The MAIDEN Years: 2018/19/20/21/22/ad infinitum (Rock in Rio and Nights of the Dead)

San Antonio 2010
Yet another tour where it’s really unfortunate that we don’t have some official live documentation (that short clip of El Dorado in show #1 from the TFF documentary always makes my mouth water). And, in spite of the backlash from 2006, the band took the opportunity to show that they still believe in the new material. This was the rare Maiden tour where we really didn’t know what to expect going into it. We knew we’d get just the one song from The Final Frontier, the band said at least once that they'd be playing more of their recent material although they never really said how much. Going into the show, I definitely wasn’t expecting a setlist with almost exclusively reunion era songs.

For fans of the reunion era, this was a dream setlist. 4 songs from Brave New World, 3 from Dance of Death, and, depending on which show you saw, 2 or 3 from A Matter of Life and Death. Considering Maiden hadn’t really heavily toured North America for any of these albums other than BNW (and that was 10 years ago by this point), this was probably going to be the first opportunity to hear a lot of these songs live. It definitely was for me. The only reunion era material I got to witness live was what they played on the Give Me Ed Til I’m Dead Tour (and the song Brave New World was excluded from the setlist of the show I saw).

Infamously, there were an unusual amount of setlist adjustments early in the tour. For one thing, Brighter Than a Thousand Suns was played on the very first show and then immediately replaced with Wrathchild. For the first few shows, they also rotated between Dance of Death and Paschendale before dropping Paschendale completely and keeping Dance of Death. Dropping songs early in the tour wasn’t a first for Maiden, but also wasn’t a super common occurrence, rotating songs as a way of testing out the material was very unusual. A lot of people seemed to prefer the setlist of the very first show, in which BTATS and Paschendale were both played. By the end of the tour, folks were seeing Wrathchild and Dance of Death instead.
I have mixed feelings about these decisions. On one hand, it seemed like a really bold choice to go for 11 songs in a row from the 00s era. It was more or less AMOLAD tour 2.0 in that regard. But I also have to say, having seen this tour in person, Wrathchild worked really well where it was. Of course I was bummed not to hear BTATS live (and it’s still one of the few songs that are still on my Maiden bucket list), but I could already feel the energy of the crowd drifting by the end of Ghost of the Navigator. It was a nice bit of relief before the band dug into more deep material. In addition, it seemed critical for audience energy to be high as the band was about to launch into the new song, El Dorado.

As for Paschendale vs Dance of Death, at the time I was pretty bummed that I got Dance of Death as I preferred Paschendale at that point (that’s probably flipped now). But after having heard Paschendale on a lot of the bootlegs (including and especially this show), this song was clearly under-rehearsed and not ready to be played live again. Nowhere near the quality that it was at in 2003/04. Sadly, that probably also means they’re never going to take their chances with that song again.
Either way it’s hard to complain too much about either of these choices as this is still a reunion era heavy setlist and it was great to hear Maiden celebrate this material on a summer amphitheater tour. It’s mostly the obvious choices; singles, songs that had been played live on multiple tours, Harris epics, but they were awesome choices all the same. You get the four best songs from Brave New World, a Dance of Death epic (whether it was Paschendale or Dance of Death, neither song had been played since the original tour), and two of the best songs from AMOLAD. A feast for lovers of these three albums. If I were to nitpick at all, I would’ve swapped Wildest Dreams for Rainmaker.

The Final Frontier
A bass synthesizer and drum machine welcome us into the most unorthodox start to a Maiden album. This all builds into the second half of the first track, The Final Frontier, which is a very conventional Maiden rocker in the vein of Wildest Dreams, Different World, Futureal, and The Wicker Man. The production on the guitars and drums sound the most polished since Brave New World. There are guitar fills overdubbed, an acoustic guitar track layered underneath everything for texture, yet Bruce’s vocals sound dryer than ever. Not only that, but his age is showing in a way that we hadn’t really heard before.

