(Our Seattle-based contributor Gonzo re-joins us with another lively concert review, this time reporting on Iron Maiden‘s performance in Tacoma, Washington, on September 5, 2019.)
“It’s only gonna get better from here,” bellows a spry Bruce Dickinson, addressing the Tacoma Dome crowd while standing under a replica Spitfire plane. Dickinson and his band of merry men in Iron Maiden had just torn through iconic opener “Aces High,” complete with said plane dangling from the top of the stage like a marionette during the song’s entirety. This alone would be an impressive spectacle for any live act to pull off, but for Iron Maiden, it’s the warmup.
At this point in the band’s storied career, to expect anything less than this from Iron Maiden would be silly. At 61, Dickinson is as energetic as someone half his age, and Steve Harris and the rest of his bandmates in the indispensable UK metal crew aren’t far behind. Not surprisingly, then, would the band’s 2019 Legacy of the Beast tour be anything less than spectacular?
For the next two hours, fans got what they came for: A set list full of anthems that have been a staple of heavy music for 45 years, more special effects than the last Mission Impossible movie, Dickinson’s outspoken stage antics, and… Eddie. Lots of Eddie. But we’ll get to that part in a minute.
Following “Aces High” were inimitable hits “Where Eagles Dare” and “2 Minutes to Midnight,” drawing thousands of voices to join Dickinson in the chorus of each. It still amazes me how, in 2019, Iron Maiden can play a song they wrote in 1983 in front of 15,000 people like it was the first time they’d ever played it. The guitar trio of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers was as locked in as a fighter pilot zeroing in on its target. Nicko McBrain’s drumming didn’t miss a beat.
Before the band broke out into “The Clansman,” a lesser-known track from the Blaze Bayley-era album Virtual XI, Dickinson took a moment to talk about what the song was about: “Freedom, whatever that means to you,” he said. Though the song was actually written about the struggles of the Scots, Dickinson made a none-too-subtle reference to the three-ring political shit circus going on in the US right now. “And,” he added, “be sure you know this song name is spelled with a fucking ‘C.’”
The always-entertaining performance of “The Trooper” featured Dickinson energetically jumping around the stage while swashbuckling against a 10-foot-tall Eddie; one hand gripping the mic and the other gripping a sword that would’ve been fit for William Wallace. The band flexed its muscles through its discography, throwing in “Revelations” from the Piece of Mind album and “For the Greater Good of God” off A Matter of Life and Death. Despite my disappointment at “Blood Brothers” being left out of the night this time, the band compensated me with “The Wicker Man,” which I’m happy to accept any time I hear it – especially live.
Dickinson’s antics weren’t over yet. He would go on to don a flamethrower, firing bursts of flames from both hands. The stage became a stained-glass marvel for “Sign of the Cross” before returning to a pitch-black setting for “Fear of the Dark.” Dickinson emerged from the dark as the song began, clutching a lantern amidst the seemingly endless void of the stage. If you told me they’d traveled back in time to the era of Jack the Ripper on a foggy London street in the late 1800s, I wouldn’t have doubted you.
The ominous intro of “Number of the Beast” got similar stage ambience, as the recorded voice reading passages from the Book of Revelation is always enough to make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. For being written in 1982, it’s incredible how well the song has not only withstood the test of time, but still remains one of the most iconic and genre-defying songs in metal. The band tore through it without even so much as time to take a single breath, leading right into the powerhouse chorus of “Iron Maiden.”
Just as all six members of the band came back to the stage for their encore set, Dickinson took a minute to do something that came as a surprise – he called out Tacoma Dome security for attacking a fan. Apparently an incident had taken place a little earlier in the set in front of the stage involving several security guards or several fans, depending on who you talked to about it. Being that my seat was about as far away as someone could get from the front of the stage and still be in the building, I didn’t see it when it happened. But, Dickinson was none too shy about voicing his feelings about what he saw. He described a fan backstage in handcuffs and “bleeding from head wounds” because of a security guard leaping the barricade and “punching him in the head four times.” Whatever actually happened, it was enough to get the attention of no less than 12 Tacoma PD cars outside the venue as fans poured out of it. Overkill, thy name is American law enforcement.
Before the mass exodus, though, Dickinson finished his tirade and dedicated “The Evil That Men Do” to said security guard who allegedly beat up the fan. It was honestly refreshing to see a band on the level of Iron Fucking Maiden come to the defense of one of their fans in the way that they did. They also didn’t let that deter them from closing out the night with a back-to-back of “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and the appropriate “Run to the Hills,” firing on all cylinders during every single note.
In several ways, this tour feels special for Maiden. They’re not be billing the Legacy of the Beast US run with any specific anniversary or date attached to it. Hell, they’re not even promoting a new album alongside of it. The entire night just felt like a show being performed by five guys who just simply love to make music together. And in an otherwise divisive time to be alive, that sense of unity is worth celebrating by itself.