Did they play that one? Did they leave out that other one? Share our pain as we look at the most heartbreaking Iron Maiden setlist omissions.
So the History tours are…well, history! Maiden will still be alternating between new album tours and retro tours, but the period recreations are over. These setlists revived a load of songs we hadn’t heard in ages, but they also left out crucial tracks for what was probably their last shot at being performed on stage. We’ve earlier stated our top 10 of the obscure Iron Maiden songs, so this time we’re focusing on tracks that we thought had a fair chance of being played live at certain points in time.
Almost exclusively lamenting lost opportunities on the History tours, but also pointing out some other bewildering omissions, here are the 10 songs we have been the most disappointed at not finding in the setlist. Let us know yours in the comments!
So crack open a bottle of Trooper Ale and drown your sorrows:
Honorable mention – MONTSEGUR (Dance Of Death), 2003-04
One of the heaviest songs the band ever recorded, one of the best of their post-2000 period, and one that is so well suited to the three-guitar line-up. Having seen and heard amazing versions of Paschendale and Journeyman on the 2003-04 tour, immortalized in the Death On The Road DVD, the mere thought of them launching into the massive riffs and harmonies of Montsegur still induces goosebumps.
Moving on to the list proper…
10. STILL LIFE (Piece Of Mind), 2012-2014
Okay, the first one here is probably a stretch. But when the band decided to do a third History tour built on their 1980s catalog, this was one of the songs that were available to make the set fresh for band and fans alike. After all, it’s on the Maiden England video that gave the tour its name:
The band opted to do a bare minimum of rare songs (The Prisoner and Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son, thank goodness) along with a host of regulars and semi-regulars that all featured on one or both of the previous two History tours. Our hearts break at the omission of this Piece Of Mind gem, and we’re pretty sure there will never be another chance for Still Life.
9. SEA OF MADNESS (Somewhere In Time), 1987 & 1999-2014
This tune never survived a single tour, believe it or not. When Iron Maiden took their 1986-87 Somewhere On Tour trek to the US they dropped it from the set, and it never returned. That in itself might have been heartbreaking for US fans that loved the Adrian Smith compositions on the new album. But just imagine how the reunion era line-up could have given this track an even heavier groove and an even better Bruce Dickinson performance.
This is a decent live recording from 1986:
Okay, two fringe tracks so far, but how about the next one?
8. 22 ACACIA AVENUE (The Number Of The Beast), 2005-2014
This classic number was revived for a brief summer tour of Europe in 2003. But it would not be included in any of the proper History tours in 2005, 2008-09, or 2012-14. Why not, boys? How about replacing Fear Of The Dark with this one in 2008 and thus stay true to the period concept? Or could we not have gone without Another Life in 2005? Even when a sign in that tour’s stage dressing read “22 Acacia Avenue”, 22 Acacia Avenue wasn’t actually in the set.
Raise your Trooper, let’s make a toast to this recording of 22 Acacia Avenue from the last ever tour where Maiden performed it, back in the summer of 2003:
7. KILLERS (Killers), 1990-1998 & 2005-2014
The title track off Maiden’s second album was brought back for the final leg of the Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son tour in 1988, it is featured in the Maiden England video, but would not make its next appearance until the 1999 reunion tour. And that was it. Gone.
Firstly, why did Blaze Bayley not get to sing more of the 1980-81 material that suited his voice a lot better than most of the Dickinson era songs? This track is one of those he never got to sing.
And secondly, how about replacing Running Free with this one in 2012? It would have been logical and very welcome! The bloody Killers artwork was even featured in the stage dressing and merchandise, a proud Maiden tradition for songs that are not actually in the set. It would also have been a walk in the park for Bruce if he needed a rest in-between the more stratospheric numbers.
Our hearts are breaking, ’cause no one can tell us that this 1999 live version doesn’t rock like a m***erfucker:
6. CAUGHT SOMEWHERE IN TIME (Somewhere In Time), 2012-14
There are a few Somewhere In Time songs on this list! That’s probably not too surprising since it’s the most underplayed material in Maiden’s catalog relative to its popularity, a fact which guest writer Adam Hansen laments in this article.
