Popular music may move on, but in Iron Maiden’s world, there’s always death, war and pestilence to battle in some live action video game presentation. The heavy metal veterans’ current Book of Souls tour, with a setlist drawing generously on the new album to no obvious disquiet from the fans, is a horror Indiana Jones-style affair with hokey ruined Mayan temple stage set and a handful of lo-tech set-pieces.
Iron Maiden ****
The revels began with frontman Bruce Dickinson, in practical hoodie and combat trousers, crouched over a cauldron, from which spilled the elixir (dry ice) that keeps Iron Maiden so ridiculously, entertainingly bombastic, eminently tuneful and gratifyingly heavy.
Dickinson may have been dressed for a rehearsal but he and his long-serving compadres were sonically battle-ready on the mighty and momentous Speed of Light and dynamic garage metal track Wrathchild, the latter’s downtuned guitars a reminder of Maiden’s continuing influence on the heavier end of the rock scale.
Despite the sonic onslaught, there were leavening moments of good-natured humour, even cuddly metal pantomime in Dickinson’s array of masks and the traditional appearance of metal mascot Eddie in his current simian zombie form, and an unexpected plea for tolerance in a time of xenophobia - “no one who comes to a Maiden gig is a foreigner,” declared Dickinson, observing the array of national flags before him.
The marathon riff battle of The Red and the Black left the band a bit dazed, but the truly international crowd were rewarded with escalating energies levels on old warhorses Fear of the Dark, Iron Maiden and Number of the Beast.