Live Review: Iron Maiden — San Manuel Amphitheater, San Bernardino
Mon, 21 Jun 2010 11:02:22
Iron Maiden brought San Bernardino to outer space this past Saturday evening during the Southern California stop of their Final Frontier tour.
With a starry backdrop and an impressively intricate space station on the stage, Maiden transported the 25,000-plus metalheads in attendance into the farthest reaches of the galaxy, and no one wanted to come back to earth by the time it was over.
Maiden have launched another epic world tour in support of their forthcoming fifteenth studio offering, The Final Frontier, due out August 16, and it was the perfect kick-off to the summer.
"The Wicker Man" ignited the evening's festivities flawlessly. With searing riffs courtesy of Dave Murray, Janick Gers and Adrian Smith, the track burned with a vitality few of Maiden's modern progeny could conjure. The guitars seamlessly weaved in-and-out, culling a vibrant metallic tapestry out of thin air. Nicko McBrain pounded out the beat backing it all with impenetrable flare as Steve Harris tore through the bass groove with mindblowing virtuosity. At the center of it all, frontman Bruce Dickinson crooned out the unforgettable hook, evincing undeniable charisma. Dickinson remains one of the greatest frontmen in the genre's history, and he upheld that status proudly on Saturday.
"Ghost of the Navigator" was propelled by a stellar solo and Dickinson's resounding roar. The singer bounced around the stage with uncontainable fervor climbing up the riser behind McBrain without missing a note. During "Wrathchild," a wah-pedal lead gave way to a stomping sledgehammer riff that was as abrasive as it was strangely angelic. Upon the song's end, Dickinson surveyed the audience and laughed, "That's a lot of people!"
Smiling, he went on, "We put this next song out for free, so you know roughly what we've been up to."
As usual, Iron Maiden have been up to serious sonic alchemy—blending Dickinson's operatic phrasing with a triple-guitar attack that can't be beat for "El Dorado"—the world's first taste of The Final Frontier. Harris's bass fireworks started the song, as Dickinson perched above McBrain once more yelling, "A little more balls, a little more passion; scream for me, California!"
Thousands of voices screamed back as "El Dorado" soared to heights of pure metallic brilliance. The song brandished the same kind of exuberant spirit that classic Maiden is made of. Showcasing an undeniable refrain, it could've easily been from Seventh Son of a Seventh Son or Somewhere In Time, but with a modern elegance befitting of Maiden's most recent masterpiece A Matter of Life and Death. Speaking of Maiden's latest disc, the set doled out two of the album's best cuts—"The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg" and "These Colours Don't Run." During both, warm solos criss-crossed as Dickinson sang with every inch of his soul.
The frontman prefaced "These Colours Don't Run" exclaiming, "This is a song about being a warrior. There's a lot of ways you can do that. The main thing about being a warrior is you respect yourself and you do not fucking give up, ever!"
Thankfully, Maiden haven't given up, because they truly keep the genre interesting. Dickinson gave a heartfelt introduction to "Blood Brothers," saying "I would like to dedicate this track to a mentor of mine, Mr. Ronnie James Dio. Ronnie, I am not fucking worthy."
It was a poignant and powerful moment, and the sentiment carried through the rest of the set, especially during a fiery rendition of "Iron Maiden" where Eddie came out to rock as some kind of evil cosmonaut goliath.
"Number of the Beast" bristled with a raw power as a massive devil emerged from the stage and Dickinson and Co. sparked the biggest sing-a-long of the night. "Hallowed Be Thy Name" followed with a bang. Each and every moment proved memorable.
Iron Maiden are heavy metal's equivalent of The Who. Every song tells a story, and it's always one you won't forget. Live, there's also nothing like it. This time it just take place in outer space...Hail Maiden, kings of the universe…
Were you there?