These juxtapositions found in the opening track are the start of a recurring theme throughout the album: old and new, polished studio work mixed with the live unpolished aesthetic of the reunion material. The band’s biggest drift into conventional hard rock mixed with their proggiest material ever. This album has clearly been a difficult one to rank over the years, and it seems to have fallen out of favor among fans recently. It probably also doesn’t help that Maiden hasn’t played any songs from it since the original tour (and I increasingly get the impression that we may never hear another song from it live again). But ultimately I think The Final Frontier’s problem is a sort of opposite of Dance of Death’s problem. Where Dance of Death has a lot of experimentation that was later refined, The Final Frontier (despite its experimentation) doesn’t really feel like Maiden is breaking new ground. I even remember a lot of the initial reviews for the album and reactions to early singles drew comparisons to early material. Starblind has Infinite Dreams vibes, Mother of Mercy is like an AMOLAD leftover, The Talisman feels like it’s picking up where The Legacy leaves off (I remember the first time I listened to the album, my first millisecond reaction to The Talisman was that my MP3 player accidentally went into shuffle mode). There were even stories of When the Wild Wind Blows being a leftover song from the Blaze era that Steve never finished. Indeed, this album does feel like a pastiche of Maiden’s best moments throughout their career. There’s a little bit for everyone and almost every song calls back to an earlier point in their history. Maiden was never a band to vary the formula that much, but this album does look back a little more than usual, especially compared to their last two albums.

And yet, this album feels very fresh even today. It’s extremely progressive, especially toward the back half. Five epics in a row? Yes! Odd time signatures, suspended chords, more complex guitar solos, some thicker arrangements, and very few songs that rely on big repetitive choruses. It’s a dense and challenging album, probably the most of all of Maiden’s catalog even to this day. Satellite 15 is the most unusual thing Maiden has ever put on tape. Isle of Avalon sounds more like a Rush song than a Maiden song. There’s a lot of weird stuff here. Mother of Mercy does feel similar to AMOLAD, but the lush guitar tones and the drum sound makes it very hard to mistake it for an AMOLAD track. The Talisman starts out like The Legacy, but it goes to a very different place.

This sort of tonal dissonance.has made it a hard album to assess. It feels like the band were pulled in different directions here, and maybe for some people the album seems unfocused. Maybe it treads old ground too much, maybe it’s too proggy. Nicko likes to say Maiden is a prog rock band, not a Metal band, I think that is arguable, but this album is definitely the least Metal Maiden album. When it’s not prog rock, it feels more like AOR type hard rock (I’m thinking Coming Home and The Final Frontier specifically). For the first time, it feels like the band is showing their age.

So that’s the meta analysis of the album. I think it’s a fascinating album to talk about, probably because I joined the forum before it came out and I’ve gotten to see public opinion shift in many different directions since then. Also, Maiden has changed a lot since then so the context always changes when I revisit it (and back then we thought it might be the last album!).

I love The Final Frontier. I think it is the second best reunion album after AMOLAD and very much a spiritual successor the way Seventh Son is a successor to Somewhere in Time. I love the atmosphere of the album. Every single song feels like a unique world unto itself. Even the short rockers are very immersive. It feels like they put a lot of great care into the detail, particularly the guitars. Lots of fills, lots of layering, more effects. It feels like Adrian Smith had a lot of influence in that department. The subject matter is incredibly diverse, no two songs deal with the same subject matter. After AMOLAD which was very focused with the lyrical topics, this was very refreshing (funnily enough, now it feels exciting to potentially hear more war themes on Senjutsu). Just like AMOLAD, none of the songs seem like filler and each song stands on its own while also fitting the overall flow of the album. I remember thinking that this would be a great album to play live in its entirety just because of those things. Each song seemed essential and, like AMOLAD, there weren’t really obvious songs to leave off a setlist.

I loved the concept of splitting up the short rockers and the epics. It gives the album a double album-like feel* where each of the two discs have unique qualities. Just like each page of the lyrics booklet has its own color scheme and celestial design, each song has its own vibe and sound. This is probably the most variety you can get on a Maiden album. Also, splitting the album in half that way also makes the short rockers more prominent than they had been on recent albums. People like to say that the rockers aren’t that good anymore, or that Maiden doesn’t spend as much time on them, or whatever else, but on The Final Frontier it feels like they’re emphasized pretty heavily. We’re greeted with 5 of them in a row and, just like the epics, each of them has their own flavor. I love the classic Maiden gallop of El Dorado. How is this song not a classic in the echelon of Two Minutes to Midnight or The Trooper? It fits right in. The Alchemist is to date the last Dickinson/Gers offering and gives a glimpse at what 90s Maiden could’ve been (honestly a whole album of Alchemist like tunes and nothing else would’ve been a classic). Coming Home feels like a third or fourth attempt at a ballad in the vein of Out of the Shadows, Journeyman, or even Como Estais Amigos, and it probably does it the best. The only song I’m not crazy about is the title track, The Final Frontier. I think Satellite 15 is awesome, although I really wish they would’ve fixed that drum loop. But the concept and atmosphere it sets is really cool. The Final Frontier itself feels like a letdown after that, probably the weakest of that style of song.

