Iron Maiden, Queensryche, Halford
August 5, 2000
New York (Madison Square Garden)
In the words of Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson, "This tour is about bringing heavy metal back, so fuck you!"
It took just two hours for Iron Maiden to sell out its show Saturday night (Aug. 5) at New York's Madison Square Garden. It took them about the same amount of time to send the crowd home elated.
In the early stages, even 40 minutes before the music began, fans were chanting various Maiden choruses in anticipation of the night's events. Black t-shirts littered the aisles and before too long, concert-goers were sporting freshly bought t's bearing the likeness of Eddie, the band's ever-present mascot.
Heavy metal was back; not the hair band variety, not the "let's fuse our heritage with anything that is hip today" that fans have had to endure in recent years. We are talking true-blue, up the irons variety that has long been abolished by media and record executives for the longest time. Yes, fuck them.
And what a better way to bring it back than with one of the most prolific lead singers of our time, Maiden's Dickinson. He joined guitarist Adrian Smith to return to and complete the most historic line-up Maiden can ever put together. Dickinson, Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers each with guitar in hand, Niko McBrain on drums, and Maiden mastermind Steve Harris on bass. This is the line-up that had fans dreaming of Icarus' faulty flight and the night that the number of the beast was revealed to them. This is the line-up that put together the latest and one of the best Maiden albums, "Brave New World."
This tour was the realization of that dream and what that line-up can do. First up on the bill was Halford, fronted by former Judas Priest/Fight/Two front-man Rob Halford. It was a reunion for him as well, as the past few years saw him experiment in industrial music with the likes of Skinny Puppy's Davie Ogilvie and Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor.
Appropriately enough, the group opened with the single "Resurrection" off its debut album by the same name. Clad in black leather, Halford the singer then revisited his past by lending his legendary screech to Priest classics like "Electric Guy" and "Breaking The Law." Audience support for the new material was strong, with no early bathroom breaks during this set.
"Made In Hell," a song that runs through the history of hard rock, sounded as if the fans knew it all the long and "Cyberworld" had the crowd singing. Pretty amazing, considering the album wouldn't be released until three days after the show.
A half-hour and eight songs into the night, Halford gave way to the group that owned "Headbangers Ball" and countless Grammy nominations in the early '90s, Queensryche.
Front-man Geoff Tate swaggered out on stage during the opening lines of "Revolution Calling," off of the group's classic concept album, "Operation: Mindcrime."
The stage set-up was a stripped down version of what fans may remember from the Seattle band's previous arena tours. Gone were the multiple TV screens plastering the backdrop and the chains dangling from the drum kit. All that was left were the daggers that make an appearance on every one of the band's album covers. Such aesthetic differences didn't matter much as the band ripped through early classics like "Queen Of The Reich" and "Take Hold Of The Flame," as well as more contemporary favorites "Eyes Of A Stranger" and "Empire."
Queensryche left the stage, taking a final bow before departing. The lights went on and the arena was at full capacity. The night was all Maiden now, and Maiden it was.
Any group opening with three new songs off of its latest album is risking losing the audience early. Actually, any other group doing so might run into this problem, but the power of Dickinson's live presence carried the crowd though every chorus and blistering solo. "Wicker Man" grabbed everyone's attention from the get-go, with "Ghost Of The Navigator" and "Brave New World" soon to follow. But when "Wrathchild" made its way through the stacked amps, the crowd erupted.
For nearly every song Maiden performed, a huge flag of its accompanying album's artwork draped the background. For every guitar lick, Gers kicked and did splits. For every note struck, Dickinson ran around like a madman. If you tried to keep up with Harris pounding away on bass or McBrain drumming with what seemed to be eight arms, well, good luck. Pyrotechnics went off and the lights were at times blinding. Would one expect anything less from a metal show?
Theatrics were also abundant. A 10-foot Eddie made his way on stage, taking swipes at members of the group. A5-foot iron maiden -- the actual medieval torture device -- attempted to keep the frenetic Dickinson still for an entire minute.
In its set, Iron Maiden covered nearly every aspect of its 21-year career. Original lead singer Paul Di'Anno was remembered with early hits like "Iron Maiden" and the show capper "Sanctuary." The Blaze Bayley era, Maiden's attempt at replacing Dickinson in the mid-'90s, was even recognized via a rendition of "The Clansman."
Overall, the night belonged to the fans. Metal is back, that's for sure, but for one Saturday night in New York, it was as if it never went away.