Iron Maiden & Alice Cooper Were All The Spectacle In Mansfield
Band Photo: Iron Maiden (?)
It was six years ago when I last saw the mighty Iron Maiden. This time was different, as the band embarked on the “Maiden England” Tour, closely matching the set list that was played during the “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” tour, which I remembered so well. The site was at the Comcast Center, an outdoor venue in Mansfield, Massachusetts (called Boston by the band). It was a perfect night, cool - threatening weather (that never came) - and a crowd of 14,000 people to celebrate a moment in time that for some of us was the rare opportunity to recapture memories from 1989-1990 that were frozen in our minds. The bonus of Alice Cooper as an opener made this a very special night indeed.
Iron Maiden shows are a pilgrimage for seasoned metalheads. It is rare to find a Maiden virgin, but I found myself in between two, my wife to my right and a 50 plus year old gentleman who found it important to grace me with his “knowledge” of music and the fact that Iron Maiden “cut the set of Alice Cooper short because they knew they couldn’t follow him.” I nicely reminded the man that 14,000 people showed up to see Iron Maiden, despite the fact that I myself am a huge fan of the Coop. We then engaged in an almost one sided “discussion” (mostly dominated by his apparent low self esteem and/or lack of companion) about how great music was in the 60's and ‘70's and how the 80's sucked (until, as he put it, he “started to appreciate it lately”). Though I was born in 1971, I expressed that I related (somewhat), but my love was the 80's and felt (at the time) that the 90's was a weak decade for metal. The engaged discussion was filled with mind-boggling ignorance which detracted from the importance of the moment for my wife to whom I periodically turned to mouth the words “Save me.”
For those who have not witnessed Alice Cooper live, what you see on this part of the Iron Maiden tour is the abbreviated, but highly entertaining, horror show. Stripped of its full stage glory, Alice Cooper still manages to chop his own head off, turn himself into a giant Frankenstein and stab the annoying staged paparazzi photographer. Most of the hits are there, commencing with a personal favorite “Black Widow,” complete with the intro courtesy of the late Vincent Price (which ironically was recreated by Bruce Dickinson on the 1999 “Humanary Stew” Alice Cooper tribute album). Alice played the typical hits: “Eighteen,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” “Feed My Frankenstein” and “Poison.” His affinity for the “Brutal Planet” album allowed the title track to survive the cut of this shortened set.
It was my first time seeing new guitarist Orianthi Panagaris, the young Aussie phenom who took over for Damon Johnson after his departure to the new incarnation of Thin Lizzy. She played quite well and even had a brief, but exciting solo. Given the curfews imposed by the venue, Alice sacrificed not only a large part of his normal show but his dialogue between songs. The show seemed rushed, but well rehearsed. Alice is a legend and having any opportunity to see him is a welcome pleasure. I look forward to see the full ensemble and horror filled stage show at another time when he resumes his headline engagements.
Violating my own internal rule of checking out crap phone videos on YouTube prior to any show, I did see a portion of Iron Maiden’s latest tour, which merely comprised of the middle part of “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.” This was enough to satiate my desire to see this stage set. It is well documented now, but the stage set is the biggest and most amazing ever witnessed from the U.K. legends. Critics talk about the band “losing a step” and Bruce having an inability to capture his greatness of the 80's due to age. I challenge any of those critics to witness this show and not come away satisfied. Sure, the songs are played slightly slower and Bruce needs to break up the longer notes into fractured pieces, but I wish I had the energy at my age that this band and especially its frontman put out each evening. The set was brilliantly designed, a bi-level “ice mound,” the walls of which were adorned with Eddie’s various incarnations. Bruce had the ability to run around the top, as well as the main stage. Behind Nikko’s molded-to-the-middle drum riser was where the band either changed back drop tapestries, raised amazing ginormous Eddie’s and other characters, or both (including recreating the cover of “Seventh Son” with a 25 foot version of Eddie complete with flaming brain and holding his “womb bag” with moving son).
The set was structured like a greatest hits album, with no songs post 1992. The “Seventh Son” album was well represented in the title track, the lead song “Moonchild,” “Can I Play With Madness?,” “The Evil That Men Do,” and “The Clairvoyant.” The addition of “The Prisoner” (not played since 1991) was the thrill of the night for me. “Afraid to Shoot Strangers” was another welcome sight, a track that is much better live than studio. It came as no surprise that “Fear of the Dark,” would present an opportunity to capture the glory of European audiences, and this crowd was more than up to the challenge. “Run to the Hills” summoned the 15 foot walking “General Custer” version of Eddie, who battled Janick with a giant sword.
Bruce is still is one of the greatest frontmen of all time. He understands that the music engages the crowd without him having to speak a word. Instead, he chooses to wildlywhip the crowd into a frenzy by flailing his arms about like a mad conductor. Of the few times Bruce spoke for any length, he reiterated the words that caused so much discord with the queen of nag, Sharon Osbourne, in 2005 at Ozzfest. He surveyed the crowed, likened the arena to a huge martini glass and stated “We don’t have a reality show and there is no sex tape, so you all must be here because of the music.” Brilliant...and so right.
Whether or not you call yourself a fan of Iron Maiden, no one can come away from this show without having the satisfaction that their money was well spent. This half of the tour features two major headline acts with so much history, that if the music doesn’t appeal, the spectacle of it all sure will. Waiting six years to see Iron Maiden for my fifth time proved a charm. Experiencing my wife’s first time seeing them made this an extra special night I won’t soon forget.
Carl Frederick is a staff writer for Metal Underground.com. From the early to mid-90's, Carl published his own fanzine called C.R.O.M. In 1997, he released a compilation entitled "CROM: The Resurrection of True Metal," which featured songs from bands from around the world, including the first U.S. release of any kind for bands like Italy's Rhapsody (n/k/a Rhapsody of Fire) and Brazil's Angra. Follow Carl on Facebook and Twitter: @CROMCarl.
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