Review by Ritchie Birnie for MPM
After the Covid delay the Legacy of the Beast juggernaut powers back into action and lays waste to Belfast in stunning fashion.
Belsonic is a new festival for me. I travelled over from Scotland for the occasion and the first thing that will strike any festival goer is it is smack bang in the middle of the city and surrounded by houses.
I did manage to speak to a few locals and some told me they lived in the noise area and got free tickets. That is one way not to get local complaints and the first time I have ever heard of this, a clever way to deal with any issues.
I got to the arena just after opener Tempt had kicked things off. With the band hailing from New York I wonder if it felt like coming home(As every New Yorker is part Irish are they not?). I only got the chance to hear the band as I was stuck in a merch stall for their whole set but I was paying attention and liked what I heard.
They have a whole lot of Hair Metal in their DNA and opener “Hideaway” reminded of the first time I heard Bon Jovi supporting Kiss on their first time hitting the UK. It was a shame that the crowd was very thin on the ground at this time and you find your first drawback for promoters and being in a built up early as most people will be hitting local pubs before they have to pay the inflated beer prices so the smaller bands will suffer.
“Burn Me Down” continues the vibe and from what I can see the crowd are taking to the band and their singalong numbers. It is a hell of a run the band have in Europe and it is so great to see young bands get over here and lay down a marker as the likes of Jovi did in the 80s. I can see the band turning a lot of heads on these shows and when they finish up with a cracking version of “We Will Rock you” you will have scooped up a mass of new fans.
It is time now for the Airbourne festival bingo card, (As we say in Scotland) Taps aff, ripped jeans, air raid siren, boob flashing, beer can smashing off the head, getting into the crowd and kick ass Rock n Roll….tick,tick,tick,tick,tick,tick and fuck yes.
If you have seen Airbourne before there will be no surprises, it is down and dirty straightforward rocking from start to finish. The opener is “Ready to Rock” and this is the band summed up in three words. The crowd numbers have swollen for the band who have a great history in Belfast.
I saw them a number of years ago at Limelight 2 with Devilskin supporting and like that night the band are straight into party mode and the temperature has risen dramatically.
The crazy times continue with “Back in the Game” but it already feels like the guys have not been away. It makes you wonder why Joel O’Keeffe did not put on an extra 200 pounds during lockdown as he was unable to run around like he does on stage.
Next up was the boys tip the hat to all the ladies on “Girls in Black” and you have to admit this band knows how to deal with a short set and how to win over people who may not have seen them live before. They are seasoned pros as they finish off their six number set with “Breakin’ out of Hell”, “Live it Up” and what else but “Runnin’ Wild”.
Love or hate the band they put their all into each and every set. They entertain and as a festival band you cannot ask for more…the day kicked off for real right here. For the UK fans I can say do not worry that there have only been two dates revealed as I can confirm there will be a full UK tour in December.
From expert pros at the festival business to what I have to say was a disappointment in the Shinedown set. I am a huge Shinedown fan and have caught them live many times as support, headliners and at festivals but tonight for me was the weakest I have seen them play.
This was the band’s first time playing Belfast which I was shocked to hear so for me I would have been going for bangers and fan favourites as they only had eight songs. Maybe they felt as nobody had seen them they would be happy with any songs or maybe the band just wanted to get the newer stuff out there but for me they missed a trick.
The distorted sounds of opener “Cut the Chord” rang out from album “Threat to Survival” and we get to see the bands crazy tour clothes which always follow a theme. This time it is jumpsuits of varying colours.
Do not get me wrong, this band are as tight as you can imagine. They are fantastic musicians and Brent’s voice is impeccable and sublime, in fact many shows I have witnessed Shinedown has seen his vocals overpowered by the music but at Belsonic the volume is not full tilt so this gives the freedom to let his voice soar and nobody can say that this man is not a very proficient singer.
Next up is “Devil” from Attention, Attention and for me this was just not the place to play that song. They tore straight into the title from the upcoming album(Out July 1st) “Planet Zero” and I have to say that this track was impressive live. This is a festival track and will become a fan favourite live on the end of year tour.
The band play through “Enemies” and “Monsters” before we get to what I would class as festival killers starting with “Second Chance”. As soon as that acoustic hits the stage and Zack Myers stands behind the stand you know something very special is going to happen. This is a very special song for me and Brent has never sounded better.
After the light we get the heavy and the band finish full steam ahead with “Diamond Eyes” and the always amazing “Sound of Madness”. This was obviously the first time for Belfast and all the whole fist pump, the look to your left, look to your right so it went down well. For us older fans we would rather see less talk with a small set and stick in another classic.
