In this Best & Worst feature we give you our verdict on the stage productions we like the most and the least from that glorious decade when Iron Maiden conquered all: the 1980s.
In 2008 Maiden pretty much recreated their monumental 1984-85 Powerslave stage production for a new age. In 2012, the turn came to the equally ambitious 1988 Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son production. When it comes to going back in time, nothing beats the 1980s it seems.
It seems that the 2012-14 Maiden England World Tour was the last of Maiden’s groundbreaking History tours, meaning period recreations, so we take a look back at the decade that laid the foundations for it all, and give you our Best & Worst of Maiden’s 1980s stage productions. First you’ll find Christer’s choices, and further down you’ll get Torgrim’s verdict.
Enjoy! Revisit! Disagree! Discuss!
CHRISTER’S BEST & WORST OF MAIDEN’S 1980s STAGE PRODUCTIONS
For Iron Maiden fans, the 1980s were a bit like the 1970s were for KISS fans. Every year brought a new album, or more than one in KISS’ case, and a new tour with a new visual concept.
The first time Iron Maiden really went to town with a stage concept was on their 1982 tour for The Number Of The Beast. Prior to that, the Maiden show was relatively simple, a drum-riser and Marshall stacks making up the visual landscape. With their 1982 international breakthrough came the first of their more elaborate and theatrical stage productions:
The basic shape that would become the standard Maiden lay-out was beginning to take form: Back-line hidden behind tall risers on both sides of the drums, stairs leading up unto the risers and unto more risers at stage left and right, all of it decorated with the sinister triangle shapes inspired by the album’s title and artwork.
The Beast On The Road setlist: The Ides Of March / Murders In The Rue Morgue / Wrathchild / Run To The Hills / Children Of The Damned / The Number Of The Beast / Another Life / Killers / 22 Acacia Avenue / Total Eclipse / Drum Solo / Transylvania / Guitar Solo / The Prisoner / Hallowed Be Thy Name / Phantom Of The Opera / Iron Maiden // Sanctuary / Drifter / Running Free / Prowler.
CHRISTER’S WORST: The following year, 1983, Maiden released Piece Of Mind, one of their best albums and the one that made them a headline act in America. Unfortunately, for yours truly, the World Piece Tour stage production is the WORST of the 1980s. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not terrible! But following on from the previous tour, and being followed by the monumental 1984-88 stage productions, it seems … a little cheap:
There doesn’t seem to be a design concept to the staging at all. The only discernible feature is the use of triangles on the drum riser and in the lighting rig, a motif carrying over from the previous tour. As a new adventure, what’s really new about this stage?
The point might have been to work off Derek Riggs‘ Piece Of Mind album artwork, where Eddie had been lobotomized and put in a padded cell. He did appear as a walk-on creature in a straight jacket, after all. It’s just that, to my eyes at least, the stage doesn’t resemble a padded cell at all. It seems more like an unfinished, undecorated, basic version of what would turn into the Powerslave stage design.
CHRISTER’S BEST: It’s probably very predictable. The stage production for the Powerslave tour in 1984-85 is always mentioned as one of Maiden’s best, if not the very best. It’s also the personal favorite of both Steve Harris and Bruce Dickinson. So much so that the band recreated the show for the hugely successful 2008-09 Somewhere Back In Time World Tour, Mummy Eddie and all. But the 80s version edges it, featuring even more three-dimensional elements, twisted angles, and no standardized Eddie backdrops. This gets my vote as Maiden’s BEST 1980s stage production:
The production values of the World Slavery Tour were mind-blowing. At this point, Maiden had become the world’s biggest metal band, and they needed a stage show to suit. The Maiden production team delivered, and created a benchmark that both Maiden and other bands would later be judged against.
The World Slavery Tour setlist: Churchill’s Speech / Aces High / 2 Minutes To Midnight / The Trooper / Revelations / Flight Of Icarus / Rime Of The Ancient Mariner / Powerslave / The Number Of The Beast / Hallowed Be Thy Name / Iron Maiden // Run To The Hills / Running Free / Sanctuary. (The European leg would see several other songs played early in the set – one of the tracks from side 4 on Live After Death, or Murders In The Rue Morgue or Losfer Words [Big ‘Orra] – as well as a Murray guitar solo following Powerslave.)
Based on Riggs’ classic Powerslave album artwork, the Egyptian motif was taken to its absolute limits. An overwhelmingly decorated stage set, a light and pyro show as tasteful as impressive, and two Mummy Eddies. The biggest one can be seen in the image above, while the other remains one of the best walk-on Eddies ever brought to life, as seen on the Live After Death DVD:
Read on for more perspectives!
TORGRIM’S BEST & WORST OF MAIDEN’S 1980s STAGE PRODUCTIONS
When talking about Maiden’s stage show, you are in many ways at the very heart and soul of Iron Maiden’s grand vision. This is where everything comes to life. The songs, the band and the whole scope of the imagery that surrounds Maiden, Eddie included. This is where reality blurs and Maiden heaven kicks in. In other words, the stage production is crucial to the overall Maiden experience. Some will argue that it is the live setting that catapulted Iron Maiden to superstardom, especially in their first ten years as recording artists.
There is no denying that the World Slavery Tour was the package that really put Maiden out there as the leaders of the pack. At that time, nobody had seen anything like it. And it really set the benchmark for everyone else to follow. If you ask anyone today, most people will probably favor that tour as the all-time greatest. While I can’t fault anything in regards to that spectacular show, there is another set-up that kind of hit home the most for me.
