01 Aug 2000 - Toronto, ON - Air Canada Centre
Here we go again! With the dawn of August, happiness descended once again on our side of the Atlantic. Sure, it means that summer is reaching closer to the end, but in the Year 2000 it also means that Iron Maiden makes there way to the shores of North America once again! It's been quite fun recently with Maiden touring North America each summer since 1998. This year, the band is supporting the delightful "Brave New World" album and the festivities got under way tonight at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario.
My ability to make the concert was in jeopardy most of the day, as I was quite busy at my day job. It looked unlikely until the last minute that I would be able to get away for the show. Fortunately, as 4.30pm came, I was able to get enough accomplished to be able to break away and make the 4 hour drive from Detroit to Toronto for the show. The drive across the southwestern part of Ontario was beautiful. The scenery with the rolling fields, small streams and charming cities was quite pleasing to the eyes. As the kilometers ticked down, my anticipation started to build.
Before I knew it, I was on the Gardiner Expressway and Downtown Toronto was in sight. What a beautiful city! Toronto is blessed with an excellent location on the northern shores of Lake Ontario. The downtown on the edge of the waterfront is spectacular with a beautiful skyline that's crowned by the CN Tower (one of the tallest structures in the world) and the Skydome stadium. It's a sparkling city that is the New York and LA of Canada all put into one! I made my way to tonight's venue, the Air Canada Centre. This is one of the new arenas in North America and plays home to the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs (one of the storied franchises in Hockey) and the NBA's Toronto Raptors. It was an excellent venue for tonight's show as it had all the glitter and comforts of a modern arena. I arrived at about 830pm and the venue was bustling with activity as fans gathered outside and inside to mingle. I made my way quickly inside the venue as Halford had just finished a well-received performance. The audience was now awaiting Iron Maiden!
The inside of the venue was quite impressive. The sporting arena had been configured specifically for the concert. A stage was set up on the playing surface and curtains were used to section off the parts of the arena behind the stage. This created a rather intimate setting for the concert in this fairly large venue. As showtime approached, the seats were filling up quite nicely. The audience was restless as the lights went out to a loud roar and the classic music intro started. The audience was brimming with anticipation when a spotlight appeared to reveal Adrian playing the opening riff to "Wickerman". The rest of the band were still at the side of the stage for the next few bars, and then with an explosion they all took the stage and the show as on it's way. The sound mix was a little bit muddled at the beginning as the sound crew made some of their early adjustments. I really enjoy this song as the set opener. It's got the classic Maiden elements to it with the guitar crunch, the smooth rhythms, the time changes, and of course the memorable chorus. Bruce's soulful and emphatic "Your Time Will Come" almost serves as a declaration that it's now Toronto's time to experience the Maiden magic! The audience was into it from the beginning, although louder ovations would be saved for later in the set. They sang along heartily to "Your Time Will Come" and to the "Whoa, whoa" that brings the song to a close.
We were off to a good start and it was now time for "Ghost of the Navigator". Bruce led the audience in a clap along as the band roared from the intro into the first riff. The sound mix was getting a bit better at this stage and the band appeared to be in good form as they smoothly managed the time changes that make this song special. I was initially paying particular attention to Janick as I was interested to see how he was moving about relative to normal. This is not hard to do, as Janick's stage persona demands attention! It was good to see that he seemed to have recovered nicely and was up to his usual antics on stage. As this soon to be classic ended, Bruce introduced the title track of "Brave New World" and the audience was greeted with another beautiful intro.
As the band started to groove once again, my ears turned specifically to Nicko and his unique drumming style, which comes across perfectly in this song. Nicko was especially good tonight with his accents and fills being precise and even more creative than normal while still doing his usual exceptional job of delivering the backbone of the band's sound along with Steve. The whole band fed off each other with Janick and Dave alternating soloing responsibilities in their trademark styles. The song's end was greeted with a resounding applause by Toronto and the stage was set perfectly for the first of many Maiden classics from the back catalog.
