One does not become a metal god overnight. It takes years and years of proving yourself in the studio and on the road before such a mantle can become yours, and as many great bands as there are in the world, most never achieve that level.
But most bands are not Iron Maiden, and their arrival for the U.S. leg of the “Book of Souls” world tour hit Virginia’s Jiffy Lube Live, a venue name Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson even made fun of from the stage. These English gents have been doing their thing longer than much of their audience has been alive (another thing Dickinson noted in a detailed, humorous build-up to “Children of the Damned”), and nothing from what I saw on the stage that hot night June 3 made me think for once about how old these guys really are! Everyone in the band, except Dickinson, is in his 60s, but they play like spry youngsters trying to prove themselves. I’ve seen Maiden so many times I can’t recall, and I never saw a bad show. This one was focused on their last record, 2015’s rock-solid “The Book of Souls,” though they set up their playlist pretty interestingly. They went two new songs, two old songs, two new songs, two old songs, etc. throughout the night until the encores, which were three classics. It was a great way to showcase the new stuff, which goes over pretty well live, but always helps shoot back to please the longtime fans who just want to hear the hits.
At exactly 8:50, Maiden’s staple opening of UFO’s “Doctor Doctor” blared over the soundsystem, their longtime cue to get to your fucking seats. When the lights went down, we were treated to a video of prehistoric Eddie, battling Neanderthal foes on his way to gain access to a giant, bleeding heart. Once he grabbed it, on the top of the stage riser, Dickinson opened “If Eternity Should Fail” while hovered over a steaming cauldron. Interestingly, Maiden used no pyro (maybe sensitivity over the recent Arianne Grande show bombing, or just by plan), but there were plenty of bright flames throughout the night. Once the song kicked into high gear, so did the band, as all six members raced across the stage, diving, kicking, whipping their guitars around, and playing like an exuberant group of kids! “Speed of Light” followed, and then we went into two classics, live staple “Wrathchild” and aforementioned “Damned,” where Dickinson reminded anyone born circa 1983 or 1984 that their parents may have spawned them while listening to the song. Funny anecdote, but who bangs during that song?!
“Death or Glory” and a stirring “The Red and the Black” followed, the latter of which really should become a normal live cut going forward. It’s got the fun crowd sing-along, it’s dramatic, what’s not to like? Then we went back in time for “The Trooper,” because they can’t leave the building without playing it, and “Powerslave,” where Dickinson donned a black-and-silver lucha libre mask for the entire song. “The Great Unknown” followed, which is one of the few non-epics on “Book of Souls,” which then led into that album’s title track. I was always OK with that song, but it sounds way better live. This also was the part of the show where giant Eddie wandered onto the stage to do battle with the band. Jannick Gers ran between Eddie’s legs, Steve Harris batted him away, guitarists Adrian Smith and Dave Murray almost succumbed, but Dickinson was able to thwart him and rip out his bleeding heart. Yet, even sans heart, Eddie didn’t die. Because he’ll never die. “Fear of the Dark,” which erupted the crowd, and band anthem “Iron Maiden” (complete with a blow-up Eddie that rose from the back of the riser) sent the crowd into a frenzy and ended a very satisfying main set.
For the encore, a giant devil rose up from the stage, while Vincent Price’s eerie introduction led into “The Number of the Beast,” one of the great metal songs of all time, and also one of the most misunderstood. The band raced onto the stage with renewed energy, flying everywhere to deliver a song that forever has a place in metal lore. Dickinson then noted the terrible terror attacks that took place in London that day, but he used it as a uniting point. He talked about the varied ages among audience members, the numerous nationalities represented (I noticed that in the merch line when I had conversations with people from so many different places, which was just great), and that fed into “Blood Brothers,” a galvanizing track where the audience members roared back the simple but powerful chorus. The night wrapped with a powerful “Wasted Years,” itself a song that should have left everyone with the idea that we should grasp tight amazing nights like these, when the great Iron Maiden reminds us all the true power of metal.
Polarizing throwback metal powers Ghost opened the show and they, not surprisingly, ruled shit. This is a band that, if their popularity continues to grow, and they don’t make stupid missteps, should be ruling arenas on their own. Papa Emeritus III was in complete command, and his new Nameless Ghouls made anyone aware of the recent controversy surrounding the band forget all that shit. Naturally, they opened with “Square Hammer,” which has one of the best choruses ever. “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” followed, which sounded amazing, and then they hit oldie “Ritual,” which still is one of their best songs. Papa charmed the crowd, speaking of evil and perversions (he mentioned female orgasms at one point, but I couldn’t totally make out what he was saying), as he and the band hit “Devil Church,” a stirring take of “Cirice,” “Absolution,” “Mummy Dust,” and “Monstrance Clock,” which was a weird choice for a set closer. The crowd was super into Ghost, and there wasn’t the expected heavy “Maiden!” chant at all during their set. That’s a good sign that Ghost have made a slew of minions very convincingly.
It was an awesome night at the big outdoor shed, though Jiffy Lube Live could be run a little better. Going into the place, you’re whipped into a formless herd with no semblance of line structure and no one knowing what to do. There were no staff members giving instructions at all. Once inside, it was nearly impossible to get merch or food without a very, very long wait in a line that never moved. It took me 35 minutes to buy one shirt. The positive in that is, as noted, all of us trying to give Maiden our money had a chance to bond, tell each other where we’re from (guy in front of me lived 15 minutes away; the group behind us traveled from Asia!), and make friends for the night. Also, holy shit, we paid a lot of money to get unobstructed view of the stage. So, a half dozen or so people I had to chase from the railing in front of us. They did not have seats in the area, and they cursed at me and called me derogatory names for asking them to leave. Maybe I sound like a dick, but dude, I drove along way to see this show and spent money that really isn’t disposable. Look, security should handle this. I asked several times for them to do something about it. They just kind of stared and meekly approached these people. I was aggravated, also had no alcohol in me, but had to slap these assholes on the back and ask them to move. Good times. Like, look, don’t do that to people. Don’t stand in front of people who paid their money and block their view. I’m not the asshole for yelling at you. You are the asshole. That said, good times, Maiden was amazing, and despite the Pens losing that night, we went home fulfilled with the light of metal.
But really, Jiffy Lube Live, get your shit together.