By Gruesome Greg
Truth be told, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son isn’t my favourite Iron Maiden album, by any stretch. More synth-heavy and progressive-sounding than their previous releases, even singles such as “Can I Play With Madness” or “The Evil That Men Do” fall flat compared to the likes of “2 Minutes to Midnight” and “The Trooper.” But does that mean I’m skipping their Seventh-Son-heavy summer tour? Awwww hell no!
Playing to a swarming sea of humanity at the sold-out Molson Amphitheatre on a warm but breezy night, Maiden made Seventh Son work for me. Though they didn’t have me leaping out of my seat by starting their set with “Moonchild,” the elaborate stage production coupled with a classic set certainly won me over by the end of the night. By injecting the aforementioned “Trooper” and “2 Minutes” into the set, along with “The Number of the Beast,” “Run to the Hills” and “Phantom of the Opera,” it certainly made the material from their 1988 release appear more palatable. And when it comes to stage production, they definitely kicked it up a notch.
Between the rotating backdrops, 3D sculptures and, of course, the giant robot himself, there had to be no less than a dozen versions of Eddie make appearances on stage. Most impressive were the Buddha-like statue brought out for the title track (or was it “The Clairvoyant”?) as well as the Seventh Son cover-art reproduction, complete with flaming skull, that popped up during “Iron Maiden”–not to mention the colonial solider-style Eddie who strolled out on stage for “Run to the Hills.” Also, while the flames and smoke were nothing new, this was the first time I recall Maiden using fireworks in their live set–of course, you kinda need an outdoor venue to shoot ’em off…
Performance-wise, well, if you’ve seen Maiden in the new millennium, you’ve seen how they interact on stage. Not much has changed in that regard. Janick Gers is still a prancing, strutting goofball, while the other two guitarists are more static, allowing Steve Harris to gallop across the stage while Bruce Dickinson makes full use of his own catwalk up above the drum riser. Twas a bit unusual to see and hear Harris on backing vocals for a couple tunes this time, though it only confirms what he’s been saying for years–the guy can’t really sing.
And while nobody’s gonna complain too much about an encore that starts with “Aces High” and ends with “Running Free,” I thought Nicko McBrain had it in his contract somewhere that he’d leave the band if they stopped playing “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” conspicuously absent from the set list. I suppose they might be in the market for a new drummer once this tour is done. 😉
Also gotta give props to Alice Cooper, who delivered a solid 50-minute opening set for those who showed up early. Without any time for ballads or to plug the new album, the old man reeled off the hits and busted out all the props–a live snake for “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” tossing money into the crowd during “Billion Dollar Babies,” and a massive Frankenstein’s monster that (almost) rivalled Eddie, which emerged during “Feed My Frankenstein.” Of course, there was the traditional guillotine scene during a refrain of “I Love the Dead” before Alice emerged in top hat and Blue Jays jersey for a rousing rendition of “School’s Out” that dropped streamers, confetti and balloons into the audience. You would not know the man was 64 from watching him last night, that’s for sure!