Bruce Dickinson Flies Iron Maiden's Book of Souls at BB&T Center on World Tour

Iron Maiden made world headlines last week when it was revealed that the massive 747 carrying the group from city to city for its world tour would be piloted by Bruce Dickinson —- their lead singer.  After Maiden became one of the biggest metal bands in the world in the 1980s, Dickinson learned to fly in Florida and got into commercial aviation for years. Last night, he was back on duty with his band as they kicked off the Book of Souls World Tour at the BB&T Center in Fort Lauderdale. (Drummer Nicko McBrain lives in Coral Springs and owns Rock n Roll Ribs.

Prior to the show, happy crowds turned ugly as ticket lines froze up like rush hour traffic. Throngs of people stood in front of the main doors in the pouring rain, shouting “Let us in!” and “This is bullshit!" Entry was delayed about 25 minutes due to a Ticketmaster software issue that was ultimately resolved.

Due to the slow start, Iron Maiden decided to start the show 20 minutes later than planned. Once the stadium completely filled up, the lights finally lowered and smoke started to creep onto the stage. The crew pulled off tarps to reveal the set, which looked like ancient Mayan ruins. The backdrop was a large picture of Chichen Itza –one of the seven wonders of the world.

Dickinson raised his arms up behind a column and began his first song, “If Eternity Should Fail” – from The Book of Souls, which was released in September of last year. The audience erupted with screams and bellows. Dickinson welcomed everyone and said it had been 24 months since they last came to Fort Lauderdale.

Throughout the rest of the night, every time Iron Maiden started a new song, the backdrop changed showing a new piece of artwork, some reflecting past album covers and others unique to the theme of the tour. After they played “Speed of Light” and “Children of the Damned,” the backdrop revealed playing cards with mischievous clowns on them for “Tears of a Clown.” Each number was eye-opening as colorful pyrotechnics and balls of fire erupted from the set. When Maiden started “The Trooper,” the crowds screamed even louder and pounded their fists in the air with devil horns.  No moshing tonight, but plenty of head-banging and fist-pounding.

Then Dickinson ripped off his black hoodie to reveal a red British uniform – his trademark move since 1983 when Iron Maiden released the album “Piece of Mind.” He waved the Union flag as he ran around the stage with a large picture of Eddie the Head (the band's mascot, a creepy/funny zombie-like character) waving the flag as well behind him. 

It only got better and more interesting after that. Eddie came to life and walked out onstage for “Powerslave." Twice as tall as Steve Harris, Eddie stomped on stage waving an axe back and forth. Janick Gers ran right under Eddie’s legs while still wailing in his guitar. Iron Maiden followed with a few more of its most popular cuts, including “Fear of the Dark."

During “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” Dickinson wore a noose around his neck. Like many of the songs on Iron Maiden’s new album, the lyrics about eternity seemed to hit home: When you know that your time is close at hand, maybe then you'll begin to understand life down here is just a strange illusion. As Dickinson sang, you couldn’t help but think about his recent surgery and fight against cancer. (He had throat cancer, and infamously suggested it was related to oral sex.) 

While every song felt cutthroat, “Blood Brothers” stood out as one of the most powerful and touching performances of the evening. Dickinson said just before the song that the band's fans are like family to them – regardless of their race, religion, or sex. “If you are a Maiden fan, we are all blood brothers.” Dickinson softened the tone for this one, singing under a starry backdrop instead of the terrifying Eddie.

However, Eddie returned one last time for the grand finale. A massive blow-up figure of Eddie’s head emerged behind the band. During Iron Maiden’s encore number, “The Number of the Beast,” a similar giant prop came up behind them, but this time of a horned beast. Both glowing figures were incredible to see and impressive pieces of this tour’s set. Maiden finished out the night with “Wasted Years."