ON TOUR: Stockholm

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We promised reports from the road, and finally we have one! Read on for Maiden Revelations’ experience of Iron Maiden in Stockholm.

The official site has been kind of quiet this summer, up until this video report surfaced very recently. At Maiden Revelations we’ve also been quiet. Why? Fans have known all about the current setlist and production for over a year, so we honestly felt it was difficult to discuss or report anything new.

But as the Maiden England European tour gets closer to the end, it’s time for our first review from the road. Stockholm is certainly the ideal place for it!

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Sweden. The country where senior citizens get in trouble with the police for harassing their neighbors with LOUD Iron Maiden music. Not kidding.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: The setlist discussion has little place here. We have talked at length about the ups and downs of Maiden’s latest set earlier, when discussing our dream 2013 setlist and in our reaction to the opening night of the tour in Spain. No need to repeat the discussion.

FRIENDS ARENA
The Stockholm show on this year’s tour is Maiden’s first ever concert at the brand new Friends Arena, and the audience of 55 000 is the largest indoor crowd Maiden have ever faced. The arena have a few wrinkles to iron out before everything runs smoothly (entrance, exit, and refreshments), but the vibe and size of the place is quite overwhelming. Bruce could not help but rave about the arena when the show came to a close.

If you’re a bit short, like me, standing in an arena like this means you don’t see much of the stage. There are quite good seats available, but I noticed that once Maiden hit the stage everyone in the arena was on their feet anyway.

MAIDEN SWEDEN
The reception Maiden got when they started the show was nothing short of awesome. Sweden loves Maiden! We all ought to know that by now.

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Maiden need not worry about their reception in Stockholm.

(Note: Pictures from a variety of 2012-13 concerts!)

Maiden and Sweden clearly get on like a house on fire, but when discussing gigs on this tour there’s a giant elephant in the room: The great Doug Hall is no longer in charge of Maiden’s front-of-house, and there has been widespread criticism of below-par sound quality throughout the tour. Truth or myth?

The sound where I stood was not critically bad, but some issues are obvious. The general sound level seems a little low for such a huge arena, and the guitars are sorely missing in the mix, with even the solos sometimes being hard to discern. Nicko’s drums are booming and present throughout, but Steve’s bass (of all things) go missing with regularity. There’s something weird about hearing the intro to The Clairvoyant without actually feeling the bass in your gut…

Yes, this is an issue. There is no reason why the best band in the world should not have the best sound in the world. It’s been an ongoing complaint since the first gig of 2012, and over a year later I have to agree – the sound lets the band down, and is also a lot less than the fans deserve.

A WORLD CLASS BAND
For one thing is just as obvious: Iron Maiden still have it. Maybe they were a little extra fired up by the huge and responsive audience, but in any case they prove once again what an incredible live band they are.

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Janick Gers enjoys himself onstage, while Bruce Dickinson delivers top-flight vocals.

Moonchild proves itself as a great and sinister opening number, and Bruce seems on absolute top form as he belts out the vocals. When the band get to the first real rarity, The Prisoner, they gel completely and Bruce soars over the top of it all with the same bravado he’s always had. Any worries about his vocal abilities at the age of 54 are quickly swept aside.

The set, as it is, flows really well. There is very little talk between songs, the band seeming to prefer the effortless shift from one song to the next. From The Prisoner straight into 2 Minutes To Midnight, from Phantom Of The Opera straight into Run To The Hills.

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Bruce during Phantom Of The Opera.

The omission of Infinite Dreams from a Maiden England setlist is still sorely felt, but the audience reaction to its replacement, Afraid To Shoot Strangers, leaves no doubt that it’s the second best slow-starter available for this show. The addition of Adrian’s rhythm guitar to the “duh-duh-duh-duh-duuuh” that backs the guitar melodies gives the song a fat bottom end it never had before.

A SHOW OF SHOWS?
As usual, band and management hype Maiden’s latest tour as a great stage show. It’s no doubt exciting to see some of the 1988 production recreated, and the Eddies and pyro deliver on a grand scale. But the band have chosen to hold back on the recreation, leaving the stage somewhat underdressed compared to the 2008 Powerslave recreation.

Some small touches like back-lit ice crystals along the top of the backline would have gone a long way to give this production the extra lift it needs. Definitely good-looking, but a few small touches from great.

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Yes! Pyro! Eddie! But why is the stage dressed simply in drapes, with no other features like the back-lit hieroglyphs of 2008…?

Highlights of the show include great renditions of Wasted Years and The Evil That Men Do. But the ultimate high comes with a kick-ass Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. The band pulls out all the stops, and Bruce delivers his best performance of the evening.

It feels like the show climaxes with this tune, not so strange when one considers the 25-year gap since the last time it was performed. This night, I was reminded how great this and all the other Seventh Son songs really are.

END OF AN ERA?
In a strange way, the Maiden England tour mirrors Maiden’s late 1980s. After the career high of Powerslave in 1984-85, copied in recent years by the Somewhere Back In Time project in 2008/09, Maiden’s first golden age came to an end with the Seventh Son album/tour/concert film in 1988-89. On the current tour, Maiden play what many consider to be their final retro card by revisiting the late 1980s.

