Fans lined up along the United Center to hit the general admission floor in waves on Wednesday as Iron Maiden brought their powerful production to Chicago as part of "The Legacy of The Beast" World Tour, supporting their latest (and 17th) studio release, Senjutsu (which landed at #3 on the US charts and peaked at #1 in 24 different countries).
Opening with three cuts from the new album, the Japanese-styled stage, complete with pagodas, and the mechanical mascot Eddie coming out swinging a samurai sword, vocalist Bruce Dickinson transformed from famed frontman into a maniacal, swashbuckling modern-day troubadour leaping from all corners of the stage.
"How are we doing tonight?" asks Dickinson, who was in Chicago this past February to perform an intimate spoken-word performance at the Vic Theatre. Three songs in and the vocalist undoubtedly owned the stage this early in the nearly 2-hour onslaught. Taking a minute to catch his breath, the singer/aviator/author/etc welcomed the crowd, noting his first Chicago appearance with the band was at Navy Pier (August 5, 1982). Dickinson bonded with fanatics in town from Mexico, Canada and multiple states, pointing out those in the nosebleed seats, acknowledging the flags in the audience and unifying everyone as family just as the band forged into "Blood Brothers."
The British monarchs of metal, formed by bassist Steve Harris in 1975, continued to assault Chicago with "Revelations," from 1983's Piece Of Mind. Along with Harris, drummer extraordinaire Nicko McBrain kept the heavy rhythm galloping that Iron Maiden is known for, as the hat-trick trifecta of guitarists Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and the ever-entertaining Janick Gers took turns being the coolest guitar player on stage showing off their bag of six-string tricks and treats.
Visually, the band boasted a never-ending change of scenery with backdrops for nearly each song, as opposed to some bright LED screen which many of their peers seem to do this stage in their careers. Maiden kept it Maiden.
"Flight Of Icarus" had the crowd roaring as Dickinson showered fire from his backpack flamethrower in all directions. The frontman then donned a mask and carried a green lantern during the haunting "Fear of the Dark," possibly displaying the greatest crowd participation of the evening. As a hangman's noose dropped from the rafters for "Hallowed Be Thy Name," the deep shades of red blanketed the stage like some demonic ritual as the band launched into the demonic "The Number of the Beast."
Dickinson teased the crowd, "We may be back," as they left before returning for their first encore. Once again, Eddie re-appeared donning British redcoat attire to dual Dickinson during "The Trooper," going into "The Clansman" (with Harris on acoustic bass) and shout-along arena anthem "Run To The Hills."
As drumsticks, guitar picks, wristbands and drumheads were flung to fans across the United Center, Iron Maiden delivered a second encore with the closer, "Aces High," preceded by Winston Churchill's famous speech, as a monolith bomber plane flailed above the band.
A few years shy of celebrating 50 years as a worldwide phenomenon, one wonders how Iron Maiden continues to grow as a band and evolve musically. By looking at the nearly sold-out United Center, the fans will keep buying the records and coming back as long as this cavalry brings the ammunition.
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