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Photos by Curt Baran.
One of the world’s premiere heavy metal bands of the 20th century, British powerhouse Iron Maiden continue to be a force in the new millennium. The sextet returned to the Chicago area on Thursday, bringing dazzling spectacle and virtuoso playing for its “Legacy of the Beast” tour, the band’s first visit since 2017’s date supporting The Book of Souls. In addition to bringing a clutch of songs from 1983’s Piece of Mind and 1982’s The Number of the Beast, the band’s current activity helps to promote its latest wave of four remastered digipak releases. The band highlighted a song from each, including the title cut from 1992’s Fear of the Dark and “The Wicker Man” from 2000’s Brave New World. Singer Bruce Dickinson lent his lupine howl to songs from Iron Maiden’s Blaze Bayley era with “Sign of the Cross” from 1995’s The X Factor and “The Clansman” from 1998’s Virtual XI.
The show was built into three acts, and the first had a theme of military conflict. As the band took the stage with full-throttle intensity for “Aces High,” a nearly full-scale British Supermarine Spitfire fighter plane descended from the rigging to strafe the crowd. During “Where Eagles Dare” and its tale of a bold parachute raid on an alpine castle during World War II, Dickinson prowled the catwalk above drummer Nicko McBrain. “Scream for me, Chicago!,” Dickinson commanded for the first of many times. “16,000 people. I wanna hear you!” Fans packing Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre from the pavilion to the lawn eagerly obliged.
Bassist Steve Harris sprinted side to side across the stage to shout his lyrics back to fans in the front rows during “2 Minutes to Midnight.” Dickinson introduced “The Clansman” as a song about a struggle for freedom in medieval Scotland. “If you put it on social media, make sure you spell it right – with a ‘C’,” he said. The first arc concluded during the Charge of the Light Brigade with Iron Maiden classic “The Trooper.” While guitarists Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers traded fretboard-splintering solos, Dickinson had a saber duel with a 10-foot-tall, stilt-walking version of Iron Maiden’s ghoulish mascot Eddie.
The show’s top-flight production would put many Broadway blockbusters to shame. “We don’t have any new songs for you tonight,” said Dickinson while explaining the show’s “legacy” program, “but we have a lot of great f—-ing toys.” “Flight of Icarus” featured a gleaming winged statue that loomed over the stage in radiant pride, only to buckle and fall as a symbol of hubris and betrayal. Dickinson roamed the stage with flamethrowers during the song. What great fable isn’t heightened by pyrotechnics?
For act two, the stage was converted into a cathedral with images of Eddie’s past incarnations cast in stained glass. Hidden among the references was the West Ham United Football Club logo, matching the one on Harris’ battered bass. The military camouflage was removed from McBrain’s ornate drum set, revealing an intricate stained-glass design to match the stage dressing. Songs from the religious arc included “Revelations” and “For the Greater Good of God.” The crowd’s voices were strong during the “The Wicker Man” and its chorus “Your time will come.”
Dickinson scrambled backstage frequently for costume changes. He emerged as a hooded figure during deep cut “The Sign of the Cross” while tongues of flame licked the light rigging. The song hadn’t been featured on tour since 2001. The complex rhythm was punctuated by fireworks expertly detonated in time with McBrain’s thundering drum fills.
The concert’s third set gathered the darkest songs about exorcizing the demons of death, fear and evil. “Fear of the Dark” gained another tremendous display of crowd participation, while Dickinson stalked the catwalk in a mask, top hat and cloak while swinging an eerie red lantern. The cathartic “Number of the Beast” and “Iron Maiden” concluded the main set. “From the left to the right, Iron Maiden is gonna get alllll of you!,” cried Dickinson.
The encore was bookended by the frenetic and galloping “The Evil that Men Do” and climactic “Run to the Hills,” both offering one more chance for the band to display its enviable triple threat of Murray, Smith and Gers on guitar. The three stood shoulder to shoulder, shredding at center stage while Harris and McBrain provided fierce and powerful backbone. As the energy abated at last, Dickinson promised to return – and as hinted earlier, most likely with new songs. Judging by the band’s relentless delivery and the strength of recent material including The Book of Souls, Iron Maiden has plenty to offer fans as it careens toward its 45th year.
Iron Maiden SET LIST:
Where Eagles Dare
2 Minutes to Midnight
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
The Evil That Men Do
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Run to the Hills
The Raven Age
Iron Maiden founder Harris’ son George Harris opened the show playing guitar with metalcore band The Raven Age. The quintet featured songs from new album Consipiracy including the pummeling “Fleur de Lis,” and closed with the brutal “Angel in Disgrace” from its 2014 debut EP.
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