When the wind sounds of Isle of Avalon fade in, you know you’re in for a feast of epics. Avalon is probably the proggiest Maiden song, the instrumental section feels straight out of a Rush album. Adrian’s guitar jam is awesome. Just like the rockers “side” there’s only one song in this section I don’t care for, The Man Who Would Be King. It feels a little meandering and Bruce sounds a little bored with it. The other songs are all fantastic and any would’ve been the centerpiece if they were the only epic on the album.

Another fantastic quality of the album is the guitar solos. This is possibly my favorite guitar work on a Maiden album. All of Adrian’s solos are incredible, you can hear him doing a lot of new things too. Dave Murray, after a lot of mixed results in the past couple decades, seems to be in a bit of a playing renaissance. There were several solos that were so innovative and creative that I mistook them for Adrian solos at first listen (I’m thinking primarily on the title track and Isle of Avalon). Even Janick’s solos sound really focused and interesting. He doesn’t solo much, but each one is really interesting and feels essential to the album. There was a story about Bruce not being happy with his solo in The Alchemist, honestly I think it’s one of his finest moments.

I can’t gush about this album enough. The way I feel about The Final Frontier is akin to the way many fans adore Somewhere in Time. It feels like a forgotten album in the Maiden canon. You don’t often see it ranked highly among fans and even the band (especially Bruce) seem to write it off in retrospect. I can sort of see where Bruce is coming from. Not that I agree that the album is only “okay.” But, like Somewhere in Time, it’s not Bruce’s best vocal performance (although he has some incredible moments such as The Talisman) and there’s a lot of stuff on here that works better in the studio. We know that Adrian was unhappy about some of the production decisions and you can definitely hear that there were some compromises; this is definitely one of the most “produced” Maiden albums and probably the second most polished after Brave New World. The Book of Souls almost sounds like a demo compared to this one. If this had been the final Maiden album, it would’ve been a great punctuation mark to a great career. Since then, we’ve learned that Maiden actually has a lot more to say and offer.

Maybe that wasn’t apparent while the band was making this album and that’s why what was a strong effort then is seen as only ok now. Still, I think they were clearly in a creative renaissance and some of their best and most interesting ideas are found on this album. It was a punctuation mark to the last ten years, but fortunately not the final frontier for the band.

*As an aside, I’m currently listening to this on vinyl and the sequencing of this really throws me off. Isle of Avalon is presented at the end of side 2 along with Coming Home and The Alchemist. This is the pickiest of nit picks, but I really would’ve preferred they sequenced it this way:

Side 1: The Final Frontier, El Dorado
Side 2: Mother of Mercy, Coming Home, The Alchemist
Side 3: Isle of Avalon, Starblind, The Talisman
Side 4: The Man Who Would Be King, When the Wild Wind Blows

I actually think it would’ve helped with sound quality too. Isle of Avalon and Mother of Mercy both seem pushed a little too far into the center groove.

