Iron Maiden at Comfort Dental, 8/13/12
The word "epic" gets bandied about too often and is probably especially overused when it comes to describing the music of Iron Maiden, but these guys know how to make an entrance. As the two video screens on either side of the stage played footage of the Arctic and of ice shelves crashing into the ocean, and Orff-like music swelled in the background, the quintet strolled onto the stage amid the familiar, elliptical synth line of "Moonchild."
During the opening song, Bruce Dickinson took up residence at various points of the stage and gestured with a theatrical melodrama worthy of stage actors-cum-screen actors of the early twentieth century, right out of a F.W. Murnau or Fritz Lang picture. "Can I Play With Madness," with its Jethro Tull-esque rhythms, got the entire crowd singing along almost immediately. Though definitely metal, that song felt like some pop song fondly remembered from childhood. For many of us, it really was.
After "Two Minutes to Midnight," Dickinson engaged in a monologue that included good-naturedly calling out of the stoners at the show. He also bemoaned having to end the show early because of the notorious noise complaints from the area around the venue and told us the band would be playing a good deal of material from the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son -- an album whose cover imagery was inspired by Arctic landscapes. But not before a performance of one of the best songs from the much-maligned Fear of the Dark album, "Afraid to Shoot Strangers."
During "The Trooper," a giant Eddie dressed as a zombie Custer came on stage waving around an enormous cutlass. At one point, Janick Gers lifted his guitar up for Eddie to hit with his fist, eliciting a sound that went along with the song somehow. But Gers was amazingly energetic the entire show, sometimes dancing a jig, often jumping, and otherwise striking dramatic poses with his guitar.
We all knew what was coming when the intro of "The Number of the Beast" came over the speakers, and the crowd's energy rose to meet the beginning of the song. Joining the band was Old Scratch himself -- or at least a gargoyle-like creature with glowing red eyes made out to be the Devil. The creature's head moved back and forth like the horned one was scanning the audience.
During "Run to the Hills," the flame jets went so high they reached the lighting fixtures at the back of the stage and could have easily bathed the fabric coverings. Alas, nothing burned up as Dickinson had joked earlier in the set when talking about how the show had to end early. While "Run to the Hills" has sort of entered a larger public consciousness, the previous song, "Phantom of the Opera," was an interesting dip into the band's first album.
Page down for the rest of the review, more photos, the setlist and Critic's Notebook.
After "Wasted Years," another rallying pop-song sing-along, Maiden took a chance and played the multi-part title track from Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. The tune let the band stretch out and show off its ability to create a mood and arrange the song to great dynamic effect.
In the middle section, while Dickinson spoke, a masked figure behind what looked like pipes from an organ rose up stage right, like some ghost from a party held by the secret society from Eyes Wide Shut. Naturally, the whole spectacle ended with a bang and flashing pyrotechnics. The way the band performed the song was reminiscent of one of Genesis's best moments from its 1970s albums Trick of the Tail and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.
Maiden proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was reaching deep into its 1988 album when it performed "The Clairvoyant" and ended with "Iron Maiden," making it feel like the guys really considered the pacing of the show, because it was essentially perfect in tone, texture and energy. After a short break and footage from World War II, they came back on with -- what else? -- "Aces High."
As is sometimes the case, Maiden ended the show with "Running Free," its liberation anthem, to which we were all encouraged to sing along. It was a mighty showing from a band that has transcended the limitations of any subgenre with its willingness to experiment with sound and subject matter. Even without its elaborate special effects, limited by the size of the venue, Maiden's beautiful backdrops and song-specific artwork did a great job of evoking the vibe.
Comfort Dental Amphitheater - Englewood, CO
02. Can I Play With Madness
03. The Prisoner
04. Two Minutes to Midnight
05. Afraid to Shoot Strangers
06. The Trooper
07. The Number of the Beast
08. Phantom of the Opera
09. Run to the Hills
10. Wasted Years
11. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
12. The Clairvoyant
13. Fear of the Dark
14. Iron Maiden
15. Aces High
16. The Evil That Men Do
17. Running Free
Personal Bias: After buying Seventh Son of a Seventh Son based on the artwork while in high school and then listening to the music, Iron Maiden was my favorite band for a couple of years. So getting to see a show heavy on that material is as nostalgic as I'll ever get.
Random Detail: Ran into Paul Alexander of Action Friend at the show.
By the Way: It was actually easy to get out of the show for a change.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.