The band first reached back to the 1981 Killers album for "Wrathchild". This song, which is so representative of early Maiden, always goes over well live and tonight was no different. The audience was quite into it and raised their fists in unison to "Wrathchild" as spotlights lit up all sections of the arena. Steve took on backing vocal duties while Nicko continued to display his wizardry on the drums. Even though this song originally featured his predecessor Clive Burr behind the skins, Nicko did a good job of adding his own unique signature to it! Next up was "2 Minutes to Midnight" from the 1984 release Powerslave as Janick led off the first riff. The chorus of this song received some loud support from the audience as most of the attendees sang along with Bruce. Bruce sensed the support and greeted the crowd with his first "Scream for me Toronto" and needless to say, the audience roared in reply! The guitarist were all in good form as they took their opportunities to shine on the song, Janick in the opening riff, Dave with the first solo, and Adrian with the next solo and backing vocals! Adrian and Janick intertwined on leads coming out of the break and back into the main riff as the crowd roared once again! As the song drew to a close, the audience raised their fists in the air once again.
Bruce formally addressed the crowd for the first time before the next song. He mentioned that the last time the band was in Toronto they played the smaller Massey Hall and it was good to play a bigger venue. He also mentioned that the band were really enjoying themselves on the current tour even though many of the press had written them off in the past. He also shared some of his thoughts about Toronto relative to Montreal and Quebec City and the hunger those cities in Quebec possess for metal. He concluded his greeting by introducing "Blood Brothers".
This song is always an interesting one to watch because it's unlike any other Maiden song that the band has ever done and brings back memories of some of Maiden's inspirations from the 70's. The lightshow during this song was memorable as it fit the music perfectly while Bruce took the opportunity to deliver a strong vocal performance by adding his unique charisma to the delivery of each line. The instrumental portion of the song was particularly beautiful with Bruce leading the audience in clapping to the tempo changes and then leading them into the sing along from behind the drum riser! As the song came to an end on a lingering note, the crowd roared their approval once more!
The sounds of monks chanting emerged from the PA as the opening bars of "Sign of the Cross" were unleashed on Toronto. Nicko led the audience in clapping before providing the marching drumbeat to the intro. As the band entered the main section of this song, Bruce emerged on a cross with wings to sing the lyrics. The first two verses of this song have always been among my favorite Maiden lyrics of all-time and tonight it was a great joy to spew them out with the same ferocity as Bruce while the band set a blaze of their own. As this song continued to build, we once again got a chance to see the different facades that the Maiden sound possesses with all of the musicians delivering precise and convincing performances! The song came to an end with an enthusiastic crowd roar and the cross being set on fire.
"The Mercenary" from Brave New World was next and the pace of the show picked up again. Bruce was all over the stage on this one, making his way from one side to the other, and even employing some of the props strategically set up to enable him to swing from one part of the stage to another! The audience sang along once again, although they weren't as familiar with this one as the audience in Mannheim had been. Dave delivered one of his patented solos to keep the energy level up and Nicko continued his strong performance by keeping up the pace while adding numerous elements of intricacy to the sound! As this song ended, the backdrop was changed to reveal an Eddie figure on a battlefield. Bruce pondered "I wonder what song could be next" as the band charged into "The Trooper". Union Jacks were placed on each side of the riser and Bruce waived each one to create the right imagery for the song. This song is an unquestionable Maiden classic and always comes across brilliantly. Tonight was no different! The rhythm section is great, the solos are compelling and the showmanship with Steve charging and Janick playing chords with his guitar cord is classic! As this song came to an end, the band had definitely won over any remaining doubters in the Toronto audience!
Bruce seized the moment and addressed the audience once again. He mentioned that the band were here to promote the new album that he classified as the best the band had ever done! He also mentioned that this was not a reunion to play a greatest hits set or to relive old times, but a new beginning that would forge new ground for the band and Maiden fans everywhere. Then he introduced "Dream of Mirrors" from the Brave New World album. The song started with beautiful lightwork as the stage was dark and bright silver/white spotlights shined on each member while criss-crossing. The audience clapped along as the band once again delivered a strong performance as they negotiated the time changes and the arrangements of this song. The guitar work and the solos were once again excellent. I can definitely see beautiful chemistry continuing to build between the three Maiden axemen, which leaves me quite, excited about what the future may hold!
