AUSTIN -- As if their music and explosive stage shows weren't enough, there are several reasons Iron Maiden is unique in heavy metal:
- Many bands celebrate an anniversary of a landmark album by playing it in its entirety live. Maiden, never one to rest on its laurels, reprises entire tours that serve as a break, in part, from touring in support of new music they continue to make.
- Most members, particularly bassist and co-founder Steve Harris, appear to have discovered the fountain of youth, not only playing as strongly as they did 25 years ago but also looking as if they stepped out of 1988.
- When Maiden tours the world, they include many cities many of us have never heard of -- something for which fans the world over can be thankful.
- If Maiden misses a particular city on one leg of a tour, they make sure to hit it on subsequent parts.
Most of those were in play Tuesday night in the "Live Music Capital" when Iron Maiden's second leg of the "Maiden England '88" tour stopped at the Austin 360 Amphitheater with Megadeth -- one of only seven American cities fortunate to witness this pairing. A carbon copy of the Aug. 15, 2012, show that hit the AT&T Center (SAMME review here), Maiden packed them in up through the lawn area, giving Austin its first look at a trek that came full circle from 25 years ago when Megadeth filled in on some dates for original 1988 openers Guns N' Roses.
It doesn't take long to realize that although Iron Maiden gives 100 percent at every show, they'd still be better than many bands today even if they were at 75 percent. The musicianship is spot-on, and they look as if they genuinely never get tired of being around one another for three-plus decades.
Tuesday's identical setlist (see below) to the San Antonio gig 13 months prior should not have come as a surprise given that it's the same tour. About the only differences between the gigs:
- Guitarist Janick Gers' customary high-step prancing was substantially decreased, even bordering on non-existent.
- Vocalist Bruce Dickinson's 15-second "ohhhhhh" as the final lyric a little more than halfway through the 9-minute epic "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" was admired more so by Austin fans who gave him an extra ovation.
- Dickinson returned after the song looking as if his hair had been fried by fireworks. Curiously enough, that was at the same time the amphitheater was permeated with the scent of Fourth of July revelry.
Of course, no Iron Maiden experience is complete without larger-than-life mascot Eddie. He mimicked a sword to Gers' throat during "Run to the Hills," duplicated the light blue 1988 Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album cover and was accompanied by the "Phantom of the Opera" and the devil (who also seemed to have it out for Gers on "The Number of the Beast" (see slideshow, top left).
While Iron Maiden might best be served giving tunes such as "Running Free" and "Fear of the Dark" a rest knowing a majority of fans travel far and wide and have seen them multiple times, the lads from Britain continue to set the standard for live performances. Some fans observed -- rather than lamented -- upon exiting the venue the absence of "Hallowed Be Thy Name," much like they did three years ago at the AT&T Center when "The Trooper" and "Run to the Hills" were left off the mostly 2000-10 era setlist.
Personally speaking, a live rendition of another 1988 song -- "Black Bart Blues" -- would have been a pleasant shock to these ears. The chances of that happening, however, may be as likely as Harris aging. Theoretically speaking.
Oh, well. That's something for Eddie to shoot for next tour around. This time, it was vintage Iron Maiden. And that was more than good enough.
NOTE: For an extra batch of 46 photos taken by the SAMME, click here. For some of his previous Iron Maiden coverage, click the "Suggested" links in blue below, and stay tuned for a slideshow of opening act Megadeth.
SETLIST: Moonchild, Can I Play With Madness, The Prisoner, 2 Minutes 2 Midnight, Afraid To Shoot Strangers, The Trooper, The Number of the Beast, Phantom of the Opera, Run to the Hills, Wasted Years, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, The Clairvoyant, Fear of the Dark, Iron Maiden. Encores: Aces High, The Evil That Men Do, Running Free
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