I was only kidding last night. Maiden were good – really good.
They bounced around like men half their age (singer, Bruce Dickinson, is the youngest band-member at 57 and still amazingly capable in the vocal department). Guitarist, Janick Gers, treated the audience to a classic array of hamstring stretches, facial expressions, Stratocaster flings, and playing-guitar-with-his-feet. It was like hitting rewind to the 80s, only there were a few more wrinkles. There were multiple times when I found myself worrying about their knees.
Interestingly, Iron Maiden are one of those bands where you have to be a fan to know the vast majority of their set list. Despite their talent, they’ve never been that radio-friendly and don’t get a lot of airplay. However, the near-full house at Vector Arena would suggest that this hasn’t limited their fan base one iota, and almost all of the songs got singalong, or clap-along, accompaniment from the crowd. When the curtain (yes, tab curtain) for ‘The Trooper’ was pulled across, the people around us went ape-shit. It’s just one of those shows where the audience is anticipating certain milestones and everyone gets swept up in the fun of seeing something they’ve seen a million times before.
It was our first trip to Vector since our honeymoon, and the latest in a string of classic rock bands we’ve revisited. Last year we went to both Motley Crue (supported by Alice Cooper) and Kiss at Vector Arena, and one show was quite notably more enjoyable. Kiss are still putting on a tight, fun and high-energy show after 40+ years and everyone got their money’s worth even if they don’t like Kiss all that much. By comparison, despite it being their first and last trip to New Zealand, we already knew the Motley Crue were regarded as lacklustre live… and they certainly lived up to that. Alice Cooper upstaged them by miles. Their playing (and Vince Neil’s half-vocals) was so messy that it would take about 2 mins of each song to finally figure out what song they were meant to be doing. Some fans blamed the sound system, but, um no. It was just the fact that they band weren’t playing or singing all that well. Personally I’d put more blame to the fact that Nikki Sixx seems to think he’s a musical genius, but that can’t be the whole story either. If it were, Kiss would be suffering the same fate as Gene Simmons’ ego will make even Nikki Sixx look sensible and reasonable at times.
Iron Maiden definitely fit more into the Kiss category of professionalism with their live act. There was a giant Eddie puppet and an inflatable Satan. Bruce donned some kind of Mexican wrestler mask for ‘Powerslave’, which I guess was no less weird than the feathered mask he wore last time we saw them. They work hard, they play really well, they kind of revel in the sheer idiocy of what they’re doing, and they put on a fun performance despite the fact they’ve been doing the same thing for a generation and are probably all wholly bored of it by now. You know that when you go to an Iron Maiden gig, you’re going to get what it says on the box and everyone will walk out with a smile.
In an age where concert tickets cost the same as a week’s rent, it’s actually really refreshing to come away from the night feeling like it was money well spent. More promoters should be sitting up and paying attention to the guys like this who don’t make a big fuss but clearly know how it’s done.
Up the Irons!