My introduction to rock music came when I was about 12 years old. My dad had AC/DC’s High Voltage on CD and would play it in the car. I grew such an attachment to it, that I claimed the CD as my own and would play it on my walkman all the time — even though you couldn’t really walk without the CD skipping. I remember listening to it on repeat in my bed, daydreaming about how I’d be the coolest kid in middle school. How many of my classmates knew “The Jack?” Probably not many! Of course, it’s not the most appropriate song for kids: I don’t remember what I thought Bon Scott meant when he sang “I took a high oozin and I curdled her cream!” But I remember thinking that when I listened to it, I felt like a total bada–. I loved how rock music made me feel.
I’ve been to my fair share of rock festivals and concerts since then. My very first experience was back in 2009 at Six Flags in New Jersey as part of an MTVU Video Music Awards Tour. We caught All Time Low (and yeah, Justin Bieber was on the bill too). But I loved it and I was forever hooked on live music. Later, I would attend Bamboozle and the Warped Tour and I got into the hardcore and screamo scene. I lived for moshing and headbanging until I threw my neck out one too many times.
Prior to attending Iron Maiden’s concert last night (October 21) at Newark, New Jersey’s Prudential Center, the oldest metal band I’ve seen live was Tool (also at Prudential). Tool’s psychedelic, kaleidoscopic visuals, the impressive drumming of Danny Carey and Maynard James Keenan’s goosebump-inducing voice all completely blew my mind. But I loved that they made the show a visual presentation. Music was at the core of the show, but it felt like an experience. Iron Maiden was like that, too.
Iron Maiden is a band that I’d always heard of, but they weren’t really one that I followed. I was born in 1993; the first Maiden album that came out in my lifetime was The X-Factor — their first album after singer Bruce Dickinson left the band. Thankfully, he returned in 1999. I’ll get to him in a minute. But I want to say that Iron Maiden had the same effect on me last night that Tool had years ago. It wasn’t just a concert, it was an event, and one that I’m glad I experienced.
I was fortunate to have seats very close to the stage, so I could see everything. I had no idea the lengths of production these British rockers go to for their shows! Now I know why they have have their own 747 (“Flight 666,” obviously; I learned that it’s the subject of an Iron Maiden documentary)! I knew about ten of their most popular songs, but I had zero expectations and no idea of how Iron Maiden performs live. Boy, was I in for a treat. They had lights shining into the crowd before the lads took the stage, so that when it was showtime, it looked as though all of a sudden a Japanese castle appeared, per the theme of their latest album, Senjutsu (2021). Their longtime mascot Eddie was dressed in full samurai gear with his eyes glowing red, and made his first appearance onstage during their second song, “Stratego.” Even if you aren’t too familiar with the band, you’ve definitely seen someone wearing Maiden gear with their logo and some iteration of Eddie. Iron Maiden definitely knows how to create a brand… and how to use that brand to make cool merch. The lines for the t-shirt stands (and the separate stands selling Iron Maiden flags) were insane.
The stage constantly changed throughout the night. It felt like every song had its own production design. Many bands have a huge digital screen behind them and they continuously change images. Maiden actually had painted backdrops and they manually changed it every few songs. It was a cool touch. There was pyrotechnics of all kinds and boy, was it cool! Flames shot from under the stage, flames shot from above the stage and flames shot from Bruce’s flamethrower! I was continuously amazed. It was absolutely wild to see Bruce prowl about the stage and climb things while wielding an actual flamethrower. The guy has earned my respect as a legend for more than just his ballsiness. His charisma was enchanting and he was hilarious — a true thespian, which I thoroughly love. He’s not only there to sing the classics, he’s there to put on a show. He brings the songs to life, like a Broadway actor. The theatrics he pulled throughout the night involved: many outfit changes (all of which I would totally wear).
Then there was his sword duel with Eddie in full revolutionary war uniform (I learned that he actually fences in real life). And he often heckled the crowd when he wasn’t performing. (He has high expectations for audience participation, and if his expectations aren’t met, he’ll let you know.) Another band member who drew my attention was guitarist Janick Gers. Not only because he was closest to our seats, but because he would do the most “extra” things I’ve ever seen a guitar player do. The guy swung his guitar over his head and around his body, stepped on the strings and humped nearly every inanimate object in his direction. At times I wished I could avoid seeing him when I was trying to see the stage as a whole since it was so elaborate. But he did make me laugh, so I guess that’s the draw of it all. He’s obviously a great guitar player, as are the two other guitarists, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith.
When Bruce was changing or moving to another part of the stage, it was really cool to see all three guitarists, along with bassist Steve Harris, stand next to each other in the front and just shred for us. Nicko McBrain’s drumming was sick also, with quite an impressive amount of drums — I still don’t think it’s as many as Tool’s Danny Carey’s kit, but I digress. Iron Maiden had my undivided attention for the entirety of the show; my eyes were glued to the stage the whole time. This was my first Maiden show, but Bruce did say “We’ll see you again,” so it definitely won’t be my last.
Here’s the full setlist for Iron Maiden’s performance at Prudential Center:
The Writing on the Wall
Sign of the Cross
Flight of Icarus
Fear of the Dark
Hallowed Be Thy Name
The Number of the Beast
Run to the Hills
Iron Maiden: Legacy Of The Beast Tour Photos