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OAKLAND – Heavy metal fans were out in full force on Tuesday at Oakland Arena. Denim was on display, vests were vintage and patches ranged from Sodom to Hirax and all shades of thrash and death. But the T-shirts said it all: IRON MAIDEN; often accompanied by an emphatic zombie image to scare the kiddies and evince reverence for one of metal’s most durable acts.
Oakland witnessed Iron Maiden midway through a 44-date tour and from the first assault, Iron Maiden clearly meant business. Four guitarists led the offensive, until vocalist extraordinaire Bruce Dickinson outpaced them, lunged over a range of monitors and the band took off with a supercharged “Aces High.” Long-time Iron Maiden guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith bonded over some sweet harmonies as a full-sized World War II fighter plane hovered overhead. Dickinson reached deep for the classic chorus, propelled by a band excited to be on stage.
Three songs in, Dickinson addressed the activated audience with a long monologue in which he acknowledged Iron Maiden’s austerity. He announced to rigorous cheers that the band members, combined, had accumulated more years on earth than the USA. By that point Iron Maiden had already appeared old onstage, though not tired. Guitarist Janick Gers leaped and bounded with showman’s grace. Dickinson ran, waved a flag, and batted a noose hung from the heavens. During fan favorite “The Trooper” he engaged a 12-feet-tall robotic Eddie, the band’s ubiquitous zombie mascot, in a duel of blades.
Fans of Piece Of Mind were not disappointed. An elaborate cathedral interior of stained-glass arches served as a backdrop to the Dickinson-penned “Revelations.” A curtain was removed and drummer Nicko McBrain at last became fully visible behind his massive, booming drum set. Iron Maiden then ran through a series of somewhat obscure middle-period songs before returning to the classics with the ripping gem “Flight Of Icarus,” its highest-charting U.S. single. Smith flawlessly executed the familiar first guitar solo, then Murray took the second solo to rare heights with dramatic bends and whirlwind speed playing.
Bandleader and founder Steve Harris acted as field captain. He saved one song from a miscommunication onstage and carried others with total commitment. To introduce “Fear Of The Dark” he stormed the front of the stage at a sprint before Murray ripped an absolute face-melter and McBrain copiloted with huge fluid drum fills.
Always an energizing band to see live, Iron Maiden’s show featured large-scale horror sets and athletic displays from the band. Columns of fire erupted to paint defiant pictures of hell as Dickinson appeared to run through the flames.
With Harris at the vanguard, Iron Maiden thrusted and slashed its way through a blitzkrieg of only 13 songs before retiring to the wings. Mainstays like “Wasted Years” and “Can I Play With Madness” did not appear. The band also ignored its two most recent studio albums, and only one song from the Paul di’Anno era made an appearance. Soon the sidelines proved too peaceable for these martial metalheads, and they returned for an encore that included “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and “Run To The Hills,” their best-known song.
English metalcore rockers The Raven Age opened the concert with a nine-song set including tunes from its two albums, Conspiracy and Darkness Will Rise.
The “Legacy Of The Beast” tour ends Oct. 15 in Santiago, Chile.
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Follow writer Alexander Baechle at Instagram.com/writheinsmoke.