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Iron Maiden Decimated Brooklyn’s Barclays Center (Night 1 Review)

Heavy metal royalty Iron Maiden are currently dismantling planet earth one arena at a time with their 82-date Legacy of the Beast world tour. Last night they played their first of two shows at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. As I blankly stare at my computer screen, my head still abuzz from last night’s mayhem, my body still covered in an oily slick of sweat and filth, I am faced with the daunting challenge of unloading a fresh take on one of the world’s most prolific and famously theatrical heavy metal acts in the history of music.

Without a new record to promote, last night’s show was a ripping festival of some of their best hits and as always they brought a relentless and prodigal level of athleticism and energy, touchstones of the Maiden experience, to the proceedings. As they’ve done for eons, the show opened with UFO’s classic 1974 cut “Doctor, Doctor” playing over the house system. Not only does this song represent a huge influence on the Iron Maiden sound, it also serves as a four-minute and ten-second warning shot for everyone loitering in beer and bathroom lines in the arena’s hallways that the show is set to begin. From there they kicked right into “Aces High,” a tune that featured a massive airplane hovering over the stage (what an epic sight!) and had Bruce Dickinson donning a WWI-esque fighter pilot outfit complete with goggles and leather skull cap. If this show’s intensity had to be quantified on a scale of one to ten, “Aces High” came right out of the gate at an immediate ten and that’s where the level stayed throughout. Crushers “Where Eagles Dare,” “2 Minutes to Midnight,” “The Clansman,” and “The Trooper” immediately followed and had the entire arena on their feet scream-singing, air-guitaring, air-drumming, high-fiving, devil-horn-throwing, beer-spilling, and woo-hooing. Sadly absent was one of my favorites, “Wasted Years,” but given the majesty of the setlist as a whole, which you can see below and which also included crushers like “The Wicker Man,” “The Number of the Beast,” “Run to the Hills,” among other gems, that’s a small detail overall.

For the Book of Souls tour in 2016, the live show was preceded by an awesome, incredibly detailed animated video of Maiden mascot Eddie’s massive, rotten, subterranean hand throwing Ed Force One into the sky. It was awesome and thematically corresponded with the show in general. Unfortunately, at last night’s show, all we got was a commercial for their video game Legacy of the Beast. Now, I realize that that is also the name of the tour, and that it fit, but at the end of the day it wasn’t some cool narrative piece like we got at Book of Souls; it was a commercial. The place erupted in cheers regardless, but if I had to complain about one theatrical element of the show, it’d be that video. The other theatrical elements were off the chains and what you’d expect from a Maiden show — Bruce went through several costume changes; the stage-wide artistic backdrop changed for nearly every single song; a gigantic Eddie walked out on stage and got into a sword fight with Bruce. A massive, MASSIVE, moving, three dimensional Eddie-devil head menacingly overtook the back of the stage at one point, and at another point the entire stage was transformed into a Gothic cathedral complete with flaming chandeliers. And of course there was that goddamned massive airplane at the beginning the show. There was fog, there were flaming explosions, there was elaborate lighting. It was an absolute spectacle. And when you add that to the flawless technical performance of the band, you were part of one of the most rewarding metal shows ever staged.

I hate to lean on the boring trope of ageism, but I’m 42 and these guys are easily 20 years my senior and I got more out of breath getting to my seat than the band ever did in the entirety of their 16-song set. Frontman Bruce Dickinson was in constant motion, not just running back and forth, but climbing all over the stage as well. The same goes for the rest of the band. Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Nicko McBrain, and Janick Gers all displayed a level of showmanship and physical agility that makes it hard to believe that this band has been at it (in several iterations) for over 40 years. Age should also be mentioned with regards to the crowd. I wouldn’t say a Maiden show is very racially diverse, but age-wise you get the spectrum. There was a kid in front of me who couldn’t have been older than 8 years old who was rocking out the whole time; and it wasn’t her first Iron Maiden show. The kid next to me was maybe 12 and knew all the words and all the riffs and spent the entirety of the set singing and playing along and banging his head. There were also a lot of old heads out there; people in their late 60s/early 70s wearing OG Iron Maiden gear that could probably fetch a grand on eBay, double fisting Miller Lite’s and just having the time of their lives.

Iron Maiden is the best value for dollar live experience there is or ever will be in heavy metal. Full stop. While lots of other metal acts go through changes in style, sound, and production, Maiden found their groove and stuck to it, only finding ways to improve the experience without sacrificing their sound and style. If you can see them, do not hesitate. There is nothing else like it.

Maiden do it again at Barclays tonight (7/27). Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Night two pics, videos, and recap here.

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Iron Maiden at Barclays Center – 7/26/19 Setlist (via Setlist.fm)
Aces High
Where Eagles Dare
2 Minutes to Midnight
The Clansman
The Trooper
Revelations
For the Greater Good of God
The Wicker Man
Sign of the Cross
Flight of Icarus
Fear of the Dark
The Number of the Beast
Iron Maiden

Encore:
The Evil That Men Do
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Run to the Hills

Photos by Greg Cristman, review by Jeff Bergstrom.

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