Maiden Revelations is ONE WEEK OLD today. We celebrate with an in-depth look at Iron Maiden‘s traditional retro tours. Does history repeat itself in the nicest possible way?
Donington is on sale. Stockholm will soon be. More dates for 2013 are about to be announced. What can we expect when we see Maiden next year? This is a good time to ponder what exactly is in store for fans who buy tickets for the upcoming concerts, and also to consider the Maiden England World Tour in light of the band’s History tour tradition.
What type of Maiden tour is this? Why do they travel the world with these retro packages? What do we think about the stage show and the setlist, and might the 2013 leg differ from the 2012 one? Read on to get some history, and some more or less educated guesses and predictions for the upcoming tour.
(Beware of major 2012-13 setlist spoilers in this feature!)
Winter, early 1999. The Blaze Bayley line-up of Iron Maiden has run its course. Mick Wall’s Run To The Hills biography (2001) hints that greatly diminished album sales and concert attendance, as well as Blaze’s inconsistent live performances, forces manager Rod Smallwood to initiate a round of soul searching for the ailing metal giant. Band chief Steve Harris obviously agrees that measures need to be taken in order to restore Maiden’s firepower. As painful as it is for Steve, who has always championed Blaze and believed his performance issues could be worked out, the singer is let go after 5 years with the band.
At the same time, manager Smallwood has talked former singer Bruce Dickinson into considering a return to Maiden. Finally, Bruce and Steve agree to meet and talk it over. Neither of them expects it to be anything but a nice little burying of hatchets, but the meeting results in the two reconnecting in their passion to once again make Iron Maiden the biggest and best metal band on the planet (Mick Wall, 2001).
The announcement is made: Bruce and former guitarist Adrian Smith both rejoin Steve’s band in a three-guitar Maiden line-up rounded out by Janick Gers, Dave Murray and Nicko McBrain. The unlikely has happened, but how to convince the world that this is important? Why, a concert tour of course!
With no new album to promote, Maiden decide to exploit the past in a way they have never previously done. The set for the 1999 tour, while including some Blaze era material, is obviously geared towards reminding people of Maiden’s true potential:
Aces High / Wrathchild / The Trooper / 2 Minutes To Midnight / The Clansman / Wasted Years / Killers / Futureal / Man On The Edge / Powerslave / Phantom Of The Opera / The Evil That Men Do / Fear Of The Dark / Iron Maiden // The Number Of The Beast / Hallowed Be Thy Name / Run To The Hills.
Most songs were performed with Blaze, but there is no denying the renewed magnetism of a Bruce-fronted Iron Maiden. 1999 proves that the band can tour successfully without having a new record in stores, and thus reveals a new option: The method of alternating retro tours with tours that are focused on supporting the latest album. With Bruce and Adrian back, new doors open. The band can now do things it couldn’t do just a year earlier.
So the reunion gives birth to a new concept, the retro tour. To begin with there are conflicting feelings about this concept within the band. Steve later admits to feeling it’s «a little bit cabaret. I’ll be honest, I found that difficult.» Bruce, on the other hand, «really, really enjoyed those shows […] the best of all possible worlds» (Mick Wall, 2001).
They would both come to find this method a satisfying and lucrative cycle. And many fans would come to love the way the band would give them the best of all worlds.
In 2003, Maiden were gearing up to release the Dance Of Death album, but wanted to tour in the summer prior to this release. How? Bruce suggested using the recent Edward The Great (2002) compilation album as a kind of excuse to do a summer tour with a retro setlist. The band opted to do so, and thus established the retro tours as a tradition. Opening with a monstrous 6-song barrage from The Number Of The Beast and Piece Of Mind, the band proved to fans what a mind-blowing force the new Maiden line-up was when let loose on the classics:
The Number Of The Beast / The Trooper / Die With Your Boots On / Revelations / Hallowed Be Thy Name / 22 Acacia Avenue / Wildest Dreams / The Wicker Man / Brave New World / The Clansman / The Clairvoyant / Heaven Can Wait / Fear Of The Dark / Iron Maiden // Bring Your Daughter…To The Slaughter / 2 Minutes To Midnight / Run To The Hills.
The more recent numbers and an unreleased track aside, the major attraction for many fans was the resurrection of songs like Revelations and 22 Acacia Avenue, being performed for the first time since 1985 and 1991 respectively.
At this time, Maiden were working on a DVD project that would collect their glorious past in a series with the heading The History Of Iron Maiden. As it turns out, this series would be the perfect reason for Maiden to turn their alternating album and retro tours into a patterned cycle that would pretty much satisfy any customer.
