Iron Maiden at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, Irvine, May 31
By Skylaire Alfvegren
(photos by Anne Varak).
“I’ve got to pinch myself and say it’s not Long Beach Arena in 1985,” Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson bellowed to the sold out crowd of 15,000 at the Verizon Amphitheater on Saturday night in Irvine. With a long hair to short hair ratio of 5:1 (oddly, same as the band’s), “The Maiden Family” included seven and 57 year olds, all assembled for quarter-century old metal tunes, beginning with “Aces High.” Theirs is a timeless pursuit: though Maiden's over three decades into their career, they've played to more southern Californians in the first half of 2008 than any year of their career (including the aforementioned four-night stint in ’85). The band was in top form.
Bedazzling in a cammo breastplate and spangled parachute pants, Dickinson careened, trilled and projected around a trio of guitarists (Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and the lethally dancing Janick Gers) and bass deity Steve Harris.
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A giant Eddie sphinx (their longtime mascot), flanked by twin sarcophagi, enclosed shoeless drummer Nicko McBrain. Dusting the Powerslave tour props off for this, the “Somewhere Back in Time” tour, Dickinson was in top form, metal’s goofy answer to James Bond. The singer-pilot-fencer egged the crowd into choruses for “Two Minutes to Midnight,” and “Run to the Hills,” donned his red coat and a tattered Union Jack for “The Trooper,” was menaced by a giant red-eyed demon for “Number of the Beast,” and further menaced by giant Eddies (the mascot's mummified likeness burst from the rear screen, and later his Somewhere in Time likeness stomped around the stage, aping lead axman Smith’s shrediliciousness).
“Some days you’re the pigeon, some days you’re the statue,” joked Dickinson in an explanatory diatribe with an ecological twist (“Coleridge talked about preserving our love of beauty, and if we don’t, tragic things will happen… they kind of have”) before ripping into “Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner.”
Dickinson worked in his Aleister Crowley references with “Moonchild” and “Revelation” (the singer’s movie about the black magician was shown at Cannes); his voice among the most operatically masculine in music. Closing with “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” the set was flawless, and punctuated — predictably — by Dickinson’s affable banter. Promising to return with a new album in tow, the band left the stage (“this has been the best night of the tour”), it seemed, only because of the venue’s 11:30 ‘curfew.’ “We might wake up the fish,” Dickenson joked, as Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” ushered out the relatively blissful mob into their cramped, Irvine-style departure.