Last Night: Iron Maiden at the BankAtlantic Center
Photo by Sayre Berman
Thursday, April 2, 2009
BankAtlantic Center, Sunrise
Better Than: Any other large-scale rock gig around here in recent months. No, no, really.
Until last night, it had been well over a decade since British metal kings Iron Maiden had played in South Florida, and singer Bruce Dickinson reminded the audience of this fact several times. The show had been added as an extra date following the band's South American outing, he said in a bit of between-song patter, "because, well, we've got to stop for gas somewhere! All we did was stop for gas and 11,000 people showed up!" In response, the sold-out stadium roared with cheers of approval. It was really a bit of good-natured ribbing from Dickinson, who, along with his bandmates, seemed more eager and pumped up than most rockers less than half his age.
And may the Beast bless Maiden for providing a show that fully went to 11, complete with pyrotechnics, fireworks, and an ancient-Egypt themed stage set, complete with golden sarcophagi with red glowing eyes. Sure, sometimes the jumble of imagery didn't quite all match up -- the show opened with a montage of WWII footage, and one painted backdrop showed the band's zombie-like mascot, Eddie, presiding over a world-flag summit as a mushroom cloud arose in the distance.
And sometimes, the theatrics reached almost Spinal Tap proportions, especially during an extended performance of "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," which saw Dickinson running across the stage risers in a tattered black cloak, amid a thick fog. (Also, it's wildly entertaining to watch a Brit try to rev up a largely drunk Floridian audience with the question, "Are you all familiar with the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge??!!")
Still, to a Maiden fan, this is awesome. With the contemporary rock scene dominated by irony and apathy, Iron Maiden still takes great pains to make sure a hard-working audience member leaves a gig fully entertained. And who can't use some full-on escapism these days? Especially if this is backed with virtuoso musicianship. The band live sounds like the band in its recorded version -- breakneck-fast, full of lurching guitar riffs, and, well, technically flawless. However Dickinson preserves his trademark near-operatic wail, it's working for him.
And with a performance time that stretched, nearly, to an hour and a half, there was time to revisit real nuggets from the band's back catalog. Opening with the epic "Aces High," the set list, however, delved a little bit into earlier, slightly deeper cuts like "Phantom of the Opera" and "Children of the Damned." They were met with equal enthusiasm from the crowd as the hail of monster hits, which included "Two Minutes to Midnight," "Wasted Years," "Fear of the Dark," and, of course, "Run to the Hills."
If you're worried, perhaps, that a gigantic version of Eddie didn't appear as is custom, please don't. He finally materialized during the last song of the main set, when the final painted backdrop was tugged away (it got tangled) to reveal a gigantic, floating golden sphinx head. I'm sure you can guess what came next. There was a flash of light, the sphinx head split apart, and in a cloud of smoke, there was Eddie, this time in the guise of a crane-mounted mummy. He lurched forward, menacingly (although creakily) waving his arms in the direction of the crowd, and then, in a final ejaculation of rage, shot fireworks from his eyes. Sweet.
Personal Bias: Oh, I'm biased towards a good time!
Random Detail: A fan near the front of the general admission pit waved a sign saying "I drove 1500 miles from Detroit." That's dedication.
By the Way: Flight 666, the new Iron Maiden documentary, screens in South Florida on April 21 at the Trademark Coral Square 8 in Ft. Lauderdale. Click here for more information about the film.
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