En Vivo!
Lets start with some general thoughts on the 2011 leg of The Final Frontier tour. I still remember excitedly checking after the first show of the tour to see the new setlist. My reaction? Probably the only time I’ve ever been truly disappointed by a Maiden setlist (granted I didn’t see the 2011 tour, but I’m sure I still would’ve been excited to see a show). Leading up to the tour, I remember bracing myself for what was shaping up to be a less interesting setlist compared to 2010. For one thing, the band seemed slightly less enthusiastic about playing the new material live in interviews, particularly Bruce. I remember one interview in particular where he said the band “might” play a few TFF songs, but it seemed like the focus would be more on classics. After a fantastic setlist in 2010, the bold statement of playing all of AMOLAD in 2006, and the fact that the band had just spent two years doing nothing but the classics, I was hoping that trend would continue on the TFF tour. Instead, we got 5 TFF tracks (the least amount of any reunion album) and a largely “greatest hits” type of setlist. To be fair, they did keep a few of the reunion era songs from 2010, most notably Dance of Death, but overall it felt like an instance of the band trying to play it safe. I don’t want to sound complain-y or entitled like I just came out of the Senjutsu thread, I would’ve been thrilled to see this show live regardless of the setlist, to me it’s more an observation of how much better the setlists have gotten since 2011. I think I mostly would’ve preferred a 6th TFF track, even one of the rockers like The Alchemist. Instead of Two Minutes to Midnight, maybe a song from AMOLAD or even just an 80s deep cut that hadn’t been played as often.

So with that out of the way, lets talk about what we actually got. I’ve never listened to any bootlegs from this tour; I’m not that interested in the setlist so I feel content with the official live release, so I can’t really comment on how the band sounded throughout the tour. With this live album, En Vivo, it seems like they’re trying to recapture the Rock in Rio thing. Big South American crowd, career spanning (sort of) setlist, even the artwork gives huge Rock in Rio vibes. 10 years later, I think this idea kinda backfired and made En Vivo one of the less essential live albums. The first issue is that most of these songs are on Rock in Rio, so they are immediately opening themselves up to direct comparisons between the performances. And there’s just no comparison. None of these songs outdo the Rock in Rio versions, or even come close for that matter. The band doesn’t sound nearly as energetic, in fact Bruce seems pretty tired throughout most of this show. There’s a lot of great crowd noise and the video does a really good job with capturing the larger than life nature of a South American Maiden show, but taking just the performance at face value, it sounds like an average night on the tour.

The TFF songs are definitely the most interesting here, since this is the only place you’re going to hear these songs live. To keep the SIT comparison going, these songs really don’t hit live the way they do in the studio. The Talisman has some cool moments, but there are also a lot of places where it loses steam (and Bruce really struggles on quite a bit of it). Satellite 15 feels a little too awkward as a concert intro tape, too long and just weird, The Final Frontier is about as average a show opener as it is an album opener. I love the way they go right into El Dorado though, I wonder why they didn’t do that on the album? Coming Home works surprisingly well, despite the slow tempo. It feels like Bruce is really into it and it just has a great vibe.

It’s interesting looking back on this album and the TFF tour ten years later. I remember being pretty disenchanted by all of it at the time, although I really enjoyed the live DVD when it came out. Going back to it now, it just seems like one of their weakest live albums. The only reason to listen to this is for the TFF material, but none of the songs are really that good live. Otherwise, why go for En Vivo when you have a much better setlist and performance on Rock in Rio (+ BNW songs work way better on stage, at least in that context). I can see a lot of situations where this marks the beginning of a decline for a band, fortunately something re-energized them since as the tours since TFF 2011 have had more interesting setlists, better performances, and at least with TBOS and Senjutsu the new music seems to be something they’re more excited about these days.
"Maiden is a prog rock band, not a Metal band"
Neil Kay also said that in that 20th century box documentary in 1980 but eh these are labels. Maiden's music is too unique. I really dont like 70s prog cause its mostly long and boring (I like BOC tho).

"The Book of Souls almost sounds like a demo compared to this one"

My 2 cents on the album;
This is my fav reunion album after BNW
Not a masterpiece but not weak either, its a very fun listen. The singles are among the weakest songs of the album but still fun to listen to. The only song I cant get into is The Man who Would Be King, still nice intro tho. Talisman is my favorite on this one. Coming Home is a Bruce song. The Alchemist is also among my favorite. Mother of Mercy was the first song I listened to and it sound like Death at some point. Satellite 15 and that distorted bass I like much. Isle of Avalon and Starblind are among the best of the album. When the wild wind blows is cute, I like it, maybe a tad too long tho?
Excellent write-up once again! A pleasure to dig into.

The Final Frontier bears somewhat great significance to me as well, as it was the first new Iron Maiden album I waited for as a fan. I remember being rather impressed by it and I still like it a lot, but there's few technical & personal preference type of things that bug me in it. Still, I think most of the songs are very good and it's a strong, interesting album.