The backdrop changed once again, this time to reveal Eddie on the Scottish Highlands as the band delivered "The Clansman". The intro to this song fits the background and the theme of the music so beautifully that it's a great treat to hear the vision re-created in front of one's own eyes! The band were really enjoying themselves on stage during this one without compromising the integrity of the performance. At one point, Janick wrapped himself up in his guitar cord by doing repeated twists and then Bruce proceeded to unwrap him by pulling the cord from a distance like a yo-yo. Bruce once again delivered his now patented Russian Dancing while Steve switched masterfully between his normal bass and the acoustic one that's used for certain transitions in this song. Bruce once again urged the audience to sing along in this song and they were slightly hesitant at first. Of course, Bruce wouldn't take no for an answer and used his unique style to get them to comply like only he can! The fans responded and it was a beautiful sight indeed!
Next up was "The Evil that Men Do" from the Seventh Son album. Toronto was ready for this classic and roared as the band took off once again. This song marked the first appearance of Eddie who made his way through a cloud of smoke that were left as a result of some pyro. He made his way to the center of the stage and received a loud ovation from his subjects, i.e. the audience! He sparred with Janick while the rest of the band delivered another strong performance. They appeared to be getting tighter as the show progressed as was the overall quality of the sound mix. "Fear of the Dark" was next and Toronto sang along loudly to the initial guitar melody without being asked! This song has always been a favorite in Europe and went down quite well in Toronto. Bruce was once again masterful in his manipulation of the audience and even offered a drum stick to the audience while climbing one of the speaker stacks! This set the stage nicely for the set closer, the band's namesake "Iron Maiden". "Scream for me Toronto" Bruce demanded and Dave unleashed the opening riff. Once again Bruce performed in the grips of the virgins who were trapped inside the Wickerman Eddie. They were especially touchy tonight and actually made it difficult for Bruce to complete each line. Needless to say this frustrated the vocalist and he felt quite happy to break away and instructed that the virgins be locked up. Flames emerged from the drumriser as the band set the virgin on mock flames! It was quite a grand sight as the band continued with the second part of the song and the virgins simmered in the flames! The audience was absolutely enjoying this and raised their fists and sang along to the chorus "Iron Maiden is gonna get you, no matter how far"! This brought the song and the first part of the set to a close. The band said their thankyous and goodbyes to the applauding Toronto audience and made their way off stage.
Of course, the audience wouldn't let them leave just yet. They were hungry for more and let the band know it by clapping, yelling, stomping and any other means imaginable. The band complied as the intro to "Number of the Beast" came across the PA and they emerged to deliver this classic from the 1982 album of the same name! The pyro is always memorable on this song and tonight was no exception! The story of a vivid yet frightful dream was told very well by the band in words, music and visuals as the audience raised their fists and sang along. Nicko was brilliant once again with his hi-hat work and subtle accents that truly set him apart. It made for a great performance of a great song! "Hallowed Be Thy Name" from the same 1982 release was next. This timeless song is always a delight to hear and tonight was no different. Nicko had a towel draped around his head while Janick used the 3rd guitar to add an additional melodic touch to the intro. Bruce captured the dilemma of the song's subject beautifully in his vocal delivery, especially during the lingering "Running Low"! As the song continued, Bruce made a comment, which sounded, out of place. He had apparently spotted someone with a lit cigarette in the backstage area and urged that person to put out the light. Apparently the person did not listen and this caused Bruce to miss some of his vocal lines. This was interesting as for a few moments we had Maiden karaoke in Toronto! Bruce soon joined his bandmates as the song continued and during the extended instrumental section, he ran from one side of the stage to another to encourage the crowd to roar. He first pitted one side against another and then got the entire audience to roar all at once! This was amazing to hear and it confirmed that the audience had truly enjoyed tonight's performance!
The last track of the night was "Sanctuary". This brought the evening's festivities to an appropriate close with the last opportunities for the audience to cheer while giving each of the band members a fun opportunity to improvise and display their craft. Janick was particularly entertaining as he followed up one of his efforts by rubbing up against his guitar amp and timing guitar screams with his own pelvic thrusts! The song came to an end with the now trademarked triple guitar leads and resounding applause by the audience! The band took their last bows and bid Toronto a fond farewell!
This brought to an end another great night of Maiden magic. It was about midnight and I got back on the road for the 4 hour drive back to Detroit. I was so energized and excited that the drive went by rather quickly except for an unfortunate encounter with Ontario Provincial Police. Before I knew it I was back in Detroit and asleep in post-Maiden bliss! Thankyou Iron Maiden for a great start to the North American tour. I look forward to the first US show in New York City this weekend!