It’s Friday afternoon and a close friend sends me a private message through Facebook, "Ed Force One has landed." The masters of metal have touched down in Los Angeles to perform the first of two sold out shows at the Forum in Inglewood. Expectations are high for the tour. Fans have taken the band’s sixteenth studio album, The Book of Souls, to number one chart positions in countries across the globe. The double album features more than 90 minutes of new material including the longest single track the band has ever recorded. The band has again added to its legend.
Iconic bands are surrounded by lore. To add to Maiden’s, I’m reminded of an afternoon I spent at Kirk Hammett’s house in San Francisco. We were discussing the origins of Kirk’s fascination with horror memorabilia and what led him to become one of its largest collectors. He traced his interest back to Iron Maiden’s early work. I recall him describing how he was blown away by the artwork of Derek Riggs on the early album covers, and of course by the music. We all were. It’s an experience that every Maiden fan has in common. It bonds us.
It’s late in the afternoon. I’ve made my way to the Forum. It’s still four to five hours before the band will take the stage, but the tailgating has already begun. I move from car to car collecting images of fans donning their best Iron Maiden wear. Every tour and every album is represented on t-shirts, on shoes, on beer cans, on flags. The ubiquity of Maiden merch in the Forum parking lot makes the tailgaters look more like an army than a congregation of fans. Maiden tunes are being pumped out of high-end, pimped out car audio systems; the kind that SoCal is famous for. I navigate the maze of vehicles, each one playing a different tune. In my head I start pairing each track to its original album. Ahh, "Wrathchild"...Killers...one of my favorites.
It’s now 8:40 p.m. I’m being escorted into the pit to wait for the main event. The crowd is electric. Their blood is pumping. They’ve already been warmed up by The Raven Age; a band featuring George Harris (son of Steve Harris) on guitar. It’s close enough to show time now that the crowd anticipates the band will appear everytime a song on the Forum’s sound system ends.
Finally, the one they’ve been waiting for; UFO’s "Doctor Doctor". It’s a signal to fans that the band will take the stage. The lights dim and a single spotlight is cast on the man of the evening. He rises above a bubbling cauldron. The intro builds and the stage lights are turned up. They reveal an elaborate set with ancient ruins. It’s spectacular. The rest of the band comes into view. Fire bursts from hidden locations on stage, and Bruce runs back and forth from end to end, screaming lyrics into his mic. His voice is at full volume.
His bout with throat cancer now seems like an afterthought. Steve and Adrian interact with the crowd while playing their riffs. Nicko’s drumbeats can somehow still be heard under Bruce’s voice. Janick hop-steps back and forth while grinding his axe in front of howling fans. One of them lifts her top and shouts, "These are for you!". The band is full of energy and the crowd is feeding on it.
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Song after song is met with rabid applause. The minions have come out to do their master’s bidding, and their master has them in the palm of his band. The night metals on, and Eddie makes his appearance. He’s thirteen feet tall and dwarfs the band members. As he explores the large stage, Janick taunts him by running through his legs and taking swipes at him. He leaves but reemerges later in the set as a giant inflatable torso. All of the elements that have contributed to Iron Maiden’s massive success and loyal following are present this evening.
The fans have cast their unanimous approval for tonight’s performance. It’s an indication that The Book of Souls tour will be another success for the band. The album has already been well received. Maiden fans can expect that it won’t be the last.
1.If Eternity Should Fail
2.Speed of Light
3.Children of the Damned
4.Tears of a Clown
5.The Red and the Black
8.Death or Glory
9.The Book of Souls
10.Hallowed Be Thy Name
11.Fear of the Dark
13.The Number of the Beast