What then? In an unusual move, Bruce had no words of the future to offer us. There was no “we’re gonna do a new album” or “see you next time”, which leaves some fans a little jittery.

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What a way to go, IF that’s the case.

According to Steve Harris, the band probably has about 4 years left to go, if they decide to carry on with new projects after this tour. But if this is it, Maiden certainly go out on a high. During the final number, Running Free, Bruce even teased a brief drum solo out of the reluctant Nicko, and most of us probably felt that we had gotten pretty much all we hoped for.

A great concert by a great band, sadly diluted by below-par sound.

Christer’s Verdict: 5/6

6/6 Masterpiece
5/6 Great
4/6 Good
3/6 OK
2/6 Disappointing
1/6 Crap

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19 Responses to “ON TOUR: Stockholm”

  1. Well, it doesn’t surprise me that a Maiden show would be anything less than magnificent — that’s part of their majick. That’s what they do: Create an experience.

    As an old Rivethead, though, I find it very hard to believe that they would just pump out a few more projects and a few more tours and say, “Good bye! Thanks for the memories!” First, it’s not their style. They’ve never done anything half-assed in their lives! Second, they’ve created such an unusually intimate relationship with their fans in ways other bands can’t even fathom.

    Iron Maiden has literally changed lives, even politics, with their art. Not too many bands can make that claim.

    I also, with no criticism or insult intended, find it curious that no one has mentioned or talked about how Eddie is dressed as one of the most ruthless, racist psychopaths in American History, General Custer. Maiden has a HUGE Native American fan base and Custer is to them as Hitler is to the Jews. I’m just amazed that no one has even *thought* to discuss this.

    I guess it just shows that classic dichotomy: Eddie is no hero. There’s nothing nice about him and he’s never portrayed or pretended to be anything other than just a ruthless, ugly old corpse. But what he stands for is so beloved and revered, we can’t help but love him, too…no matter what he dresses like.

    Up the Irons!

  2. Christer Bakke Andresen Says:

    Good points!

    Some fans actually feel that this tour is … not half-assed … but that it stops a little short of its potential, and that it lacks the FIRE that fueled the 2008-09 retro project. Which lead some to speculate that the end is … well, getting very close.

    I think the band’s performance in Stockholm was absolutely top-notch. Bruce even attempted his “album version” Aces High chorus and NEARLY got there. Like most fans, I wouldn’t want to see them dip below their current standard just for the sake of keeping it going. Oh my, this is going to be an inevitable subject of discussion in the year ahead … what now?

    The Eddie issue has been discussed on the official forum, I seem to recall. My take is that it fits perfectly with the theme of the song, the ruthless slaughter of native Americans. And the band even does battle with Eddie on stage, particularly Janick. Come to think of it, the pharaos were homicidal psychopaths too, and Eddie showed up as a mummy. ;-)

    I guess Eddie is a character we love to hate.

  3. I feel as though it’s half-assed! ;) Last year, the production was subpar, the sound was terrible, and the setlist was quite repetitive and unimaginative. With the addition of a much more sophisticated lighting rig this year, the production has definitely improved (not quite up to SBIT/TFF standards, IMO), but the setlist is still horridly safe.

    Yeah, the songs work well together, and yes, it’s good for festival crowds and young fans, but I miss the Maiden of the early 00’s that really gave a fuck, and would go out and play a set like Early Days, with SEVEN rare tracks instead of three, ALL of which fit the advertised period of the tour.

    I feel like I’m beating a (very) dead horse, but calling it “86-88″, “middle years” and “addressing Somewhere in Time-7th Son” and then going out and playing another Trooper/2 min/notb/rtth/fotd/running free setlist can’t be anything but half-assed. In the past, Maiden’s “hits” tours have always been structured so there is much less overlap, even tours that cover the whole history of the band. For example, Ed Hunter and Gimme Ed only had 8 songs in common (including FoTD/IM/Hallowed). Early Days and SBIT only had 6! Even with the desicion to drop Hallowed in 2012, ME and SBIT, which are technically supposed to cover different eras with a bit of overlap, have ELEVEN.

    • Although I do have to say, from what I’ve seen of the pro-shot Donny footage this year, the band are performing very very well. Bruce seems to be handling high notes better than last year, and Nicko’s tempo restraint actually isn’t all that noticable.

  4. I had another though: what if, in 2008, Maiden had gone out with the same premise for a tour (same press release, etc.) as SBIT but had instead used artwork from Killers on all the tour merchandise, had none of the extra hyroglyphs and statues on stage, and had played this:

    Aces High
    Two Minutes To Midnight
    Revelations
    The Trooper
    Wrathchild
    Die With Your Boots On
    Prowler
    The Number Of The Beast
    The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner
    Afraid To Shoot Strangers
    Run To The Hills
    Fear Of The Dark
    Iron Maiden

    Moonchild
    Hallowed Be Thy Name
    Running Free

    …not bad, certainly in it’s own right. But doesn’t really do what it says on the tin, like ME 2012-13.