2011 (July the 8th, Helsinki) was my first time seeing Maiden live. A big stadium show. Well, Finnish summer guaranteed that there wasn't much use for the light show until the very last songs and even at that point it wasn't that dark. :D

I could tell it wasn't their best night. There was bit of a rumour going on that they were partying with Thin Lizzy the previous night (Thin Lizzy had a show in Helsinki one day after Maiden , 9th of July, so that sounds plausible) and were suffering from relatively tough hangover - and granted, Bruce didn't look too fresh that day, hehe.

Overall, TFF 2011 saw some tough nights for Bruce and he actually mentions in his book that they were quite fried after that tour. He had some great nights, the Buenos Aires & Santiago shows for example, but especially the summer of 2011 saw some very, very tough nights when it comes to Bruce's performance. Granted, it was a demanding set at times.

Anyway, I enjoyed the show. Hearing the new stuff live was interesting. The thing with TFF stuff is that they sound very good live when they have that high intensity. For example, the title track + El Dorado is rather energetic and intense moment in En Vivo! but I think not every performance of them on that tour was that great. And then there's When the Wild Wind Blows which, to quote the narrative of the story, sometimes lit up the sky and sometimes just left you waiting for the bomb that never came, I guess. I'm quite fond of the live versions of it anyway - I like how Bruce often put weight on the "THERE WILL BE SOMETHING THAT WILL LIGHT THE SKY" line.

Anyway, while I found the most recent stuff most interesting on that show (I agree that the 2011 setlist was one of the most generic and even disappointing Maiden sets), one of the highlights was, surprisingly, The Wicker Man. I loved the song even back then, but I certainly didn't expect it to hit that hard live. It was the same when I went to the first three LOTB shows: that song truly is a "modern" classic and it just gets the crowd going. It sounds huge live and while the released live versions are all good, I think they don't quite fully capture the thing I'm trying to express here, haha.

But yeah, it was good show. Even at the time, I could tell it was a sub-par Maiden gig, but definitely not terrible. I loved the new album back then (still like it a lot of course) so hearing some of my favourites (The Talisman, WTWWB ) live was great and I get to hear the anticipated band introductions during Running Free. Well, that night wasn't one of the most legendary ones and Bruce's chats were bit of a fast-forwardish(I think 2013 was better for that matter), but we got the "THIS GUITAR WROTE FLIGHT OF ICARUS IN A TOILET" that was a bit of a staple story at the time, due to Adrian playing the golden Les Paul back then. :) While most of the interesting songs were placed at the first half of the set, I think the energy level got a bit better towards the end. There was bit of a rust, so maybe they managed to shake some of that off along the way.

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Awesome review @Mosh , thanks. Love the way you liken the pairing of AMOLAD/TFF to SIT/SSOASS and I also place TFF fractionally below AMOLAD as their best album of the reunion era (so far).

Only one contribution from my end…I like how the band recorded the album at Compass Point in the Bahamas, where they’d recorded back in the 80s…it would have been a bit of a nostalgia trip for them and given Janick a chance to experience that exotic location of Maiden’s recording history.
Re: rotation and sloppiness of Paschendale.

Regarding the obsession of Maiden fans with the setlist choices of other bands maybe Maiden are right to keep their setlists static for the whole tour and deliver tight sets every night
I do not care what the setlist is--

15 minutes since you posted that and no-one has come up with a 2 hours of Wrathchild joke yet. Woah!

Re: rotation and sloppiness of Paschendale.

Regarding the obsession of Maiden fans with the setlist choices of other bands maybe Maiden are right to keep their setlists static for the whole tour and deliver tight sets every night

That's a fair point. Then again, I doubt there would be that kind of issues if they played a 15 song set and rotated one or two a bit more straightforward songs than Paschendale. But yeah, even if that rotation didn't carry too far, the beginning of a 2010 tour was definitely very exciting time to be a Maiden fan. I remember being astonished when I saw the set (unfortunately didn't see any shows that year) and with the BTATS -> Wrathchild and Paschendale/DOD rotation there was unusual amount of setlist shaking for a Maiden tour right from the start, which naturally caused a lot of interesting buzz on the forums.

