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!
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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