Xcel Energy Center
St. Paul, MN
June 16th, 2017
Though there remains a concert bucket list, there aren’t many bands/artists that matches the urgency I felt when Iron Maiden announced, as expected, the North American leg of their The Book Of Souls tour. The precise locations weren’t announced right away, however presale was set up. Being a quite massive Iron Maiden fan and having them still on my “gotta see” list, my eyes were like that of an eagle. Patience, and determination, paid off as I grabbed tickets when the St. Paul show was announced. As many feel about concerts, then the shock and excitement really kicked in.
Iron Maiden releases their sixteenth studio album, The Book Of Souls, the follow up to 2011’s ‘The Final Frontier’. Though I’m sure nearly any Maiden fan, or anyone who enjoyed, would ever complain which tour they were able to see the band on. However for myself, this tour was likely a great one. Knowing the high probability that “If Eternity Should Fail” would open the concert, a song with a very dramatic intro and buildup, only fueled my joyful eagerness. It opens the album with instant curiosity and excitement in a way that The Final Frontier’s opener, “Satellite 15…The Final Frontier”, didn’t. I enjoy the song but felt it seemed to stall the listener from the signature Iron Maiden sound, which doesn’t arrive until 4 1/2 minutes after the start. I believe that if they had split the long song with an intro into two tracks (one being the intro), it would’ve hooked me as usual. However, an album review can certainly sit tight for another post.
2016/2017…The Book Of Souls tour:
In case there are new fans or even not a fan, here’s a quick brief about Iron Maiden tours. Bruce Dickinson, the band’s vocalist, happens to not only be a license pilot but fully practicing and piloting large, passenger planes. Dickinson began flying in the 1990’s, regularly flying Boeing 757s. Though flying continuously since, even being employed by Astraeus as a marketing director. Along came Maiden’s “Somewhere Back In Time World Tour” arrived, marking the first time that Dickinson took to flying the band’s, then chartered, Boeing 757 throughout 2008-2009. The plane was quickly nicknamed “Ed Force One”, named after Iron Maiden’s mascot/returning artistic character featured on all album covers. This is easily the largest turning point as to how the band toured. They returned to the road in 2011 for the Final Frontier Tour, again with “Ed Force One”. In 2016, for their latest tour, they unveiled a new Ed Force One, a massive Boeing 747-400 jumbo jet. Eddie is painted on the tale of the plane as it can be seen below. Without a doubt, this addition still enables the band to affordably play for audiences in more remote and distant locations than many bands and artists would be able to.
With so much global airspace and miles to cover, it’s completely not a surprise that it limits the number of shows the band can play in the United States as well as other parts of the world that are normally toured more heavily. This all leads to the point of extra excitement I felt over finally nabbing tickets, legitimately of course, ….I knew it was extra special for this reason.
The lights went out and the concert opened with an animated movie featuring Eddie running amock on massive screens. As with their legendary album cover artwork, the artwork in the animation movie was extremely high quality and detailed. After approximately three minutes, the movie ended and the stage lit up with strategically placed giant candles as the soft, very unique intro of “If Eternity Should Fall”. Joining was Dickinson’s voice, slightly echoed and making the entire Xcel Energy Center feel like we had already arrived in another world. 90 seconds later, all members join as the lights flash on and Dickinson marches on top of a, barely, second level “horse-shoe” shaped platform. It’s well known that Maiden fans are one of those passionate fanbases that have 150% of their energy involved and this show was no different. Fans had travelled from Wisconsin, obviously us from North Dakota, and even Canada as well. Following with the second song, also the second song off The Book of Souls, they launched into “Speed of Light”. The title is certainly fitting as it is a very uptempo song. Some pieces even remind me a little of The Cult’s uptempo rhythms. Or,…was it Iron Maiden still first? Most will mock me for even pretending that it matters.
As I expected, Dickinson as well as guitarists Adrian Smith, Janick Gers, Dave Murray; and bassist Steve Harris hadn’t stood still for more than two-three seconds. This never changed throughout their entire two hour set. Beloved drummer, Nicko McBrain, is excused from this as…well, he’s a drummer. However, I find the guy fun and humorous. He, as well as the other band members, were featured on the two massive screens streamed from live cameras and he was back there smiling and laughing as usual.