The first History DVD release was The Early Days in 2004. Collecting early Maiden live footage ranging from The Ruskin Arms in 1980 to Dortmund in 1983, the set covered the first four Maiden albums: Iron Maiden, Killers, The Number Of The Beast and Piece Of Mind. In a stunning move, the band announced that they would tour in 2005 with a set culled exclusively from these four records, no pretenders allowed. The first proper History tour! And they kept their promise:
Intro: The Ides Of March / Murders In The Rue Morgue / Another Life / Prowler / The Trooper / Remember Tomorrow / Where Eagles Dare / Run To The Hills / Revelations / Wrathchild / Die With Your Boots On / Phantom Of The Opera / The Number Of The Beast / Hallowed Be Thy Name / Iron Maiden // Running Free / Drifter / Sanctuary.
Some fans were let down by the inclusion of Another Life and Drifter at the expense of songs like Children Of The Damned and Flight Of Icarus, and understandably so, but in any case this was a set unlike any in Maiden’s career. And with this treat, most fans were probably left drooling at the prospect of what the History routine would offer in years to come…
Next up was the re-release of the classic 1985 concert video Live After Death on DVD, including most of the expected extra features, like Rock in Rio 1985 and the second instalment of the monumental documentary series The History Of Iron Maiden. Released in early 2008, Maiden followed Live After Death by embarking on the Somewhere Back In Time World Tour.
The original idea was to basically recreate the Powerslave-themed 1984-85 World Slavery Tour stage show and also have the setlist include highlights from 1986’s Somewhere In Time and 1988’s Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, and then to cap the year with the re-release of the 1989 concert video Maiden England. The plan was obviously to cover the rest of the golden 1980s era with the 2008 tour and be done with it, in grand style.
Then something happened.
The tour became a blockbuster. Stadiums around the world were selling out. The second History tour was quickly becoming Maiden’s biggest tour of all time. Eventually the decision was made to hold off on Maiden England and exploit the fever pitch reached with the Live After Death recreation, as the History concept proved to have legs beyond what the band and Rod had imagined. The setlist could explain why people went nuts:
Intro: Churchill’s Speech / Aces High / 2 Minutes To Midnight / Revelations / The Trooper / Wasted Years / The Number Of The Beast / Can I Play With Madness / Rime Of The Ancient Mariner / Powerslave / Heaven Can Wait / Run To The Hills / Fear Of The Dark / Iron Maiden // Moonchild / The Clairvoyant / Hallowed Be Thy Name.
Some fans were left bewildered by the inclusion of Fear Of The Dark in a 1980s set, which to this day leaves the 2005 Early Days tour the only set since the track’s 1992 release not to feature it. But it was still awesome to witness the Powerslave stage recreated, and soak in the glory of a first class Maiden thundering through long-ignored gems like Rime Of The Ancient Mariner.
The tour was so huge, it was inevitable that the band would want to repeat the success a few years down the line. So the final leg of the Somewhere Back In Time World Tour, in 2009, featured an altered set, with the focus shifted away from the late 80s in favour of Live After Death-related material:
Intro: Churchill’s Speech / Aces High / Wrathchild / 2 Minutes To Midnight / Children Of The Damned / Phantom Of The Opera / The Trooper / Wasted Years / Rime Of The Ancient Mariner / Powerslave / Run To The Hills / Fear Of The Dark / Hallowed Be Thy Name / Iron Maiden // The Number Of The Beast / The Evil That Men Do / Sanctuary.
Another round of History touring was subtly (or maybe not so subtly) set up. And why would Maiden insist on operating like this? The answer is complex and simple at the same time. Complex because it involves operating on what manager Rod calls «a 4-5 year touring cycle to cover the present and the past» (FC 20 questions, 2009) in sufficient measures to keep just about everyone happy. Simple because the result of managing this is paydirt.
Not just in terms of ticket sales, but artistic credibility too. The 2005 History tour inspired the writing and recording of one of Maiden’s most acclaimed albums in recent years, A Matter Of Life And Death. The 2008-09 History tour, a blockbuster all around the world, laid the groundwork for the record-breaking chart positions of their next studio album, The Final Frontier.
Synergy? You bet.
Which leads us to 2012 and the Maiden England World Tour. The DVD re-release is set for early 2013, but Maiden decided to do a North American tour in the summer of 2012 to debut their new Seventh Son show:
It takes its lead from the previous History tour, basing the stage show and setlist largely on the 1988 original. However, this is the furthest any of the History sets have strayed from its stated purpose. If Early Days stuck strictly to the first four albums, and Somewhere Back In Time delivered what it promised, plus Fear Of The Dark, the most recent History set is a more puzzling affair:
Moonchild / Can I Play With Madness / The Prisoner / 2 Minutes To Midnight / Afraid To Shoot Strangers / The Trooper / The Number Of The Beast / Phantom Of The Opera / Run To The Hills / Wasted Years / Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son / The Clairvoyant / Fear Of The Dark / Iron Maiden // Aces High / The Evil That Men Do / Running Free.
As a retro set, it’s hard to fault it! But when billed as the Maiden England World Tour, many fans were left bewildered by the inclusion of 2 Minutes To Midnight, Afraid To Shoot Strangers, Phantom Of The Opera and Aces High, in place of Maiden England tracks like Die With Your Boots On, Still Life, Infinite Dreams and Killers.
