Iron Maiden - Live in Dallas!

Iron Maiden with Ghost
Amercan Airlines Center
Dallas, Texas
June 23, 2017
By A. Lee Graham

Set List:

If Eternity Should Fail | Speed of Light | Wrathchild | Children of the Damned | Death or Glory | The Red and the Black | The Trooper | Powerslave | The Great Unknown | The Book of Souls | Fear of the Dark | Iron Maiden | The Number of the Beast | Blood Brothers | Wasted Years

To describe heavy metal as theatrical is hardly revelatory.

From KISS to King Diamond, countless characters have seduced and horrified, placing listeners and concertgoers on the edge of their seats while dwelling on life, death and similarly broad subject matter.

No stranger to this arena is Iron Maiden. The British lads have grown into arguably the world’s biggest metal force since releasing their eponymous debut in 1980. Since then, the East Londoners have evolved from scrappy punks to progressive metal juggernauts, equally at home belting out anthems as well as lengthy excursions into history and literature, all bellowed with the subtlety of … well, Iron Maiden.

The quintet brought its Book of Souls tour to Dallas on a sweltering June evening, where opening act Ghost went toe to toe with the headliner’s theatrical spectacle. Resplendent in a priest’s flowing robes and papal headgear, Papa Emeritus anchored the sextet with catchy songs rooted not in death metal, but rather in the melodic tradition of Blue Oyster Cult.

Despite its role as concert opener, the Swedish act found a receptive audience, cheering as “Square Hammer,” “Ritual” and “Cirice,” among other songs, turned heads. The band commanded the stage as if they had done so for decades, imbuing every note with confidence and enthusiasm. Emeritus proved a competent front man, even comic foil, chatting with the audience between songs, drawing laughs with a few ribald lines and slowly strutting across the stage like some playboy in a cheesy burlesque show.

Cloaked in metal masks, the band beat the crap out of its instruments. Its 40-minute set was tight, well-rehearsed and clearly earned many new fans.

But make no mistake, Iron Maiden owned the night. After a brief intermission (the clockwork efficiency of Maiden’s road crew is a sight to behold), house lights surrendered to “If Eternity Should Fail,” the lead-off track from its latest album, The Book of Souls.

His face partly obscured by cloth, vocalist Bruce Dickinson slowly launched the song and the band strode on stage, flames erupting as the Mayan-based stage roared to life.

What followed were two hours of solid entertainment. Old-school Maiden fans cheered “The Number of the Beast,” “Wrathchild” and “Powerslave,” while those enamored of newer material exulted in “The Red and the Black,” “Death of Glory” and other, usually longer, selections.

(of course, if this writer had his way, “Where Eagles Dare” would have launched a set also featuring “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” “The Prisoner,” “Genghis Khan,” “Flight of Icarus” … the list goes on.)

While Dickinson and drummer Nicko McBrain anchored the set visually and musically, guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith provided rich harmonies as bassist Steve Harris pumped out the low end while remaining the heart of the band.

Exactly what role Janick Gers provides remains a mystery. Since joining the group in 1990, the guitarist’s prancing stage moves have drawn criticism among some Maiden fans, some of whom wonder if the guitarist is even plugged in.

Whatever his role, Gers didn’t detract from a set spanning Iron Maiden history. With each song came different backdrops and lighting, casting shadows over the Mayan architecture. Multiple flames shot up at unexpected moments as Dickinson donned different costumes for different songs.

Whether waving a British flag for “The Trooper” or donning a monkey mask for “Death or Glory,” Dickinson camped it up, imbuing metal with an almost Broadway sensibility. Grandeur clearly trumps subtlety when it comes to old-school metal.

As always, Maiden insisted on packing its set with new material, though vintage selections also seemed to please fans of a certain age. Still, ongoing litigation over arguably the greatest Maiden song of all — “Hallowed Be Thy Name” — cheated the audience of its greatness. Hopefully, Bruce and the boys will emerge victorious, reclaiming the selection from a questionable lawsuit claiming six of its lines were lifted from an early ‘70s Beckett song.

In the court of public opinion, Iron Maiden already has won — and continues to night after night.