Last night (July 21) Iron Maiden brought their epic Book of Souls world tour to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for the first of a two-night stint. Last night’s and tonight’s shows at the arena are the final two North American shows of what has turned into a whopping 117 date world-wide blood-bath (unless any more are added). With an always impressive array of backdrops, killer stage design, sweat-inducing pyrotechnics, creepy props, energy you’d expect from individuals 45 years their junior, and support from the always entertaining and equally theatrical Ghost, last night’s metal feast at Barclays was an experience for the ages.
Because of lines and a bit of a wait to get into the show, I physically only caught the final few songs of Ghost’s set, though I could hear them the entire time I was getting situated. Visually and sonically, Ghost made for pretty perfect tourmates for Maiden. As a band, Ghost definitely take the theatricality a few steps further as singer Papa Emeritus III (whose true identity was made known on a wider scale this year thanks to a lawsuit from former bandmates) dons a thicket of face-paint and flamboyant costumes while the rhythm section sports ornate masks and dark outfits that anonymizes them into a posse aptly regarded as the ‘Nameless Ghouls.’ For years, frontman Papa Emeritus was known for his Papal-esque hat and flowing clergy-style cassocks and robes, but lately he’s ditched his normal clerical garb for a more formal style of attire akin to a late 19th century tuxedo; think The Hives, but on the set of a Vincent Price movie. Papa also now sports a mane of thick, jet-black hair as opposed to his famous satanic mitre.
Style and aesthetics aside, Ghost slayed Barclays Center more savagely than I’ve ever seen an opening act slay in an arena. I know there were plenty of people in the room familiar with Ghost, but many of the people around me clearly had no idea who Ghost was but were going bonkers at the spectacle they were witnessing. “This is fucking incredible!” and “Holy shit I’m fucking glad we got here early!” are but two accolades I heard shouted from around me as Ghost ripped through “Absolution,” “Mummy Dust,” and “Monstrance Clock.” I feel like I’ve seen Ghost live more times the past few years than I have seen some of my closest family members, but because of their prowess as musicians and their whole dramatic flair, I simply never tire of them. As with any great religion, the church of Ghost created many converts last night.
After a somewhat lengthy intermission that saw the stage go from Gothic cathedral to a Temple of Kukulkan-esque jungle ruin, Iron Maiden’s set kicked off in a similar fashion to the Book of Souls gig I caught at MSG on March 30, 2016, which was with an awesome animated video of Maiden mascot Eddie getting into hijinks in some South American catacomb/tomb type place. The 2017 tour intro was different from the 2016 intro (you can see them both below). Following the intro, the set kicked off in earnest similarly to that MSG show; that is, with the stage being consumed in fog, cauldron fires coming to life on the elevated platform at the back of the stage, and the one-two blast of “If Eternity Should Fall” and “Speed of Light,” two crushers from their 2015 release Book of Souls. For nearly two hours, Iron Maiden unleashed hell from all corners of their catalogue, tweaking the setlist just enough from the 2016 leg of the tour to keep it interesting. They cleaved my skull with balls to the wall renditions of “Wrathchild” from their 1981 classic Killers and “Children of the Damned” from 1982’s The Number of the Beast before segueing into two more crushers from Book of Souls, “Death or Glory” and the preposterously anthemic “The Red and the Black.” This gig, their first in Brooklyn since playing L’Amour decades ago (!), also featured beasts like “The Trooper,” “Powerslave,” “Iron Maiden,” and, of course, “The Number of the Beast.” The full setlist is below.
At press time, five of the six members of Iron maiden, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Janick Gers and Nicko McBrain, are all 60 years of age or older. Bruce Dickinson is the baby of the pack at a mere 58 years old. Yet, as they did when I last saw them, and as I mentioned in paragraph one, they perform with an unbridled energy rare even among performers 45 years their junior. Bruce specifically makes me wheeze just watching his stage antics. Dressed in a hoodie, wearing a monkey mask, or wearing a British military uniform, he runs, jumps, and kicks his way across all available real estate of the stage, all the while singing his goddamned guts out. At one point he even fights Eddie, ripping Eddie’s heart out, squeezing blood out of it, and tossing the organ into the crowd. Prior to last night, they had played 115 gigs all over the world. Yet they were as tight and energetic as if it was their first. I really cannot say how great an experience it is to see these guys live without sounding like a gushing, blubbering fan boy. They are the last of a dying breed of bands who marry flawless musicianship and songwriting, theatrics, immersive stage design, and a consistent artistic motif (aka Eddie) to create an unparalleled fan-centric experience. I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no Iron Maiden.
Pictures of the Barclays Center show are in the gallery above. Pictures of last month’s Prudential Center show with Ghost are here.
Iron Maiden : Book Of Souls Tour 2017 : Setlist
Doctor Doctor (UFO song, played over house system)
If Eternity Should Fail
Speed of Light
Children of the Damned
Death or Glory
The Red and the Black
The Great Unknown
The Book of Souls
Fear of the Dark
The Number of the Beast
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Monty Python song played over house system)
photos by Mathieu Bredeau