Iron Maiden – review

Sheffield Arena

The stage set for Iron Maiden's grandiosely titled Final Frontier tour is like a universe, complete with revolving planets and a space station. Are the world-conquering east London band about to take their mission into space, or is their doom-laden heavy metal about to predict astral conflict?

"It's the Final Frontier tour because that's just what it is," says vocalist Bruce Dickinson, sounding like Spinal Tap's Nigel Tufnel. "Despite what journalists at the New Musical Enema might hope, it's not the final tour. We're going on … and on."

It was ever thus, and Maiden haven't survived into their 36th year by offering great revelations or transformations. They do what they always did: play widdly-widdly solos, wear bullet belts and long locks (Dickinson excepted), and write lengthy songs about how war and death are nasty (so nasty, they haven't tired of making the point in 15 albums).

They're not going to change what they do now, and with an entire arena's hands in the air – mostly belonging to adult males, plus a few families obeying the instructions to Bring Your Daughter ... to the Slaughter – why should they?

Dickinson still yells, "Scream for me … [insert city being played at the time]", waves a battle-shredded union flag and dons a red military jacket for The Trooper. A giant zombie soldier walks on for The Evil That Men Do. There's no theatrical illustration of The Wicker Man, presumably because it would involve the singer clambering into a hay figure and being set on fire.

The paradox of Maiden is that the most earnest-sounding metal band can also be (not always intentionally) the silliest. Dickinson says that the band are touring the world in a plane (Flight 666) piloted by himself, which always goes the same way "so we know we're going in the right direction".

Their bludgeoning metal isn't for everybody – and lumbering new prog monsters, such as When the Wild Wind Blows, pale beside early headbangers Running Free and Iron Maiden – but the show never lets up. The band's giant Eddie mascot appears with glowing eyes and on The Number of the Beast they're actually joined by the devil ... "On drums ... Sooty," yells Dickinson. And sure enough, perched on Nicko McBrain's drum kit, there's a tiny bear.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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