Iron Maiden | photo by Joe Del Tufo for WXPN | moonloopphotography.com
Iron Maiden unites generations of metal fans for its first Philly gig in two decades
It is astounding to me that Iron Maiden’s last Philly performance was over 20 years ago, at the Electric Factory during the brief and forgettable tenure of singer Blaze Bayley. Like a mythical beast forcing its way through the gates of our city, Iron Maiden arrived last night, tour buses strong, laying out a stage built like a multilevel Mayan temple. True to their historic setlist approach, the band pulled strongly from 2015’s return to form, Book of Souls, performing six tracks including a massive rendition of the nearly 15-minute “The Red and the Black.” It was three songs into their set before they unleashed “Wrathchild,” fully engaging the very sold out 20,000 fans in the Wells Fargo center. A quick look through the crowd showed an incredible age range, from children clearly not even ten, the many in their 60s donning countless variations of black Eddie (the band’s mascot) t-shirts.
Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson prowled the upper level of the stage like a reptile, climbing even higher to belt out his signature air-raid siren vocals. It was a theatrical performance, complete with state-of-the-art lighting, pyrotechnics and columns of fire. The three-pronged guitar attack of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers was held in place by the famous rhythm section composed of hair-flying master of the bass Steve Harris and drummer Nicko McBrain. Dickinson came out waving a massive British flag for their hit, “The Trooper,” raising the lights and howling “Scream for me, Philadelphia.” A bruising, energized version of “Powerslave” with Dickinson donning a Mexican wrestler’s mask followed.
Dickinson addressed the crowd before the song “Book of Souls.” “Perhaps just like other civilizations before us, some future people will dig up the Liberty Bell and ask, how did they fuck it all up?” He later added that “when you are at an Iron Maiden concert, no matter who you are, who you love or what you believe, you are in a free zone.” A nice message to hear at hard rock show in these uncertain times.
This show was a balance of favorites like “The Number of the Beast,” “Fear of the Dark” and the closer “Wasted Years” as well as the majority of the Book of Souls album. Little was left on the table. It was a nice surprise to hear the song “Iron Maiden” from their debut release, arguably the track that ushered in the era of 80s metal that is perhaps just as strong today. With flame flying, smoke lifting and an animatronic 10 foot tall Eddie prowling the stage, how this band with many of its members in their 60s can maintain this level is baffling to me. At some point tomorrow they will climb into Ed Force One, the band’s Boeing 747 which waits for them at Philadelphia airport and is piloted by Dickinson. I suspect it won’t be long before they return again.
Melodic dark metal band Ghost opened with a phenomenal best-of set including their recent hit Square Hammer and favorites Year Zero and Monstrance Clock.
Iron Maiden Setlist:
If Eternity Should Fail
Speed of Light
Children of the Damned
Death or Glory
The Red and the Black
The Great Unknown
The Book of Souls
Fear of the Dark
The Number of the Beast
From the Pinnacle to the Pit