The crux of my trip across the Atlantic Ocean to a frozen five days in Ontario was for one reason only and that was to catch Iron Maiden on their worldwide Book of Souls tour.
Why travel for 3,428 miles one way to see a band who I’ve seen in excess of 20 times and are playing literally on my doorstep in June?
To begin with, because it’s Iron Maiden. Shows aren’t exclusive to citizens of that city, country or even continent. Heavy metal is a global family. The three of us in attendance were most definitely not the only ones from the UK there, and out of the 14,000 inside the Air Canada Centre on Sunday evening I’d hazard a guess of a sizeable contingent of people there representing multiple pages from an atlas.
Secondly, it’s indoors. I go to quite a few festivals, but as mentioned before, I’m not overly keen on the giant events like where their only UK date is scheduled for in June at the Download Festival with another 90,000 people in attendance. With my advancing years I prefer the more intimate surroundings with marginally better creature comforts and actually being able to hear the acts regardless of where you are situated, without the wind swirling the sound around and making your vantage point pot luck as to whether you hear all or some of the sound emanating from the stage that could be a quarter of a mile away.
Gig day should have been a full on, wall to wall Maiden fest. It should of kicked off around noon with the Trooper pre party held in the Tilted Kilt bar directly across the road from the hotel, but due to me being ill I didn’t make an appearance there till 4pm, just as it was time to head off on the short walk in the snow to the Air Canada Centre.
One of our travelling party booked us in for the Trooper VIP party at the arena. On arrival we saw a merchandise stall in the concourse and proceeded to snag our Canadian specific event shirts. When we signed in for the VIP we were handed out Trooper branded goodie bags and another shirt of the same design that we’d just paid $50 for. Schoolboy error! We were able to swap them, but if we weren’t I’m sure there would have been takers on eBay.
We were herded through the doors at 5:30 and taken into the bowels of the arena to the Platinum Club for more free Trooper and bar snacks. As to not risk missing the main event I declined everything put out in front if me. Sixty minutes later we headed into the main bowl to check out The Raven Age.
Bounding on stage with all their youthful exuberance the London five piece ploughed through their short set of modern metal with a very eager parent watching on from the mixing desk. To our left was Steve Harris, who’s son George is the guitarist in The Raven Age. They appeared to go down well with the Canadian metal heads in attendance and made some new friends.
As UFO’s Doctor Doctor rumbles through the PA those in the know are whipped into a frenzy as we know what is imminent. The lights go down, the video intro rolls on the large screens either side of the stage and the road crew unveil the Mayan stage set in the darkness. The almost spoken intro to If Eternity Should Fail sees Bruce Dickinson alone on top of the stage in front of a smoking urn before the band kicks in and the breaks are let off the roller coaster.
Seamlessly new song Speed of Light follows and sounds better live than on album. Delving back into the 80’s, Children of the Dammed gets a slot in the set for the first time in seven years and splits up a run of four new songs from the current album. A song most Maiden diehards want to see live since the albums release is The Red and the Black, which rounds out the first five songs, and goes down really well, even with its long instrumental ending.
The Trooper, a stalwart of a Maiden live show, sees Bruce resplendent in his red tunic and waving the Union flag high above his head. It is followed by the epic Powerslave before another pair of new songs. As with all Maiden shows there is that element of pantomime and theatrics involved. Whether it’s the afore mentioned Powerslave sung with a Mexican wrestling mask on, Hallowed be Thy Name accompanied with a hang mans noose or the giant axe wielding savage Eddie that struts on stage during The Book of Souls and ends up having his heart ripped out and sacrificed to the Mayan gods.
A trio of classics closes out the main body of the set and the now standard huge Eddie head rises at the back of the stage during Iron Maiden. Not the most technical looking of props that have been seen, but it is easily one of the best looking heads as it looks so much bigger and textured than most seen before.
The encore opens up with Number of the Beast with another huge inflatable appearing on stage in the form of the devil with his arms crossed overseeing proceedings. Possibly the curve balls of the evening are the last two tracks. Blood Brothers hasn’t seen the light of day since 2011’s Final Frontier tour and the set closed with Wasted Years, which has been pretty regular but never closing the set.
With a career spanning four decades and a limited amount of stage time there are always going to be songs people want to see that have been left out, but it is refreshing not to hear certain songs tour after tour after tour.
No doubt I’ll see them again in Europe later this year and probably at their spiritual home of Donington, but fingers crossed they’ll announce an arena tour of the UK later on as standing in a field with 90,000 people won’t get anywhere near as good as the evening spent with mainly 14,000 Canadians.