A few retrospective notes about the 2010 set:

- Wildest Dreams is still far from a top-drawer Maiden rocker, but I think it seemingly works much better on it's 2010 position towards the end of the main set than as a concert opener. I actually like how the solo is given full spotlight. Makes me think that it would fairly well as an encore song as well, but then again, there's already such a large selection of that kind of songs so I'm not really craving or expecting that to happen
-The post-reunion section of the set clearly isn't the biggest crowd-pleaser in general, but I think Brave New World got a decent crowd reaction and I honestly think it wouldn't be too bad of a FOTD substitute every now and then, but maybe it's getting too late for that...
Feel like I've lost pace with the thread recently. That said, a sort of dump of opinions from me regarding the most recent three albums discussed:

- I have a much stronger opinion of Dance of Death than most and would easily consider it a top 5 album. I love the variety and peaks on show here.

- By contrast I feel like I don't "get" AMOLAD. It is a good album with good tracks to be sure, but I would hold it as the weakest of the reunion.

- The Final Frontier is hard to rank. I like what you said about the mix between conventional hard rock and prog here. I am definitely towards the hard rock side, as I am a big fan of the title track and would love to see Coming Home back in the setlist.
I really liked that space concept, and I was hoping for songs like OOTSP, SIASL or Futureal on setlist but again we got 2 mintues, Evil Man, and Running free.
As I’ve said before, En Vivo is Maiden’s best live album, it sounds awesome; and it’s the best live video as well. Already the beginning: Ed Force One arriving and the Chileans screaming “MAIDEEEN!!!”
Flight 666 is equal/sometimes even better in its performances of the classics, but it‘s got too much hall reverb and it’s a bit muddy.
En Vivo is more interesting in its setlist and contains brilliant perrormances of Final Frontier, Talisman, DOD, WTWWB, as well as the best versions of BB and the Wickerman.
Death on the Road’s got the best version of Paschendale. Soundwise it‘s similar to Flight666, but with a lesser performance by Bruce.
On RIR, Bruce‘s performance is awesome. I even like the Britney excursion, but sonically, it’s too harsh in the 3-5k or so area (ha ha), and in comparison especially to En Vivo, Maiden are not yet as tight as a band. Plus, I don’t like the copy paste editing of the vocals, and the video is terrible.

But all 4 of those live albums are great, musically, and everything IMHO, of course.
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"Maiden is a prog rock band, not a Metal band"
Neil Kay also said that in that 20th century box documentary in 1980 but eh these are labels. Maiden's music is too unique. I really dont like 70s prog cause its mostly long and boring (I like BOC tho
Does he say prog or “heavy rock?” I think the point there was that a lot of these labels tend to be created by the press in an attempt to define the undefinable. That definitely applies to Maiden and it’s why Attick Demons and other copycat bands are some of the most boring music on the planet. Instead of becoming an Uriah Heep knockoff, Maiden (Steve specifically) took elements of that band combined with elements of other bands along with original ideas to create something unique. It’s logical that at some point, Maiden would make some music that isn’t exactly Metal, which continues to this day with Writing On the Wall.

Re: rotation and sloppiness of Paschendale.

Regarding the obsession of Maiden fans with the setlist choices of other bands maybe Maiden are right to keep their setlists static for the whole tour and deliver tight sets every night
I do not care what the setlist is as long as Maiden can play it as tight as they played songs on TBOS and LOTB tours
I totally agree. Not to beat a dead horse, but the A Real Live tour had a bunch of deep cuts but they’re played so loosely that it makes me quite a bit less excited about shows from that tour. My issues with En Vivo are less setlist specific and more with a lackluster performance. The TBOS/LOTB tours were not only fantastic setlists, but the band also sounded a lot tighter than they did on this particular tour.

On rotation, meh. You’re rotating two heavyweights like Dance of Death and Paschendale you’re bound to disappoint people. I’m glad they settled on one song and Dance of Death was definitely the better choice. However, I wouldn’t mind if they introduced some rotation during the last third of the set which tends to be the more static part of the set. Even if it’s just classics, switch between The Evil That Men Do and Two Minutes To Midnight for example.