Now for the best headliners of all time, the mighty Iron Maiden know how to build anticipation. First we hear “Transylvania” as the legacy of the beast plays out on the screens then we have to wait through the whole of Doctor Doctor before that curtain drops and you can be sure that is the last time you will be looking at your watch till they finish.
I caught the Legacy of the Beast tour more than two years ago now at Graspop and it instantly went into second place of my favourite Maiden shows behind Donington 88. The set has been jiggled around to incorporate tracks from the stunning Senjutsu so I was desperate to see how these slotted in.
For one the stage set for these three songs are stunning but I should not be surprised as Maiden have nailed down what a stage set should be since the early 80s.
The chants of Maiden are shaking the local houses before the band step onto that stage but the roar as first Nicko then the rest of the band appear is deafening. How many bands open a festival with three new songs when they have over four decades of hits? Nobody, Maiden are a different beast and the title track with the new Eddie is sublime.
Bruce sounds fantastic. From that opening song he is like the Eddie on The Number of the beast cover and the crowd is the Devil. He is the maniacal puppeteer and it is like when you enter a Maiden show you have to sign over your free will as it belongs to him. There is no better frontman.
He also has a great way to introduce songs and the latest” This is what not to do when a bird shits on you” moment as he asks have you been in the shitter? Did you see the writing on the wall? and from there Adrian Smith hits the acoustic and what is forthcoming is one of Maiden’s best songs since 2000s Brave New world.
The Senjutsu element is done and it fits in perfectly and with an unbelievable turnaround we are dropped into the church. With the time given Bruce disappears and does his first clothes change of the night…by the end of the show he has given Madonna and Alice Cooper combined a run for their money.
With the Church comes “Revelations” and Bruce has never sounded so good. Even as I think back to the Piece of Mind tour I can confirm there is no drop off, if anything it is better today.
Singalong time with “Blood Brothers” and the crowd are on fire. This is a classic from the modern Bruce era. At the breakdown Bruce leaves the stage and the four guitarists are left at the front of the stage and I get quite emotional.
These guys have adorned my walls, my t-shirts, my turtables, my vests, shoes and shorts for 42 years. On the left is Dave who has been there since I first heard the debut on release, next was Adrian who slotted in the year after, next is God himself, the backbone, the beast on the bass and last is Janick who has been here for 22 years…a feat any band member would love to have.
I have a feeling deep down I will not see this line up again. I fear Dave and Nicko may bow out after this tour. I have no similar worries on Steve and Bruce as I reckon they will die on stage but this could be the breaking up the most consistent line up but based on this show alone I am happy with that.
Morbid thoughts behind we get a rare outing for “Sign of the Cross” and then it is time for the flame throwers and I have to wonder whose idea it was to let Mr Dickenson loose with these. I bet Nicko does too as they come seriously close to his barnet.
Next is the part where you will lose your voice. A double header of singalongs in “Fear of the Dark” and the beloved “Hallowed be thy Name”. Bruce is out with the theatrics again and I loved all the little touches that have been added. The robes, the lantern, the top hat, the jail cell, the hanging rope and so much more. The band know the fans go to many gigs on a tour and these little things are added for us.
After those two songs I would happily have went home. The only way to top the singalong theme would be to add “Heaven Can wait”. That would have ensured I had no speech the next day.
We run through two monsters in “666” and “Iron Maiden” before we hit the first encore so why are people leaving? Have people never heard of setlist FM? I think I would have been mega pissed off if I had missed a barrage of “The Trooper”, “The Clansman” and “Run to the Hills”. Eddie number two gets messed around by Bruce and for a proud Scot to be screaming freedom at the top of my voice is maybe ironic but it cannot be beaten.
From first in the set to last is “Aces High” and the spitfire. The galloping sound of what we call Maiden is never more prominent than here and it is a perfect closer. This is Maiden, this is their legacy and one that I do not think will ever be surpassed.
They done it on their own terms, they done it without airplay. Even MTV in its heyday rolled over to the pretty boys.
This legacy is based on pure British stubbornness, incredible musicians, a man with an unwavering game plan, a manager with guts, balls and nonce. A good chunk of this is also down to a certain Mr Derek Riggs as there are not many bands that can be recognised the world over by their mascot.
Maiden are a culmination of so many things and that is what makes them the best band in the world and as fans we know we are part of that journey, some from the start and a lot that have been picked up over the years but as a live entity they cannot be surpassed. These are living legends.
Photography by MPM