What’s more, this leg of the tour was also notable for being the first ever to exclude Hallowed Be Thy Name from the setlist!
In the end, many fans were surprised that only 3 songs in the set had not been a part of previous History sets (one of the 3 wasn’t even from the advertised era), when so much cherished material from the 1980-88 period was still left untouched.
A fantastic set, no doubt. So have we been spoiled?
THE QUESTION OF 2013
In a sense, the answer to that question is yes. Maiden fans have grown used to having their cake and eat it. Since the return of Bruce and Adrian in 1999, the band has produced four studio albums that are probably beyond what many of us had imagined Maiden capable of by the late 1990s. At the same time, they have alternated new album tours and History tours in a way that has seen more awesome material returned to the live set than yours truly dreamed possible 15 years ago.
Even so, there is a sense that the promise of the first proper History tour, the Early Days tour of 2005, is yet to be fulfilled. Granted, had Maiden known in 2008 that they weren’t attempting to conclude their revisits to the 1980s, they probably would have toured with a set that didn’t so closely resemble what they would do in 2012. Still, there were plenty of ways to make the 2012 set more different from 2008 if they had wanted to. Some issues linger.
For some fans, the 2012 stage set was a disappointment. This might be an unfair criticism, expectations having been raised by the 2008 Powerslave recreation. And after all, the 2012 show had the largest amount of pyro Maiden have ever used. But there is a sense that the band didn’t believe in the Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son recreation as much as they believed in the Powerslave one.
It’s fair to suggest that the show seemed a little too streamlined visually, a little too clean. Less icebergs, less three-dimensional elements adding depth to the staging, no lights illuminating the icescapes from within. And so on:
Both Steve and Bruce have stated that the 1984-85 Powerslave production is their favourite Maiden stage show ever, and they have both voiced reservations about the 1988 Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son production. Steve has said: «We thought the Seventh Son stage show just got a bit out of hand […] the giant icebergs and stuff were a bit naff, I think» (Mick Wall, 2001). Maybe this attitude dictates the current stage show? Maybe Maiden have been a little too unwilling to go all-out with their Seventh Son recreation, and maybe it would have been better if they just let it rip?
Then again, Bruce has stated recently that the European show will be «the American show with a twist.»
The other item of debate is obviously the setlist. Now, one would be a fool to think that any Maiden show would ever be exempt from criticism when it comes to setlist. The fans are far too passionate, and care far too much, for something like that to pass unnoticed.
Most fans would probably agree that if the 2012 setlist was the first retro set offered to us, we would be in awe. But it wasn’t. Many of us have enjoyed about 14 years of the «reunited» Maiden delivering what was once thought impossible. However, the band leaves themselves open to criticism because of the History tradition.
Being the latest addition to that tradition, the Maiden England set has something to live up to. In most ways it does. The frustration, for many fans, is how close it comes to capping the 1980s History series without quite getting there. With the chance that this could be the last ever History tour, it’s obvious that many fans are going to lament the continued exclusion of certain 1980s gems: Killers, 22 Acacia Avenue, Flight Of Icarus, Still Life, Stranger In A Strange Land, and Infinite Dreams.
Of those, the latter does at least have a serious claim to be in this set, coming off the Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son album and being the single off the Maiden England video. And even Killers and Still Life have a claim, being featured in the video from which the current tour lifts its name.
There is no doubt that 2012 saw Maiden perform one of the greatest sets in their career. Now about 6 months will pass, at least, before Maiden hit the road again to continue the Maiden England tour. By the time gigs resume in 2013, the DVD will be out. Is that a good reason to change the set around a little? «Not really», many fans would say, because the 2012 set was great and well received. «Of course», others would say, hoping for yet another chance to witness almost-forgotten rarities performed on stage.
The only thing to be said for sure is that Maiden have never gone about 6 months between tours without altering the set. Which is going to drive fans to rabid speculation. Me? Never… Okay, I admit I’m like all the rest. I love Maiden too much, so I care too much. But what do we know, and what is fair speculation for 2013?
What we do know is that both Steve and Bruce have suggested that changes might occur. When asked by Maiden Revelations’ Torgrim Øyre during a Dagbladet interview if the 2013 tour will have the same setlist as 2012, Steve said that the set will be the same «for the most part, but there might be some slight changes.» For the record, Maiden Revelations did not put words in Harris’ mouth, he brought up the issue of slight changes when asked if we could expect the same set. In fact, he said it twice.
Beyond that, the only thing we know is that Hallowed Be Thy Name and Infinite Dreams both had their lighting designs programmed and saved in the computer, as the official site’s West Coast video showed. Which could mean something, or nothing.
What’s for sure is the fact that Maiden’s touring cycle of alternating album tours and History treks has paid off like crazy, with all of us out here speculating endlessly about what Maiden will do next, year after year after year. And millions of people are showing up to see what happens.
Not a bad job. Not a bad method. Not a bad cycle. The best of all worlds.