TORGRIM’S BEST: The Somewhere On Tour 86/87 is painfully neglected when it comes to official audio-visual documentation. However, you’ve probably all seen the photos and the crappy bootlegs on YouTube. There is an approach to the visuals and general set-up of this tour that lacks any comparison in Maiden’s touring history. In many ways it is the most cutting edge thing they’ve ever done. You can argue that the successor, Seventh Tour Of A Seventh Tour, was a bigger show, but it built on an old formula rather than creating anything new and different, like this had done:
The actual stage had a very clean design, with the side ramps replaced with two staircases leading up to the riser in the middle. Shaped as a cut-off triangle, the whole structure was enhanced by led lights and topped off by some backlit, futuristic-looking symbols. The first backdrop depicted the Blade Runner-inspired city as seen on the cover of Somewhere In Time with incorporated neon lights, making all the signs come to life.
The lighting rig had straight lines and was shaped as three boxes that could bend and rise up and down on wire trusses.
As for the props, you’ve all seen the gigantic inflatable Eddie head with Nicko McBrain’s drum kit being elevated up in the air during Iron Maiden, and the massive hands lifting Bruce and Steve from the stage left and right. And how brilliant wasn’t the little shoot-out between Eddie and Bruce? Some shows even had inflatable spaceships that were ushered into the audience, hovering above the crowd during the intro.
Never officially recorded or filmed, never released in any official package, the only visuals we have from this tour is the footage in the Stranger In A Strange Land video. However, unofficial live footage of dubious quality does circulate, among which is this 1986 Paris concert:
The whole show came across as extremely sophisticated and very thought through and complete, making use of the modern technology that was available at the time. As some might know, Dave Lights left ship mid-tour and one can argue that some of the creative spark left with him.
The Somewhere On Tour setlist: Theme From Blade Runner / Caught Somewhere In Time / 2 Minutes To Midnight / Sea Of Madness / Children Of The Damned / Stranger In A Strange Land / Wasted Years / Rime Of The Ancient Mariner / Walking On Glass, Guitar Solo / Heaven Can Wait / Phantom Of The Opera / Hallowed Be Thy Name / Iron Maiden // The Number Of The Beast / Run To The Hills / Running Free / Sanctuary. (Where Eagles Dare and Flight Of Icarus also appeared early in the tour, while The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner was performed on opening night and then dropped.)
Next came 1988’s tour in support of Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, arguably bigger in terms of production, and with the massive 3D icebergs and the array of pyrotechnics it was truly a sight to behold. Dave Lights once told me that the initial idea was to have seven walk-on Eddies, but as we all know – for the first time since the birth of walk-on Eddie on the Beast On The Road tour in 1982 – it didn’t have any at all. And when the tour started, Mr. Lights was out.
The 1988 show was to be the final of Iron Maiden’s huge and legendary stage productions. It was designed in a very similar way to the Powerslave show, being pretty much an Arctic icescape counterpart to the pyramid production.
In the following decade, Maiden either lost their touch or decided to be different. In this Best & Worst feature we discuss the 1990s stage productions in detail.
With the 2012-14 Maiden England World Tour this stage production was updated (or scaled down, depending on your point of view) for a new age, and looks likely to be the last of the great 1980s productions to be recreated.
The Seventh Tour Of A Seventh Tour setlist: Moonchild / The Evil That Men Do / The Prisoner / Infinite Dreams / The Trooper / Can I Play With Madness / Heaven Can Wait / Wasted Years / The Clairvoyant / Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son / The Number Of The Beast / Hallowed Be Thy Name / Iron Maiden // Run To The Hills / Running Free / Sanctuary. (The Trooper was dropped for the UK leg of the tour that was filmed for Maiden England, and Still Life, Die With Your Boots On and Killers were added.)
TORGRIM’S WORST: While Somewhere On Tour is the highlight for me production-wise in the 80s, I’m pretty much down with Christer’s sentiments in regards to the 1983 World Piece Tour set-up. Most definitely one of my favorite tours musically…
The World Piece Tour setlist: Theme From Where Eagles Dare / Where Eagles Dare / Wrathchild / The Trooper / Revelations / Flight Of Icarus / Die With Your Boots On / 22 Acacia Avenue / The Number Of The Beast / Still Life / To Tame A Land / Guitar Solo / Drum Solo / Phantom Of The Opera / Hallowed Be Thy Name / Iron Maiden // Run To The Hills / Sanctuary / Drifter / Prowler.
…but the stage set is pretty bland. First and foremost, what is it really supposed to be?
You’ve got the checked floor, and then there are the pipes and the grey side-drops. It could resemble a building site, but where is the connection to the album theme? At best it looks hastily thrown together.
To sum up, can we expect more revisits to Maiden’s 1980s productions? The Maiden England adventure has been described by Dickinson as the band’s final History tour, but there might at some point be a farewell tour that could re-use older stage designs, couldn’t there?
For a discussion of Maiden’s own fixation with the 1980s stage productions, read this previous feature on Maiden Revelations.
7 thoughts on “BEST & WORST: Maiden’s 1980s stage productions”
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Wooh! Great article. Love these in-depth looks.
You know what would’ve been great? An similar thing on the “deep-cuts from the 80s”. In-depth investigations on the best undereplayed gems (ala prodigal son, sea of madness, to tame a land) and the worst fillers that was ment to be throw-aways (like another life, back in the village or perhaps drifter).
Why they weren’t more frequently played etc. Nerdy but great 😉
We can promise for sure that such a dive into the best of the underplayed tracks is absolutely in the works now that the final retro tour has kicked off. We’ll probably wait until the end of the tour though, just in case Infinite Dreams shows up. Yeah, right. 😉
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