The 3rd August was a night for celebrations for the metal community: firstly it was James Hetfield’s of (Metallica) 50th birthday, as well as the birthday of Voodoo Six frontman Luke Purdie, and what better present to get than opening for Iron Maiden at London’s O2 Arena, at a show that sold out in 12 minutes. Many Maiden fans were annoyed at the UK support act choice considering Sabaton, Anthrax, Amorphis and Ghost had joined Voodoo Six and Iron Maiden on various stages of the Maiden England tour – none of those bands appeared at the 02 due to being at someplace called Wacken or in the USA in the case of Ghost – but Voodoo Six soon silenced all the doubters when they walked out in front of the Maiden family. Confidently walking on stage to the audience clapping along to the their intro track, which was the famous Dam Busters theme, the band launched into ‘Falling Knives,’ following it with a thunderous performance of fan favourite ‘Sink or Swim,’ starting the first sing-along of the evening by the Voodoo Six faithful on the barrier.
They showed the charm and skills that would one day make them headline arenas with Mr Purdie being an effective frontman, it’s just a shame the arena was only half full at the time as they could have easily won a few more fans. Even though they would have been better off supporting Alter Bridge or Black Stone Cherry, Voodoo Six were a great start to the day. Opening for Maiden is often called one of the hardest jobs in metal, a lot like writing for this site, but Voodoo Six were a solid opener; however, the screens of Iron Maiden’s mascot Eddie that were up during their show were a constant reminder at what was to come.
The gig also signified endings as well as birthdays as this was the penultimate gig of Iron Maiden’s Maiden England tour in Europe as well as the end of my six year quest to see Iron Maiden. As soon as UFO’s ‘Doctor Doctor’ started playing, the audience started clapping and jumping; I had never seen fans act so passionately to an intro track since Metallica’s use of Ennio Morricone’s ‘Ectascy of Gold’ from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
Opening with a fantastic ‘Moonchild,’ from Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, Maiden went on to play many classics including ‘The Trooper,’ which had Iron Maiden’s iconic frontman Bruce Dickinson run on stage dressed in the famous red jacket, holding the Union Jack high, ‘2 Minutes to Midnight’ as well as ‘Run to the Hills’ (the song’s appearance at Download Festival earlier in the year was the first time the band had performed the song since 2008). Despite playing a setlist composed mainly of well-known songs that the casual and hardcore alike will enjoy, the grizzled veterans also played some more obscure material such as ‘Afraid to Shoot Strangers,’ ‘The Prisoner,’ and a fantastic ‘Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.’ The band even played some songs sung by Paul Di’Anno including ‘Iron Maiden,’ and the final song of the night, which was a simply stunning ‘Running Free.’ The highlight of any Maiden gig as was mine was ‘Fear of the Dark’: it’s a song that’s simply much better live due to the astonishing crowd that Maiden had at their disposal, with Bruce Dickinson the ringmaster. Maiden were an inspiring sight to see, mainly because the band have more energy than most bands half their way, running around the stage like no tomorrow with Dickinson proving he is still the frontman everyone aspires to be like, it is often said he laid down the blueprint to be a successful metal frontman and tonight confirmed that.
Maiden’s stage show was also mesmerizing. The band went through more backdrops in the show that some bands go through in their career, a different one for each song (17 in total) with pyro and explosions galore throughout the set, but it didn’t feel like a gimmick or for the sake of it due to an arena setting, it added to the intensity and enjoyment of the show. Eddie came onstage during ‘Run to the Hills’ dressed as General Custer, while during a spine tingling ‘Number of the Beast,’ a demon overlooked the audience. Eddie, who reminded me of Yoda, appeared during an awe-inspiring rendition of ‘Seventh Son of a Seventh Son,’ while the classic Eddie design appeared during a well executed ‘Iron Maiden,’ with a production value that probably cost more than some bands earn in a life time, it certainly wasn’t wasted.
Maiden’s fanbase added to the brilliant atmosphere of the show with Norway, Sweden, Brazil, Finland, Poland, France, Holland, USA, Columbia, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Ecuador, (which caused Bruce to joke “look it’s Julian Assange, don’t tell anyone”) were all represented with flags. Bruce commented because of this “the thing is my friends whenever you go to a Maiden gig now anywhere in the world, the whole world is there, all different countries, all different nations, all different religions and none of it fucking matters, it’s one nation under Iron fucking Maiden!” This led to a massive cheer, Bruce seemed touched and then said “you’re the best audience any man could ever wish for anytime ever in the history of the world.”
But the crowd would not have been amazing if it weren’t for the band’s performance, they really nailed it. Iron Maiden confirmed they are still one of the most powerful forces in metal today and rightfully so. They cemented their position as legends by playing one of the shows of the year.
Iron Maiden Setlist:
Can I Play with Madness
2 Minutes to Midnight
Afraid to Shoot Strangers
The Number of the Beast
Phantom of the Opera
Run to the Hills
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
Fear of the Dark
The Evil That Men Do
Voodoo Six: Sink or Swim
Iron Maiden: The Trooper
Iron Maiden: Fear of the Dark Live at the 02
Photos used with the kind permission of Chris Rallis.