On Wednesday, Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson and huge samurai Eddie at the Moody Center in Austin. (Photo by Gary Miller)
When we arrive at the Moody Center, surrounded on all sides by beer-bellied metalheads whose tour shirts could probably be sewn into a tapestry chronicling Austin’s entire hard rock history, my older, wiser companion turns to me and wonders if i thought of a lede for my exam.
“Oh, you better believe it!” I’ve got a very smart one,” I declare, my teeth beaming like a Moonchild, “How’s that, ‘In 2022, can Iron Maiden still run to those hills, or…or do they use a walker…y ‘know… because they are old people.’
My older, wiser, now horrified companion tells me that people have been making this joke for 12 years before I was born. If my review is to come from some stale, unfunny cliche place, I might at least make some schtick on the real kings of the British empire who finally survive What is shefacecrownhead.
And, you know, he’s right. If I had thought there was even a 2% chance that the famous canter Maiden would succumb to the sexagenarian downturn on their totally sold out Wednesday night show, I would have said fuck the Austin Chronicle and presented this shit as an international headline. No, when these flag-waving, tireless energy paragons (except for the Blaze Bayley era. Only those who wish to play madness talk about the Blaze Bayley era) hit the road, there’s no only two questions: what are the insanely expensive horrors? Bruce Dickinson swashbuckling with onstage and how many boring new tunes – one moment my older, wiser mate corrects me here – how many cutting-edge concept epics do we have to get through before we start recognizing some riffs – wait, I ‘ I was handed another cue card – recognizing the most iconic RIFFs ever written?
As someone who hasn’t done their research – swinging for The number of the beast twice in the time it would have taken me to dig into their last album once – I can say without authority that the three curvy wanks (i.e. lovingly, all hail prog) who have opened their set seemed to improve from song to song. While the lazy chugs of “Senjutsu” did little to distract me from the band’s latest jaunt into era-based cultural appropriation – the nighttime set design riffed off a feudal Japanese fort – the Next “Stratego” made me think “Woah, slow down guys, this one’s pretty fast!” That is, until a giant demon samurai came out to threaten Bruce and I thought a once again to the band’s era-based history of cultural appropriation Luckily, “The Writing’s on the Wall,” the final “Iron Maiden Versus the Joe Biden Era” song of the night, was an outstanding banger. It might be an easy trick to name your triumphant heavy metal anthem after its chorus, but there’s no denying the understanding of the crowd reading; they knew every word. being, “The writing is on the wall.”
A sold-out crowd at the Moody Center for Iron Maiden. (Photo by Gary Miller)
We then hit that hallowed moment, precisely 19 minutes into the gig, where a legacy band must either start playing their beloved old material or risk anxious shouts of (*checks notes*) “Freebird!” As easy as it would be to earn an easy cry from the crowd by making this transition with a ringtone ready to please the crowd, if I were an old rock dude, too proud of his latest compositions, I think my feelings would be quite hurt by the cathartic outing in their ecstatic reaction to the old shit I wrote when I was 26. Maybe that’s why instead of playing “2 Minutes to Midnight”, the band played “Revelations”, a great song which nevertheless also happens to be the song in the dictionary next to the entry ” nobody’s favorite song from Iron Maiden” (Yes, I know there are no songs in the dictionary. Jeeze, have a sense of humor).
Also nobody’s favorite song from Iron Maiden: the bantering monologue on stage where Bruce Dickinson says the pandemic is over! To be fair, he has been improving on one of his old rock compatriots who seemed to think it never happened (low bar!), but the “THAT SHIT IS DONE” frontman’s ecstatic scream was still among his most fantastic lyrics of the night. (high bar!). Still, most were forgiven when he then asked the crowd if Utah was a country. Then *all* was forgiven when Bruce not only recognized the flag of Argentina, but blessed us with a whole new pronunciation: Argentina.
