“Scream for me Dublin!” The words that a full house at the 3Arena have been waiting seven years to hear. Few metal bands have the pulling power to sell out Dublin’s largest indoor music venue, but Iron Maiden have done just that, with attendance boosted by the absence of a Belfast show luring busloads of Northern Irish fans south of the border. Opting for an Irish Sea ferry crossing over their iconic “Ed Force One” 747, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal pioneers have brought their Book Of Souls World Tour to Ireland over a year after they first took to the road (and skies) in support of the Mayan themed album of the same name which was released in late 2015.
In their commendable effort to thwart touting, tonight’s show is a ticket-less event, which inevitably leads to frustration and complications with credit card readers and the likes at the entrance. So much so that there are still long queues at the ticket desk mere minutes before the headliners are due onstage. It’s a stand that we hope other artists take against the organised profiteering of already grossly-marked up ticket prices so that a more efficient venue entry policy can be established.
For those already inside, the intro tape blares UFO’s classic ‘Doctor, Doctor’ at precisely 9pm, heralding the imminent arrival of the British legends. The stage and props are still covered with black tarps, keeping their famed theatrics a mystery until the very last moment. The show starts proper with the atmospheric opening bars of ‘If Eternity Should Fail’, the first track from the new album. A massive cheer erupts as a hooded Bruce Dickinson leans over a frothing cauldron and sings the opening lines before he is joined by his five brethren and the tempo builds quickly. Sticksman Nicko McBain is barely visible behind his elaborate kit, and is really only seen on the twin big screens either side of the stage.
Those in any doubt as to Dickinson’s health after undergoing chemotherapy less than two years ago had little to worry about as he charges around the stage relentlessly throughout the show, and his voice pitch perfect, for the most part, save for some moments later on in the night. All six members are undeniably showing signs of ageing, but after 42 years in the game they are still well able to put on an energetic performance. There are some cringe-worthy theatrics involving a monkey mask and a Mexican wrestling mask worn by Dickinson during ‘Powerslave’, and of course the obligatory cameos by their long-serving mascot Eddie, both in giant inflatable head and shoulders form and a ten-foot tall incarnation whom Dickinson fights before removing his heart and tossing it into the crowd.
‘Speed of Light’, another new track, is the second song of the night, and it’s obvious that The Book of Souls is already a fan favourite – the songs fit hand-in-glove with eighties classics like ‘Wrathchild’ and ‘Children of the Damned’ which follow. They say few things in life are guaranteed, like death and taxes. The consistency of Iron Maiden’s music must surely also be high on that list.
In the seven years since their last visit, they actually released two albums, but somewhat surprisingly, The Final Frontier doesn’t get featured in tonight’s setlist at all, but with a staggering sixteen studio album back-catalogue to choose from, the track selection must get more and more difficult with each new record.
Dickinson’s ardent waving of the Union Jack during ‘The Trooper’ typically draws some idiotic booing from the audience, but overall the crowd are passionate, enthusiastic and well-behaved. As expected, they regularly chant along with the triumphant riffs like in ‘The Red and the Black’ and the anthemic ‘Fear of the Dark’, and despite being stopped by security for doing so, many risk taking to their feet in the seating area! As good a reason as any to catch Iron Maiden at an outdoor venue or festival!
The encore of ‘The Number of the Beast’, ‘Blood Brothers’ and ‘Wasted Years’ wraps up one of the most highly anticipated gigs of the year, and leaves the crowd chanting for more. With only weeks to go until Guns n’ Roses, featuring Axl, Slash, Duff and Dizzy, return to Slane after a quarter of a century(!), they won’t have long to wait for another big day out.
Iron Maiden photographed for State by Olga Kuzmenko