    • Christer Bakke Andresen Says:

      Yeah, it always comes back to that. It doesn’t quite do what it says on the tin. So I guess the problem is the hype and the name and the DVD. If this was sold to me as a general retro tour, I would say the set is fucking awesome.

      But here’s my frustration: Take 2 Minutes To Midnight and Running Free out of it, and put Infinite Dreams and Killers in, and it’s bullseye.

      So close, so very close… :-)

      • Right?! The thing is… I’ll still buy the DVD if (when) it comes out. It would feel wrong not to :P

      • Hey, don’t blame the Sheriff, he’s just the pimp! It’s the sound manager and crew that’s responsible. And if your collective accounts on this thread are correct, this is really shocking…Really.

  5. *sigh*…yes, we do tend to forget that these men have mothers and are actually getting older.

    True story: When I saw them on the Brave New World Tour at Madison Square Garden, Bruce obviously forgot he was in the US and asked, “Who here is from Scotland?!” I think three people up front went, “Hooray” out of courtesy but the rest of us were so confused.

    “What the hell is he tawkin’ about?”
    “Wait…does he mean if our PARENTS are from Scotland or are we part Scottish?”
    “Oh like, do we DRINK like we’re Scottish?”

    The great man realized his faux pas and excused himself as they had just gotten off the plane that same day and one guy a few rows ahead of us exclaimed with all joking aside, “Seriously? No way! Dude, BRUCE IS MORTAL!!”

    It didn’t make me feel proud to be an American at that moment, but it was nevertheless quite telling of the Rivethead mentality, don’t you think?

    As for Eddie, LOL – Yes. True, the pharoahs were not nice either and no, this is not the first time he’s dressed as a villain because…well, it’s Eddie.

    However, there’s footage of Bruce accepting an actual relic from a group in Texas that prides themselves as being part of Custer’s lineage. That relic was pinned to that costume, which I feel might make this circumstance a little different as borderline glamorizing. But, love to hate or hate to love him, we just can’t help but be his enablers in the end, can’t we?

  6. jonaswunderman Says:

    I hadn’t heard about Doug Hall but it explains a lot. The sound at Bercy in Paris was the worst I had ever heard for a Maiden gig (saw Neil Young the night after and the sound was perfect, so it’s not the venue.) When they hit the stage all I could hear where I was standing (in the middle about halfway back) was drums and vocals. Even throughout the gig it fluctuated and I really struggled to hear any bass at times. I was kind of confused about this until I heard the Doug Hall news …

    They need to start sound checks again, that’s for sure …

    • Christer Bakke Andresen Says:

      This issue is real. I wish I could say it’s just fans overreacting, but I can’t. The sound in Stockholm was not terrible, but it was definitely below par for such a huge band. And fans that have seen Maiden many, many times over the years are saying this tour is the worst ever in terms of sound.

      Iron Maiden are the best band in the world. Why Rod and the band would let themselves have anything less than the best sound in the world is a complete mystery to me. They could hire anyone, but right now they are just protecting the poor guy that took over for Doug and lying about the sound being good when they know damn well it isn’t.

      It’s completely unnecessary that a great band’s great tour should leave people feeling cheated when it comes to the front-of-house sound.

      Rod should have worked this out last year.

  7. (And my comment was posted in the wrong place…)

    Hey, don’t blame the Sheriff, he’s just the pimp! It’s the sound manager and crew that’s responsible. And if your collective accounts on this thread are correct, this is really shocking…Really.

    • Christer Bakke Andresen Says:

      You’ll find that this account has been dominating the fan reactions over the past year, so I’m afraid it’s absolutely a real issue. The band should have taken action, and Rod Smallwood is definitely responsible for letting it go on… When Bruce comments that the sound on this tour is so GOOD, you just know that they are well aware of the issue. Never ever mentioned the f-o-h sound before.

  8. […] review of the show at MaidenRevelations.com reads in part: “The great Doug Hall is no longer in charge of MAIDEN‘s front-of-house, […]

  9. […] review of the show at MaidenRevelations.com reads in part: “The great Doug Hall is no longer in charge of MAIDEN‘s front-of-house, […]

  10. SakaRaka7 Says:

    @Christer Bakke Andresen. Is the sound similar to the one we hear at the IMTV episodes ? cause the sound of the song clips they use hear and there sounds terrible..

    • SakaRaka7 Says:

      here*

    • Christer Bakke Andresen Says:

      The sound for IMTV is most likely soundboard with little or no EQs or anything done to it. I wouldn’t say it sounds like the FOH mix in the arena, but then it would be very hard to compare the two anyway. My main gripe was the lack of bass and clear lead guitars. Drums were good and Bruce sounded great.

  11. […] Okay, but “good enough” isn’t really the proper Maiden standard, is it? Click here for our review of this summer’s Maiden England concert at Friends Arena. […]

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