Scream for me, Chicago!
The legendary battle-cry roared through the United Center. On a cold and rainy April night, visions of Mayan terrors were splashed across the fašade of the Madhouse on Madison as Iron Maiden brought their “Book of Souls” world tour to Chicago.
Both the album and the tour supporting it were delayed while singer Bruce Dickinson recuperated from health issues, and the results seems well worth the wait. And judging by the crowd, packed to the rafters, it would seem that Iron Maiden's fans agree.
Kicking off the show was an up-and-coming British band, The Raven Age. While the stage space they were given was small, the band filled it with energy and a thundering sound that certainly fits the bill on this tour. Comprised of co-founders Dan Wright and George Harris on guitars, anchored by the rhythm section of Jai Patel on drums and Matt Cox on bass, and rounded out with fierce vocals by Michael Burrough, The Raven Age have found a successful blend of heavy and melodic.
If one of those names rings familiar, that would be because guitarist George Harris is the son of Iron Maiden's founder and bass player Steve Harris. This lends a certain pedigree to the sound of The Raven Age that's impossible to miss. That doesn't mean the band hasn't earned the spot on the tour, though. Their sound, their presence, everything they do on stage says “Here we are, world, and we plan on staying!” And the world of hard rock will be better for it.
Once the opener closed out their set, it was time for the headliners. The house lights dropped to black and sounds of horns over a low bass rumble rolled from the stage. A single light revealed singer Bruce Dickinson, hovering over a smoldering cauldron, belting out the opening of “If Eternity Should Fail”, the opening track of the new album. Then, with a blast of pyro and the roar of guitars, the show was off and running. With the first song, Dickinson proved that his voice is as strong as ever before.
Over the past few years, Iron Maiden has alternated tours between supporting new material and recreating past tours in throwback shows. This year is all about “The Book of Souls”, with six tracks from the album featured, including four of the first five numbers. After the opening, the band launched straight into the first single, “Speed of Light”, and the audience roared their approval. Following the now-classic “Children of the Damned” was the band's tribute to the late Robin Williams, “Tears of a Clown.” One of the longest numbers of the night was next, the new track “The Red and the Black”, which – in true Maiden fashion – incorporated a lot of audience participation. The remaining tracks from the new album in the set were the title track, and “Death or Glory”, another rousing crowd-pleaser.
Among the older tracks filling out the set, most notable was the absence of some of the band's staples, including “Run to the Hills”. There was no lack of great numbers – “The Trooper,” “Powerslave,” “Hallowed Be Thy Name” – included in the setlist. The set ended with “Iron Maiden”, but of course that's not the end of the show. Never one to leave fans calls unanswered, the band returned for an encore.
No one can ever walk out of an Iron Maiden show and honestly say they've not seen spectacle in high form, and this show was no different. For all of that, there were a few flaws. During “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, guitarist Janick Gers vanished from the stage for a lengthy period. Over the course of the next few songs, there seemed to be recurring difficulties with his wireless equipment, at one point leaving him tethered with a guitar cable and unable to perform his typical guitar gymnastics. Once the issue was resolved, of course, he was back to slinging and throwing his axe like a madman, but his frustration was evident at several points, showing that he was simply mad.
During the encore's performance of “The Number of the Beast”, there was also a brief moment when Dickinson, having exited the stage for a moment, returned only to find his microphone wasn't working for a line or two. Once it was working and the song ended, Dickinson good-naturedly ribbed his sound technician, proclaiming that he would find two bottles of beer waiting for him at their next stop as payment for the slip.
Even with these few issues, the show went on and went over as a rousing success. As the house lights came up and a recording of Monty Python's “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” played, the crowd making its way out was laughing, and yelling, already reliving favorite moments from the show they hadn't even left yet. “Scream for me, Chicago!” commanded Bruce Dickinson throughout the night. And Chicago responded, all night long.