Iron Maiden - The Forum, Los Angeles
Thu, 21 Feb 2008 11:36:30
Forgive Kobe Bryant if he might have been a little excited when Iron Maiden's iconic mascot Eddie—fit for a slam dunk competition at more than 14' tall—took the Los Angeles Forum stage in a Lakers jersey, during the finale of the band's two-hour set Tuesday night. As Thursday's National Basketball Association trade deadline approached, the thought of the menacing mascot and undead icon protecting the rim in Lakers purple and gold was enough to get a laugh out of the sold-out hordes of 14,000 metal heads in attendance, but three-pointers and free throws were merely an afterthought. When asked if there were any basketball fans in the house (the Forum is the former home of The Lakers), boos rattled through the rafters. Iron Maiden seemed to share the sentiments.
"We are an English rock and roll band, and we don't give a fuck about basketball!" screamed frontman Bruce Dickinson, proceeding to blame the otherwise well-received hometown touch on the band's manager, a rabid sports fan. As for the rabid Iron Maiden fans in attendance? They had every reason to celebrate.
Billed as the "Somewhere Back In Time" tour, the 16-song greatest hits set featured 11 tracks from the band’s benchmark 1985 release Live After Death, as well as a pair from Somewhere In Time in 1986, three from Seventh Son of a Seventh Son in 1988, and only a single song from the past two decades, the title track from 1992’s Fear of the Dark. While the "newest" track may have seemed a bit out of place in the retrospective set of otherwise all-'80s metal classics, it was particularly well received, Dickinson embracing an air of theatrical pomp that wasn't afforded earlier in the set. Taking the stage to the familiar strain of Winston Churchill's "Never Surrender" speech, the floodgates opened with the same four songs that open Live After Death, the back-to-back duo of "Aces High" and "Two Minutes to Midnight," being followed by "Revelations" and "The Trooper," their order flipped from the "Live" recording.
Sound problems plagued the band throughout the night, Dickinson's vocals rising in and out of the mix, like an ebbing and flowing tide, and Nicko McBrain’s drums crashing like tidal waves of, at-times, disruptive force. While even Dickinson seemed rattled by show's end, pointing to his mic repeatedly during the closing "Hallowed Be Thy Name," the afflictions did nothing to dissuade the fervent crowd. The general admission floor surged and swayed from the moment the lights went out and the opening backdrop of Powerslave-era Eddie flanked by his Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son alter egos held court over the arena. Mosh pits broke out on the general admission floor during "Run to the Hills," and fists pumped in the air in choreographed metal splendor, culminating in a crowd sing-along during "Heaven Can Wait" and with the arrival of Eddie onstage during the band's title track. Combined with the stagnant stench of sweat, stale beer and pot, The Forum felt as if it were a time capsule that had waited 20 years to be opened.
Iron Maiden played with similar aplomb. Despite a sprint through "Can I Play With Madness" that seemed too rushed and a slowed-down "Powerslave" that screamed for a jumpstart, the band were spot-on. Dickinson unleashed a blood-curdling wail as pyres of hellfire shot from the stage during "Number of the Beast," and guitarist Adrian Smith and bassist Steve Harris were all business, their feet planted as their bodies leaned in and out of each crashing chord throughout the set.Janick Gers had energy to spare, his aerobic performance of high kicks, ballet-like prancing and abundant windmills providing a steady contrast to the band's more refined approach. Dave Murray opened the "Moonchild" encore with an acoustic guitar, falling into the background for Smith and Gers to take their turn in the spotlight, only to riff his way back to the forefront by song’s end. Followed by "The Clairvoyant," the pair offered one of the night’s musical highlights. Other noteworthy performances included the epic "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and more progressively-styled "Wasted Years."
Iron Maiden billed this tour as a "thank you" to their fans, who returned the favor by driving the long-awaited Feb. 5 DVD release of "Live After Death" to chart-topping sales around the world, including No. 2 on this week's "Billboard" charts in America. The "Somewhere Back In Time" tour kicked off Feb. 1 in Mumbai, India, and included stops in Australia and Japan before the Forum concert, which along with New York and Toronto will be the band’s only North American dates before their recently announced two-week run of the West Coast in late May. The summer jaunt promises more extensive staging, including the colossal Eddie mummy from the original "Live After Death" tour in 1985.
Up the Irons. Slaves to the power of metal. The beast is back. Give me Ed 'til I'm dead…It doesn't matter which cliché you pick, the message is still the same: Iron Maiden remain as mighty as ever.