I think there’s actually a lot to be said about a really tight static setlist that is well performed and flows great.
Rock in Rio 2013
The band’s third appearance at Rock in Rio (#5 on the way, maybe a rock in Rio box set pending?). This is a really fun show, although the sound quality isn’t great. Like their other Rock in Rio performances, you can tell the band is incredibly energized here. They’re having a great time and playing great. Bruce’s stage banter is a lot of fun too, he’s having more fun than usual here. This is a show that would really justify an official live release someday. You also get to hear Nicko address the crowd, how often does that happen?

I was thrilled when the Maiden England tour was announced. Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was (and still is) my second favorite 80s Maiden album and in my overall top 5. If I could go back in time and see any Maiden tour, it would’ve likely been the Seventh Tour. The staging was awesome and it really brought the songs and concept to life. With that in mind, Maiden England was a dream come true. I was pretty thrilled with the show I saw. The band sounded great and it was a huge crowd. I had seen them at that venue 3 times prior, and you could really see that the band’s popularity had grown exponentially even in the 2 years since they had previously been there. Bruce even acknowledged it on stage and, needless to say, Maiden were in an arena the next time they visited my city.

I think a lot of fans, at least on this board, have become somewhat disillusioned with this tour. It became the longest tour in the band’s history up until that point, stretching out to an unprecedented third year where they largely revisited many of the same areas. So by the time it wrapped up, I think folks were happy that the band was out of the “Maiden England” era. The setlist probably would’ve generated more excitement had a lot of this material not already been covered in 2008. In some ways it’s not the band’s fault, I don’t think they anticipated a Seventh Son themed tour, but there are definitely some tracks from the original Maiden England video that would’ve improved the set. Killers, Still Life, and the biggest head scratching absent song of all, Infinite Dreams are all songs that hadn’t been played in years that would’ve been huge surprises. On the other hand, we did get The Prisoner and Afraid to Shoot Strangers which were both fantastic deep cuts. Afraid To Shoot Strangers was totally out of left field and fit the set perfectly. In fact, I wonder if they had added more 90s material to the 2014 setlist (and maybe a Live At Donington DVD release to accompany it), maybe that leg would’ve generated some more excitement among the hardcore fans. The Prisoner was another big surprise. After a few big nostalgia tours where The Prisoner would’ve been an obvious choice (A Matter of the Beast especially), I kinda assumed we’d never hear this one live again. It was great to have it back. I actually wonder if the return of The Prisoner was a precursor for Flight of Icarus coming back. The Prisoner was another song where the tempos got out of control by the end of the 80s and maybe it was omitted to avoid a fight with Adrian. On this tour, it has a really steady tempo, if not a little slow.

Forget rarities, the biggest absence of all was Hallowed Be Thy Name. The official reason given at the time was simply that the setlist flowed better without it. That reasoning seemed suspect considering the last third of a Maiden concert (where Hallowed is usually played) tends to be pretty baked in. Later on we learned that the song was dropped because of some legal problems due to Steve Harris’ lyric plagiarism. I actually do think the set flowed better without Hallowed. I find that tends to be one of the less exciting parts of a Maiden show, since it feels like the band is in autopilot at that point. The actual encore section of this particular tour wasn’t too bad. Aces High to start the encore was a bit of a curveball, The Evil That Men Do isn’t exactly a rare gem but I found it was well placed on this tour. Running Free is a decent closer, although I liked Sanctuary in 2014 a lot better. Like The Early Days tour, the usual suspects such as The Number of the Beast and Run To the Hills were better spread out in the setlist so the show still had energy right to the end.

For me, the two highlights of the tour were Moonchild and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Moonchild had been played in 2008, but it was great to hear it as an opener (and with Adrian once again taking the solo). Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was this tour’s Rime and it was fantastic. I love the atmosphere of the middle section and Michael Kenney’s on stage appearance. The guitar battles at the end of the song are awesome and make a strong argument for this song being played live more often.

Another nice surprise was Phantom of the Opera. It wasn’t played on the original Maiden England video, so it seemed like a bit of an unorthodox choice, but it really fit the setlist perfectly. As a matter of fact, I think I like Phantom of the Opera the best on this tour out of all the times they played it with this lineup. It just sounded really great on this tour and fit the vibe of the show. Overall, even if it went a little long and had some strange omissions, this was still an awesome tour with a great stage show and a really strong setlist.
History trilogy tours were great idea, but again a lot of songs were for some reason forgotten.

