the East End of London -Steve Harris, Bruce Dickinson, Nicko McBrain, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and Janick Gers – have earned themselves across better than forty years of solid existence.
On Friday, July 21st, 2017, that chosen temple was the Barclay Center in the heart of Brooklyn, New York. The first of two straight nights at the venue, the extravaganza signified the end of a massive leg of the Book of Souls Tour, upon which Iron Maiden have been embarking for the better part of a year and a half. A sold out event, joining Iron Maiden on the final dates of the 2016-17 world tour was none other than the once mysterious entity known as Ghost.
More high holy holiday than concert night, it was a healthy number of fans reaching their seats or their standing spots down the front when Sweden’s Ghost took the stage. Papa Emeritus, clad in all his inverted pontiff’s regalia, led his band of Nameless Ghouls admirably and with a high degree of showmanship. Adept at stoking the crowd and waking them up, he capitalized on the substantial number of fans sporting Ghost apparel and massively excited to see the band performing their brand of Classic Rock inspired melodiousness.
Like performers at a mummer’s show, the band belted out fan-favorites like “From the Pinnacle to the Pit,” “Cirice,” and “Monstrance Clock.” Papa doffed his papal accoutrements to reveal his slicked back ebon hair, and encouraged the crowd to embrace and celebrate the female orgasm. No one in the crowd objected. By the time they left the stage to a sizable ovation, it is safe to say there was nary an empty seat or patch of floor space not occupied by varying examples of black-clad humanity.
Despite the usual worshipful adulation on the faces of the fans, it has been said during this tour that Iron Maiden was barely changing their set list up from their last pass-through of the area. Those sharing this viewpoint fail to understand how difficult that would be once the true choreographed magnitude of the Maiden show gets underway. As the massive screens displayed the intro video, the voices went all the way up to where the banners of Bossy and Trottier hung from the ceiling.
By now, the opening salvos of “If Eternity Should Fail” and “Speed of Light” are greeted like old friends. Everyone knows the words already, signified by both the genuine ‘Maiden-ness’ of the tunes as well as the dedication to new material shown by their fans.
From there, each song was a universe unto its own, the ever-changing stage sets reflecting the material in each beloved tune, from the red-coated triumph of 1983’s signature “The Trooper” to Bruce Dickinson’s ape-mask during “Death or Glory.” No frontman can take a building as cavernous as the arenas they tour in and shrink it to night-club size quite like the Air Raid Siren. As spry at 59 as ever in his 30-plus years fronting Maiden, his charges to each corner of the stage to rally the farthest reaches of the hall ensure that no one in the ‘nosebleeds’ feels left out.
Following a wondrous rendition of the classic “Powerslave,” Maiden dedicated the next two songs back to their latest album with “The Great Unknown” followed by the title track. Despite the lengthy track-times, Iron Maiden as a collective provides more than enough gallantry and showmanship to keep fans riveted. Not to mention, the new songs are cracking good, filled with the epic soloing thanks to the three guitar assault of Murray, Smith, and Gers, Steve Harris bass-guitar runs, along with Nicko McBrain drumming sensation that this band has perfected.
Keeping the excitement high, “Fear of the Dark” had all as one singing each beloved verse, and the eponymous cut “Iron Maiden” even evoked the night’s only attempt at a mosh pit. Hardly the place and time for it, but enthusiasm of this nature can never really be decried. Especially considering the larger than life Eddie head floating up over the band as they ripped through the 1979 classic.
Following 12 delightful songs, it was time for the encore and fans had already been treated to their monies’ worth, having gotten to watch a massive Book of Souls themed Eddie strut around the stage trying to kill Guitarist Janick Gers. Failing in that endeavor (as he has failed since the early 1990’s), the giant Eddie was even more morose to find his still beating heart ripped out of his chest by an exuberant Dickinson. Some fans even got a little bit of Eddie blood splattered all over them. Perhaps Dickinson was berating their mascot for his obscene gestures to the faithful during his time on stage!
If fans had not been baptized in blissful awesomeness up til now, the spoken word intro to 1982’s “The Number of the Beast” would change all that. With a massive, floating Baphometic goat risen above McBrain’s titanic drum set, jets of flame accompanied the 35 year old rager, with fans screaming themselves hoarse at the unforgettable, iconic chorus.
Before “Blood Brothers,” Dickinson took his time to speak to the audience, his theme this tour about – you guessed it – brotherhood. Pointing out flags in the audience, Poland, Japan, and Florida (laughing that Florida is not a country) Dickinson showed how Maiden fans are united by their love of music while the world around us disintegrates into division, war, hate, and bigotry, spurred on as those feelings are by our very leaders. The message of inclusion, of worshiping Darth Vader or going out with a ‘tri-sexual Panda,’ Dickinson extolled the crowd to new heights of adulation.
Lastly, with every single Eddie ever conceived on a backdrop behind them, Maiden closed with the inimitable “Wasted Years.” Emotional, wonderful, flawless, the show came to an end with the requisite “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” Monty Python theme. Amid tired fans reluctantly leaving, beer cans, and spilled liquor, the night came to an end with nary a disappointed fan in sight, and chances are, they would be back again the very next night to do it again.
Photo credit: Stephanie Pearl Photography