Another track that would certainly benefit from three guitars and a better adjusted Dickinson, Caught Somewhere In Time could have been a delicious curveball if it opened the encores on the Maiden England tour in place of Aces High. Put it on, imagine the thrill, and have another sip of consolation from that Trooper bottle…
5. STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND (Somewhere In Time), 1988 & 1999-2014
This 1986 track was a popular single, but didn’t survive past the Somewhere In Time tour, not even to make it into the 1988 set where the Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son visual aesthetic would have fitted it like hand in glove. It made a glorious return along with Dickinson and Smith in 1999, but only for about five shows. Gone.
The band’s stated reason for dropping Stranger In A Strange Land was that it “slowed the set down”. You certainly can’t tell from the audience reaction in this bootleg recording, the very last time the band performed the song, in New York City on 17 July 1999:
Lucky New Yorkers…
Another sip of that Trooper…
4. TO TAME A LAND (Piece Of Mind), 2005
The chief musical events of the second and third History tours were probably the performances of period epics Rime Of The Ancient Mariner (2008-09) and Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son (2012-14). The 2005 History tour had the chance to deliver something equal to that: The first performance of the monumental Piece Of Mind climax To Tame A Land in more than twenty years. Alas, it was not to be.
Dickinson was at the supreme height of his powers in 2005 and could certainly have delivered the goods. And there would not have been an outrage from fans if the band dropped something like Drifter and Sanctuary in order to fit this powerhouse into the set, would there? Here’s a 1983 bootleg video:
Well, we’ve come to the top 3 of heartbreak…
3. ALEXANDER THE GREAT (Somewhere In Time), 1986-1987
You’ve heard people begging for this one, right? In terms of Iron Maiden’s live history this song has become the Holy Grail. Band chief Steve Harris’ history-lecture-by-chord-progressions, Alexander The Great is one of the very few longest-track-on-album that Maiden have never performed on stage. The others are Prodigal Son and, er, Mother Russia. (And yes, they did do The Angel And The Gambler, and yes, it is that long…)
The band kept Rime Of The Ancient Mariner in the set for the entirety of the Somewhere In Time tour, and thus relegated the great Alexander to eternal gathering of dust. For if Maiden don’t play a track on the first possible tour, it never gets played…
2. FLIGHT OF ICARUS (Piece Of Mind), 1999-2014
A hit single, not played since 1986. Did you get that? Are you sure? Iron Maiden actually had a hit single, in America no less, and then didn’t perform the bloody thing for three decades!
Some fans cite Harris’ reluctance to play it, but this is mostly based on a mid-90s Dickinson remark that “Steve never liked it.” Harris himself begs to differ, insisting that he loves all of Piece Of Mind but prefers the live version of Flight Of Icarus to the studio version. And, well, if he played it live he’d be playing a live version, wouldn’t he?
5 shows into the Somewhere In Time tour it was gone. For good. Take a nice sip of that Trooper right now, turn up the volume, and check out this kick-ass performance of the song by Dickinson and Smith in 1997:
As you can tell, besides Somewhere In Time, we at Maiden Revelations also feel that the Piece Of Mind album is underplayed. Since the entire band agree that this album is among their greatest (unlike their divided opinions of Somewhere In Time), this is somewhat mysterious.
EDIT: But then something incredible happened. On the Legacy Of The Beast tour in 2018 Icarus returned, after a staggering 32 years of not being in the set:
Well, there’s one more track left at the bottom of that Trooper bottle. The ultimate disappointment, the ultimate heartbreak, the most painful omission…
1. INFINITE DREAMS (Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son), 2012-2014
This is it. The one we really have a hard time letting go of. Flight Of Icarus would have been a completely natural part of either of the first two History sets. But Infinite Dreams was a cornerstone of the 1988 Seventh Son tour, a highlight of (and the bloody single from) the Maiden England concert video.
And Maiden spent three calendar years on the road with a show titled Maiden England, they issued the 1988 concert on DVD, they sold the tour as a focus on the late 80s Seventh Son era, and they … left Infinite Dreams out of the set.
Two sips of Trooper right now…
Infinite Dreams was dropped in favor of out-of-period track Afraid To Shoot Strangers. Painful. Heartbreaking. Could the band not hack it? Could Dickinson not sing it properly? Did Harris simply think that the fans wouldn’t shout and jump in unison because the song is too sophisticated? Will we ever know?
Back in April 1988 both band and singer could certainly deliver:
And we’ll always have the Maiden England version:
So, what heartbreaking omissions did we leave out? Let us know in comments, and feel free to air what you otherwise think is wrong or maybe oh-so-right about our list.
There’s more Trooper in the fridge.