“Wrathchild” was next on the set followed by a very old early-80’s Maiden classic, “Children of the Damned”.
Returning to their newest release, they continued on with “Death or Glory”, also very high tempo. The lights went out, all seemed to go semi-quiet. Then a single spotlight shined down on bassist Steve Harris as he played the very cool bass intro to “The Red and the Black”, which literally uses bass chords. This is one of my favorite songs off the new album for a couple reasons. The first is simply listening at home, the verses and rhythm of the vocals during the verses likely impossible to not bob your head to. It seemed as if they took the best parts of “El Dorado”, a song off the previous album, which has a gallop-pattern to it and really tough it up with lead guitar backing almost punching vocals. Immediately following is another fantastic part of the song. Melodic ‘wooooh’s structure much of the chorus. Now, Maiden fans are famous for singing along with even guitar solos at concerts. It gave me goosebumps as it must have been 80% of the crowd joining in to sing.
Classics and concert staples, “The Trooper” and “Powerslave” followed. “The Great Unknown” and “The Book of Souls” hooked along after that. More goosebumps joyfully appeared when the intro to another concert staple, “Fear of the Dark”, began. Also massively well known for the crowd singing along. However, very complimenting, they began singing (‘wooooh’) along to the intro lead solo/riff in its quiet opening. The singing was so loud that I was surprised and impressed even though I was fully “amped” up for this moment. 7:30 minutes or so played on to, in my opinion, the song a new person coming to Iron Maiden should first hear. It still contains all the great components of Iron Maiden’s versatile sound wrapped into one long epic anthem. It contains, I think, the longest stretch of guitar solos starting at the mid-point of the song. These solos trade and rotate between the three amazing guitarists Smith, Gers, and Murray. Yes, the crowd was singing along to this journey as well. Dickinson marched, jumped, and spawned a Dickinson-style evil laugh at any point he wasn’t singing. Again, their energy was more than memorable.
One of their oldest songs, “Iron Maiden” closed out the show before the lights flicked out quickly leaving only the large candles for light. They returned on stage for playing the encore songs “The Number of the Beast”, “Blood Brothers”, and “Wasted Years”. During the break before “Blood Brothers”, Dickinson began speaking a little about the world today. Sadly, this is often said at concerts in recent years with an absense of happiness and pride. However, he then had Minnesotans yell, Canadians yell, and so forth while it was reminded that we’re all coming together for music and enjoying it together. Using “we” of course, he then repeated what we need to be reminded often: that it doesn’t matter what race, color of skin, creed, age, background, social status…we’re all there for the purpose of music and we should take that mentality and perspective home with us. As an ending to his interaction with the crowd during the break, “…because in the end, we are all…Blood Brothers.
This was an amazing concert, to which I don’t really need to boast about the energy Iron Maiden brings on stage with them and high level of interaction with audience members and how passionate the fans are. This has been well known for a very long time. After all, the band is celebrating their 42nd anniversary this year. To try to contemplate how many individuals they have entertained live isn’t really something that is easy to wrap your head around. The sea of people showing in the DVD “Rock in Rio”, filmed at Brazil’s second largest city, Rio de Janerio.
If you don’t mind, or better yet: love, hard rock/heavy metal, I absolutely recommend trying to see this band in concerts. However, plan ahead because tickets sell out extremely fast. St. Paul’s night had a sold out crowd of 14,000 souls. Also, very notably, the concert opened with Sweden’s Ghost (B.C.). They were great live and put on an energetic and memorable show. Even though vocalist Tobias Forge‘s Swedish accent was very thick, he interacted closely and often with the crowd.
wikipedia.org -> Bruce Dickinson
wikipedia.org -> Iron Maiden
wikipedia.org -> Iron Maiden -> Ed Force One
setlist.fm for documenting the setlist. Thank you!
wikipedia.org -> Tobias Forge
Buy ‘The Book of Souls’ on Amazon