Where was I? Oh, yes, the insanely expensive horrors. For much of the night it seemed like the majority of the budget had been spent on ‘The Sign of the Cross’ – a conspiracy theory that makes more sense when you realize Blaze Bayley sang that one and Bruce probably demanded the big glowing cross. , hellish red lighting, fireworks and twin flames to keep him invested. “Flight of the Icarus,” saw our beloved comic terrorizing his comrades with a dual-weaponized flamethrower (I guess this was meant to represent the end of the famous Flight of Icarus). “Fear of The Dark” saw the man reappear on a stage flooded with ultraviolet light hoisting a lantern (makes sense, the dude is afraid of the dark!) and also, for some reason, wearing a masquerade mask ( that makes less sense, they don’t have fancy balls in the dark!).
Where was I? Oh yes! The rest of the group! You might be curious if some of the most talented musicians the world has ever seen survived Bruce’s aforementioned pyrotechnic assault so I can express some sarcastic opinions about them. Good news, they continue to persist after the Elizabethan era and I have no complaints. On the contrary, if there was a problem, it was with the muddy sound mix. Make the bass louder and make the drums quieter, damn it! Funnily enough, if one wanted to rank the band members on a scale from “healthiest in appearance” to “most like zombie Eddie,” you could place bassist Steve Harris and 70-year-old drummer Nicko McBrain in each respective pole. Double kudos to Mr. Harris. Aside from being utterly sexy and (least accomplishment) the greatest metal bass player of all time, he was also the only guy on stage who didn’t wear Iron Maiden merchandise (you quibble, Bruce doesn’t turn in 27 different culturally appropriate costumes on stage? I say, you silly goose, it’s the most mercantile of all Iron Maiden merchandise!)
Where was I? Oh yeah, back to the glorious gimmicks! I don’t know if Dave Murray leaning against the set design with a pick in his mouth during the intro to “Hallowed Be Thy Name” was as choreographed as the cage that locked Bruce in and the noose that descended from the heavens, but it was much cooler! SHOW, your name is guitar god Dave Murray with a pick in his mouth! For a while, the “Number of the Beast” and “Iron Maiden” sets seemed to follow his lead in letting the songs speak for themselves. But, oh, I spoke too soon. Here’s a 900-foot-tall Cthulhu demon for the final bass solo. Thanks for ruining my HP Lovecraft “Sign of the Cross” budget theory.
Janick Gers of Iron Maiden in concert. (Photo by Gary Miller)
Of course, the band leaving the stage, leaving McBrain tossing his drum sticks into the audience (I’m sorry for presupposing your senility Niko; you lobbed those FAR motherfuckers), didn’t herald the true end of the night. . Only a metal newbie would need me to tell them that Maiden returned to the stage with “The Trooper,” that a uniformed Bruce had a sword fight with a 20-foot-tall enemy beast-trooper, and that a tattered union jack was waved (as well as, hmm, a tattered American flag…cowards, hang that shit upside down, I say!). What has been surprising was the choice to play “The Clansman” next, perhaps the first time I’ve seen a band perform a deep cut in an encore. Probably the only time I’ve seen a band play a deep cut in an encore and have the balls to berate the audience for not singing the chorus out loud. After that, it was time for the greatest heavy metal band of all time to rebuke me, Julian Towers, and my shitty idea of lede. Not only did Bruce RUN during “Run for The Hills”, he jumped over various small fires before crashing into a Looney Tunes TNT detonator which blew up the entire stage.
Luckily, they clearly weren’t *too* mad at me. Because if they were, why would Bruce end the last song of the night – a performance of “Ace’s High” with a life-size fighter jet suspended from the ceiling – hand-delivering the perfect ” symbolically sums up the whole quote of the group”. like a slam dunk final sentence in my opinion?
“Wow, I can’t believe it’s still flying,” Bruce said, looking at the suspended plane, “It doesn’t have a goddamn propeller.”