June 17, 2008

Concert Review: Iron Maiden - 'Somewhere Back in Time' at Madison Square Garden (6/15/08)

It was only three months ago when I saw a band I never thought I would see live. Now, here we are in the present and I have seen them twice in that short time frame. Both shows were events that I looked forward to for months. It may have taken me well into the 1990's to truly listen to them and recognize them for the masters of metal that they are, but I did and I am here to stay. I have seen a number of concerts over the years, but nothing I have seen can come close to matching the combination of stage, theatricality, and performance that Iron Maiden delivers. This particular night was no different, transporting the audience back to the 1980's by playing a set packed to the gills with classic tracks from the greatest era for Maiden cuts.

During the week leading up to the show, you would be hard pressed to find me not listening to some Maiden, classic or modern. You know, when you have a show of this size coming up, you need to be prepared and I was certainly going to make sure that I was. With the day upon me, I went to the train station to catch my ride into NYC. I met up with a friend, who was easily excited as I was for the show, got on the train and just relaxed. I must say that taking the train down is just the best way to go, no worries about driving or any of that drama. Anyway, once at Grand Central Terminal, we met up with the final third of our concert-going group, and off we went, weaving our way through the concrete jungle, drawing ever closer to our destination.

We entered the hallowed halls of Madison Square Garden, something I have not done in what has to be more than two decades. We checked out the merch stands and then made our way up the zig zag of escalators to our seats in the upper level. By the time we had gotten to our seats the opening act, Lauren Harris (Steve's daughter), was nearing the end of her set. On this fact, I must feel a little bit sad, as she was the same opener that we saw at the Meadowlands. I would have loved to have seen someone else, like Anthrax (who opened a couple of dates in LA) or Trivium (who opened the prior night at PNC in New Jersey). Well, it is what it is, the most important part of the evening was yet to come.

As the 8:00 hour arrived, the lights went out and the sell-out crowd exploded as the opening montage of the guys on tour leading into the traditional "Churchill's Speech" opening. The electricity that was flowing the crowd just kept growing as the opening notes of "Aces High" signalled the arrival of the six-piece to the stage. What followed was two hours of pure metal excellence.

Looking back at what I wrote about the Meadowlands show, I find it difficult to really come up with anything else about the performance. When I go back and read sections like the following, I cannot add much to it:

As the band ripped through their set, the crowd was into every single moment, note, word, you name it. I was there, singing, yelling, pumping my fist and having an absolute blast. How could you not? The band was on point, not a note out of place.

Bruce Dickinson was a seemingly endless pit of energy. He ran around the stage a like a madman, imploring everyone to join it. I can honestly say that I have never seen a frontman quite like him. He is able to personally get each and every person involved, make them feel like it is a private show just for them. Whenever he looked up towards my section, it was as if he was looking right at me. It was unbelievable.

The three guitar players, Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, and Janick Gers combined to create this monstrous guitar sound, supported by the distinct bass sounds of Steve Harris and Nicko McBrain's drumming. They combined like Voltron to deliver this monumental sound of legendary proportions.

Despite all of the similarities in set list and high quality of performance, there were a few differences between this show and the one seen a few months back. First off, there was more to the stage setup, some of the backdrops had some depth to them, particularly seen during "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," where the backdrop simulated the look of a ship and had ragged strands from the ceiling, it was a very nice visual addition to the song. There was also more fire and fireworks, with "Number of the Beast" featuring more fireballs and "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" having a greater number of fireworks going off.

The biggest addition came during the traditional set closer of "Iron Maiden." There was a golden bust of Eddie on the backdrop which cracked in half as the wall split to reveal the giant Eddie Mummy. The moment of this reveal was incredible, the crowd roared louder than they had at any point earlier.

There was one downer, during "Powerslave" there was a loud pop and we suddenly could not hear the band. While the crew scrambled to uncover the reason for the loss of power, Bruce and the rest of the band entertained the crowd by playing a little soccer. Ten minutes later, the power was restored and Bruce polled the crowd on whether to finish "Powerslave" or move on to "Heaven Can Wait." They ultimately went with "Heaven Can Wait."

Overall, the show was spectacular. Sure, it was the same set I had already heard, but it did not matter. The songs were great, the performance was great, and you cannot help but love these guys. Also, they said the next time they came to New York, they will have a new album. There is nothing wrong with that.

There are a ton of videos on YouTube, some are actually pretty good, with a few capturing the power outage.

Set List:
1. Churchill's Speech / Aces High (from 'Powerslave' – 1984)
2. 2 Minutes to Midnight (from 'Powerslave' – 1984)
3. Revelations (from 'Piece Of Mind' – 1983)
4. The Trooper (from 'Piece Of Mind' – 1983)
5. Wasted Years (from 'Somewhere In Time' – 1986)
6. The Number of the Beast (from 'Number Of The Beast' – 1982)
7. Run to the Hills (from 'Number Of The Beast' – 1982)
8. Rime of the Ancient Mariner (from 'Powerslave' – 1984)
9. Powerslave (from 'Powerslave' – 1984)
10. Heaven Can Wait (from 'Somewhere In Time' – 1986)
11. Can I Play With Madness? (from 'Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son' – 1988)
12. Fear of the Dark (from 'Fear Of The Dark' – 1992)
13. Iron Maiden (from 'Iron Maiden' – 1980)
14. Moonchild (from 'Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son' – 1988)
15. The Clairvoyant (from 'Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son' – 1988)
16. Hallowed Be Thy Name (from 'Number Of The Beast' – 1982)


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