If there’s one thing you have to be careful of in the music world, it’s not having a support band that put on a better show than you. I’ve seen it happen – Pantera opening for Megadeth, Machine Head opening for Slayer… Airbourne came very close to doing it with Iron Maiden this evening.
Not to say that Maiden’s set wasn’t spectacular (I’ll get to it in a moment), but Airbourne – quite simply – rocked. Immensely.
According to the ticket, they were due on stage at 19:30. By my watch, they kicked off a minute or two early while Gillian was having a chat with her mates outside and I was making impatient “will you hurry the fuck up?!” gestures. What can I say? I like Airbourne. The lads had 45 minutes to warm the crowd up for the might Maiden, and they didn’t waste a second of it.
Track after track was played, applauded and then followed up with another. Given they only have two albums, a 45 minute set isn’t too hard for them to fill especially when there isn’t a single bad track on either LP. With the limited stage set and time, there weren’t any insane activities from lead singer/guitarist Joel, which was a shame, but didn’t really detract from a frenzied, active, loud, brash set.
Well done to them and I can’t wait to see them again.
And on to Maiden who had around two hours to fill once they took to the stage a little before 9pm. They opened with tour and album titler “The Final Frontier” (8:42) and plodded on into “El Dorado” (a shade under 7 minutes). “2 Minutes To Midnight” was a welcome relief and the crowd visibly and audibly erupted when the backdrop revealed the upcoming song. I could almost be unkind and say that people finally woke up… OK, I will. Up until this third song, I couldn’t see a single person around me bouncing, shouting, punching the air or singing. In fact, even applause after the first two songs was rather scant.
So, great, they’re onto the old stuff at last. Phew. Bruce even went as far as to say that the band had 14 other albums to take music from other than the new one. Good.
Then they launched into nine bloody minutes worth of “The Talisman” from The Final Frontier. Bloody hell. The crowd, again, died. A few people near me wandered off when the next track – “Coming Home” (thankfully comparatively short at under 6 minutes) kicked off. Whether they went home or to the bar, I don’t know.
This is exactly what happened at Sonisphere last year and why I was so disappointed with them then. The Iron Maiden fan club (and a couple of other people) responded to my disparaging tweet on the night with “What do you expect from The Final Frontier tour?”. I’m at a live Maiden show, I don’t give a bugger what album they’ve just released. I expect a fast-paced show with a ton of classics, not almost half of the performance being taken up with slow, dirgy, rambling, boring songs I don’t know. yes, I have the album. No, I don’t like it. Listened to it, consigned it to the same pile as Virtual XI and Brave New World.
If you’re going to support a new album, don’t fill it with songs that are so long. I saw Judas Priest the night before and I know far less of their back catalogue. However, if a song came on I didn’t recognise then I only had to wait 3-4 minutes, enjoying the pretty lights, until the next track.
The show improved, however, with the backdrop swishing back to introduce “Dance of Death” (OK, another long-ish one at just under 9 minutes, but at least it’s a good song) then “The Trooper“. Awsome. “The Wicker Man”. OK, one of the better songs off a fairly weak album. “Blood Brothers”. Pretty much the only other good one.
Oh. Then nigh on ten minutes of “When The Wild Wind Blows”. I was asleep on my feet by the time this was halfway through.
The rest of the set was, thankfully, excellent. “The Evil That Men Do“, “Fear of the Dark”, “Iron Maiden”, “The Number of the Beast”, “Hallowed be Thy Name” and “Running Free“. Oh, and of course the appearance(s) of the Eddie.
However, it still galls that out of a 2-hour set we got almost 45 minutes of new material. That’s an average of nine minutes per flipping song. What else could they have filled some of that time with? I’m not going to list all the songs I’d rather have heard, but judging by the grumbling from around me at the gig and outside as the crowd filtered out I was by no means in the minority at missing out on some classic tunes in favour of long, rambling new ones.
In future, I think I’ll be basing my decision to see Maiden on the strength of the current album or by checking out playlists from earlier performances on the tour if it’s possible. And if the tickets are gone before then? Well, it’s money saved.
P.S. The only worse decision I can recall Iron Maiden making was actually at the first gig I ever saw them at. They were touring in support of the No Prayer For The Dying album despite it not having been released as yet. Precisely one song was available (the single, “Holy Smoke”) and yet they played a good handful off it. If my memory serves, these definitely included “Tailgunner” and “Mother Russia”, possibly others. They then played the exact same set a couple of months later when they re-toured larger venues after the album’s release.