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Iron Maiden - March 14, 2008 - Izod Center, Meadowlands, NJ

By: Greg Xenakes

Sitting through an entire re-enactment of A Matter of Life and Death on the last U.S. tour in 2006 made me long for the glory days of Iron Maiden, like many fans who were disappointed with the group’s choice for a setlist. Thankfully the band, which has proven to be masterful at marketing, strapped into the Wayback Machine for a journey into the past on this year’s “Somewhere Back In Time” tour.

In celebration of the recently released Life After Death double DVD, the lads rose to the occasion with a collection packed to the brim with pieces that celebrated landmark recordings from the 1980s. The stage was fitted with hieroglyphic scrawls and backdrop artwork that captured the cover of the Powerslave, with an Egyptian Eddie the Head being flanked by versions of the metal mascot during his Somewhere In Time and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son periods.

Just as it was in 1985 at Long Beach Arena, Churchill’s speech rang through the PA system, the band then bursting to life with “Aces High.” Singer and pilot Bruce Dickinson who, in an ironic twist, now flies around the band and crew on a modified Boeing 757 from one tour stop to the next, may not be able to hit the high notes a quarter century on, but then he never really did take too many chances live.

Steve Harris took aim with his rapid-fire bass during “2 Minutes To Midnight,” displaying an unrivaled dexterity that almost made up for the fact that his act of nepotism, having daughter Lauren open the show, nearly proved disastrous. Slipping “The Trooper” and “The Number Of The Beast” into the first six songs of the night was a gutsy move and while “Wasted Years” put guitarists Adrian Smith and Dave Murray front and center, it failed to carry the melodic punch I expected. Punctuating the pulsation of “6-6-6” during “Beast,” flash pots ripped across the top of the set and surrounded drummer Nicko McBrain in near-perfect unison with the music.

During the epic “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” with all of its smoke machine mystique, I was reminded of how I still don’t see third guitarist Janick Gers as a full-fledged member of Maiden. For a man in his 50’s, playing heavy metal and prancing around in his neat, white booties gave me the creeps. I also wonder what he’s really adding to the mix since the band sounded exactly the same before he became the third wheel in the axe attack.

Tapping an endless supply of energy reserved for men half his age Dickinson, who has long since sheared his stringy mane and opted for a more aerodynamic hair style, raced from one end of the stage to the other during “Run to the Hills,” vaulting over monitors and coming dangerously close to overshooting his intended landing. It may have been my imagination, or lack of attention towards Harris and Smith who took care of the backing vocals, but I could have sworn I heard some, shall we say ‘enhancements’ to Dickinson’s vocals during the chorus? I’d like to think the guys are playing fair, but in the age of Hannah Montana one can never be too sure.

Finally, it was time to bring on Eddie, in whatever form he was to take on this outing. During the last tour of the U.S. the fictitious character was supposed to rise atop an inflatable tank, but a malfunction at the performance in Camden, New Jersey left me with little more than an explanation from Dickinson about the desired effect. Dug out from the mothballs was Cyborg Eddie who was fully mobile and playfully toyed with Dave and Janick as they offered up their guitars during “Iron Maiden.”

I was disappointed with the encore of “Moonchild,” “The Clairvoyant” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” but that’s probably because most of the crowd pleasers had already been used up. Although, it would have been a treat to feel the second-deck of the arena shutter from “Flight of Icarus,” “The Prisoner” and/or “22 Acacia Avenue,” the latter being coyly requested on a homemade banner (see bed sheet) that claimed former NY Governor Elliott Spitzer was a fan of the sleazy thoroughfare.

With so many classic tracks that still need to be given their proper attention, perhaps the group’s recently announced North American leg of the tour in June will take care of unfinished business.

www.ironmaiden.com


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