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Gig review: Iron Maiden are truly Aces High in Belfast SSE

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It is a very special evening in Belfast and at the SSE Arena, as a capacity crowd await the sign of the doors opening so they may all troop into the Arena floor and take up their places in the seated areas. The excitement is really palpable as the friendly mass of gig goers begin to get restive. Tonight is no ordinary night at the SSE Arena. Tonight, Ed Force One has landed to deliver the full might of one of the greatest rock and metal bands in the world. Iron Maiden have come to Belfast. For so many people in Belfast and Northern Ireland this is truly an acknowledgement that Belfast is the place to come once more. Even though many bands, including Iron Maiden, never gave up on Belfast, even during the height of the troubles.

And so it finally kicks off with Killswitch Engage, one of the leading lights of metalcore, as they delivered a blistering set with “Strength of the Mind”, “A Bid Farewell” and “Life to Lifeless”. The energetic flavour of the band let them show everyone there that they meant business. On they went with “Hate by Design”, the heavy grooved up “Always”, and a masterfully punchy “My Last Serenade”.

Killswitch Engage were blowing away the crowd, which is no mean feat when every single person there was awaiting Iron Maiden. Many new fans were being made, as the band put on a first rate performance with he likes of “Beyond the Flames”, “Rose of Sharyn” and “The End of Heartache”. They bounced around the stage and the crowd responded perfectly to encouragement from the stage to join in.

Rounding off their set they gifted the audience with “My Curse”, “In Due Time” and a beautifully metalcore version of DIO’s “Holy Diver”. Killswitch Engage really played their hearts out and the audience responded in kind to an incredible set.

Then came the moment. The tense ecstasy of the final few seconds of silence on stage finally breaks into a roar of appreciation as THE Iron Maiden begin to tease the audience with a cover of UFO’s “Doctor Doctor”. This leads on to the jam packed Arena listening with an electrifying intensity to the inspirational and spine tingling words of Churchill as they flow out across the floor. The place reverberates to the full jawed sound of “We shall fight them on the beaches’. Roars and whistles fill the whole capacity packed arena and just at that point the stage explodes into light to the blare of Aces High with a full sized Spitfire providing cover for Iron Maiden beginning their onslaught. Bruce Dickinson makes an energetic entrance running in and jumping off the central ramp. What a truly Iron Maiden way to begin the whole show!

And in that moment, in that song, everyone there got to see immediately what they were in for. A complete show of epic Maiden proportions as to the incredible iconic song Eddie flew sortie after sortie in a full sized Spitfire. This delivered such an emotional high with all the bells and whistles attached. It was spell binding, captivating and delivered with such panache. The entire arena sang along with Bruce.

Next was “Where Eagles Dare” with the iconic backdrop of the cable car as it explodes in the mountains. And on came the full on, non-stop nothing left out show with rapturously received “2 Minutes to Midnight”. As Steve Harris banged out those bass lines, the guitars of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Jannick Gers driving on the riffs, Nicko McBrain smashing out the drums, Bruce Dickinson held the whole arena in the power of his operatic vocals. Clear, powerful, relentless. Stunning.

Bruce took the one and only time he would speak to the audience to hammer home one of the most balanced, sensible and impactful anti-war speeches you may ever hear. Paying tribute to the RAF he balanced the freedoms we have with sometimes the regrettable but necessary times we have to stand up for those freedoms. At the end he suddenly spins a question out to the Belfast crowd asking who here is from Scotland – a roar erupts and with a quip he adds they are good swimmers before leading the charge into “The Clansman”.
One of the most covered songs came next. Iconic, beautifully delivered, thrilling and punchy, rousing and reflective. It could only be “The Trooper”. Bruce delivered it with such verve and energy running around the stage being pursued by Eddie as time after time they clashed in an epic sword duel. It was beautiful to see a band that has been going since 1975 absolutely dominating the stage like 18 year olds. Iron Maiden will not go quietly into the night!

“Revelations” with its beautiful cathedralesque backdrop with stained glass Eddies, and then “For the Greater Good of God” had the crowd going wild. With Bruce quipping “Come on, you Pagans” they hammered into “The Wicker Man”. Every one delivered with incredible energy and positivity. The crowd are just constantly in motion in time with each song, singing along and unleashing roars of deep appreciation that Iron Maiden are giving it their all as if it were an arena 10 times the size. Each song was a theatrical performance that punched home with an emotional ferocity that had the crowd ecstatic. It was clear Iron Maiden was loving every moment on stage and even more clear the packed to the rafters SSE Arena gave as much love back.

A black cloaked Bruce delivers “Sign of the Cross” which gives way to “Flight of Icarus”. Now the crowd is getting the pyrotechnics. You may be cool, but you will never be Bruce Dickinson belting out “Flight of Icarus” whilst unleashing a double flamethrower cool. Just to ensure no one is in any doubt the bang home another iconic anthem with “Fear of the Dark”. The crowd go insane whenever they hear the first words of the Vincent Price like enunciation of “Woe to you, oh Earth and Sea…” as “The Number of the Beast” is belted out with exactly the same dynamic vigour as the very first song. The crowd are almost as loud as Bruce such was the fervour infecting everyone. Rounding off the set was of course “Iron Maiden”, another definite fan favourite once more underlined by the passionate response of the audience.

Then came the inevitable Encore. And what a sweet dessert of an encore it was too with “The Evil That Men Do”, “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “Run to the Hills”. Each one was enough to satisfy on its own but Iron Maiden went above and beyond to produce an incredible show for the fans. The audience did their best, with unneeded encouragement from Bruce to sing their hearts out their throats singing along with “Run to the Hills”.

The end was the perfect ending too. The wonder of Iron Maiden and their longevity is their sense of humour too and off the stage they went to Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”.

Overall, the addition of Killswitch Engage as support was genius. It was different enough so the audience weren’t given a clone, but familiar enough that everyone there could connect at some level. Many there already knew of Killswitch engage, but for those who didn’t beforehand, they had their minds expanded a little bit more.

And Maiden. What can be said about Iron Maiden’s set and performance that doesn’t sound like a gushing fan-boy who has lost his mind and gone to play with madness? Seriously, Iron Maiden’s Legacy of the Beast show is a perfect combination of showmanship, theatrics, professionalism, fun, good humour, and effects. The set list and how they musically delivered each song was perfection itself. They have created a beautiful monster that will continue to ravage the rest of the world with epically proportioned anthemic metal. A truly emotionally exhausting show as Bruce and the boys kept your adrenaline pumping from even before they strode onto stage right to the very moment they disappeared off.

If you haven’t seen Legacy of the Beast yet, you are seriously missing a show of a lifetime. It is a theatrical extravaganza with each song telling a different story and delivered as a decadent visual feast. The band never let up on their energetic performance from the start to the finish. A dissertation of a review would still come no nearer to doing it the true justice it deserves. And to finish off the night in a truly Iron Maiden way, it will always be a spine tingling memory to realise that you got back into the house from the gig, look at the clock, and see it was two minutes to midnight.

All that can be said in the end is that if you get an opportunity to witness this extravaganza, do it. It is an absolute must see.

Review by Ivor Whitten, Happy Metal Geek

Photos by Darren McVeigh, Metal Planet Music

All content © Metal Planet Music. No content of this article or photographs to be reproduced in part or in whole without express written permission.

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