HRH Mag‘s Chief Photographer and lifelong Iron Maiden fan John Burrows reports on the band of his dreams and delivers his verdict on stellar support Shinedown.

 

Iron Maiden brought their monstrous Book Of Souls World Tour to Newcastle Arena and left leaving a trail of eardrum destruction in their wake. Still heavy, still visually stunning and still relevant to a cross section of metal fans, one of the biggest bands on the planet proved their pulling power remains undiminished.

It’s been six years since their last visit to the North East and on the back of a hugely successful, Mayan-themed masterpiece of an album, this was a show that was in demand and sold out. Bringing together a room spanning at least three generations of fans from all corners of the globe is never an easy feat but Maiden do it time and time again due to the quality of their latest work and the quantity of the killer anthems populating their bulging back catalogue.

Flags from countries as far afield as China, Argentina and Russia were held aloft by fans sporting every piece of Maiden merchandise imaginable. It was a point addressed in an impassioned and politically-charged speech by lead singer Bruce Dickinson before the title track from latest long player The Book Of Souls was unleashed. But more on that in a moment.

First up were Shinedown, who have so far failed to make major inroads into the UK market. The clips from the European leg of the tour didn’t offer much hope that things could change but this was a very different band from that which went out on last year’s Carnival Of Madness tour. As it turns out, Shinedown play the headliner excellently but when they’ve got a point to prove, they do it even better.

A fast and furious set of nine songs won over the Newcastle faithful where many Maiden support bands have failed. Singer Brent Smith took total control: demanding the crowd split in half before Enemies, Smith marched aggressively through the gap, looked the punters in the eye and told them in no uncertain terms that they would be jumping when he counted to three. And jump they did. By the time Sound Of Madness brought an end to the support band’s show the Trooper-clad shirts in the audience were pumping their fists in appreciation. Come back soon boys!

But back to the Book Of Souls. The title track from the new album should be the pivotal moment in the set. It’s epic, melodic, furious and gentle all at the same time and slap bang in the middle of the Newcastle show it sees a giant Mayan Eddie hit the stage to do battle once more with the song’s creator, guitarist and Hartlepool boy Janick Gers.

Dickinson set it up perfectly, pleading with the crowd to put aside any differences in our day-to-day lives and not revert to savagery as the Mayan civilisation did. All well and good, except the grand crescendo was brought slightly down to earth by the uncomfortable flow of the setlist.

The Red & The Black and Powerslave – separated by the quintessential crowd pleaser The Trooper – lost the band vital momentum. Dropping one of those for a shorter, punchier cut would have made all the difference. Is it unreasonable to expect another deep cut from A Matter Of Life And Death sometime soon?

Perhaps that’s being picky. After all, this was still the metal event of 2017 and it delivered with epic aplomb. When UFO’s Doctor Doctor rang through the PA, the hairs on the back of the neck stood on end. The opening animations on the big screens led to Dickinson standing tall over a cauldron at the top of the stage before launching into two of six essential new cuts: If Eternity Should Fail and Speed of Light. We got Wrathchild (reintroduced to the setlist as one of two changes from the first leg of the tour), Children Of The Damned (thankfully retained, much to the joy of the older generation of Maiden fans) and an absolute masterstroke as the second change. The Great Unknown is, perhaps, one of the more overlooked songs from The Book Of Souls but Dickinson has made it his own during every show on this tour. Delivering a stunning rendition on Tyneside, this could be a live staple for years to come.

The best solo of the night came from the lynchpin of the band – Dave Murray. More often than not Murray’s solos don’t get the required volume that they deserve in a cluttered mix but his blistering fretwork on Fear Of The Dark was the standout of the night and had Gers applauding by his side. Iron Maiden finished off the main set (giant Eddie head included), before the pyro-backed classic Number Of The Beast, Blood Brothers and Wasted Years wrapped things up.

The stage show, the flames, the energy of a band now on the wrong side of 60, Steve Harris belting out every word of every song – all of these things aren’t just expected, they are demanded of Iron Maiden. And the band delivered just as they always do.

Maiden are the anti-establishment band. They don’t need press, they do what they want when they want and the fans love them more and more for it. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Exclusive images by John Burrows