ME lasted for two years, only 3 songs were replaced and they were replaced with already overplayed songs from History tours.

I dont know why are they ignoring a lot of songs from their discography, ok I am not asking for ATG, but at least songs that they already played live at some point.
The Book of Souls
The 5 year wait, the news of Bruce’s cancer and recovery, the double album with an 18 minute epic composed entirely by Dickinson, this album had a lot of hype riding on it. The band seemed really enthusiastic about it and overall it seemed like there was more excitement around this album than there was for TFF. Although I prefer TFF on the whole, TBOS is definitely a return to more of a classic Maiden sound. It’s heavier, more energetic, and Bruce sounds at least ten years younger. I’m not sure what happened between 2010 and 2014, but it’s like something lit a spark in the band that hadn’t been present so far in the decade.

Imo this is the closest the band has gotten to delivering something for everyone since BNW. While it does have a few of the longest songs in the band’s catalog, it also isn’t light on the shorter rockers. The Smith/Dickinson combination is back for the first time in years delivering short rockers that could’ve been straight out of the 80s. You also have some rockers from Steve Harris with Smith, Gers, and Murray. Even the longer songs, such as The Great Unknown, have more of that BNW sound where it’s more about energy and riffs than proggy escapades. With that in mind, we’ll see how things play out with Senjutsu, but TBOS feels like a new era for the band. There isn’t much being carried over from the previous albums, unlike TFF which seemed like very much a continuation of the previous few albums. This feels like the band resetting, trying different types of songs, different writing combinations, and embracing their age without also slowing down. Even the artwork represents a shift in tone with its plain black background and more neutral Eddie. Not to mention the long-awaited return of the classic Maiden logo!

This is one of those albums where you really get a feel for what its all about after the first two songs. If Eternity Should Fail is incredible. Finally we are moving away from the generic Smith/Harris openers to get the most interesting album opener since Sign of the Cross. Such a behemoth track and an epic way to start an album, it’s also my favorite song on the album overall. More Dickinson penned Maiden songs please! I know people get annoyed by the necropolis bit, but I don’t mind it. Maiden introduce characters and concepts all the time for the purposes of just one song. Seems like we’re treading that ground again with Belshazzar.

But then Speed of Light hits you from the other direction with one of the most compact and accessible rockers the band has made in a really long time. This song has it all. Great riffs, fun lyrics and an awesome vocal delivery, a really cool instrumental section, a modern classic. And that’s kind of what you get with TBOS. There are a few epics on here, but they don’t go too far into the prog territory. And when this album rocks they also go all out. The shorter songs are among the most compact material they’ve done during the reunion era. It’s a good balance.

As far as the epics go, like on TFF they’re all pretty unique. For the 10+ minute tracks, my favorite has to be The Book of Souls. It just has such an epic and majestic feel. The riffing is awesome and I love the way it builds into the fast middle section. Devastating lyrics. Also some really fine lyrics from Steve. This was a concert highlight and I hope this song comes back someday. People whine about The Red and the Black but I think it’s fine. Imo this was another instance of Steve writing a track that was meant for the stage. It definitely worked a lot better live, very easy to sing along to and had constant energy. Love the melodic work on this track. It’s not a storytelling epic as much as an instrumental jam, which I think threw a lot of people off, but it’s cool for what it is.

The R101 in the room is of course Empire of the Clouds. There was such a strange level of hype and mystery around this song, more than we may ever see again for a single Maiden song. This was a huge curveball. An 18 minute song by Bruce Dickinson that was also to be accompanied by Bruce’s piano playing and strings. It’s definitely a remarkable piece of work and it’s wonderful to hear the band doing new things this late in their career. It’s a captivating story and Bruce does a fantastic job illustrating it. Despite the piano and strings it still feels like a Maiden song, although a bit more cinematic than what they typically do. Some of the melodies on here are really great. And when this song gets going, it really rocks hard. My only complaint is that they really cheaped out on not getting a real orchestra. This song deserved better than the synth strings. Hopefully Bruce does this live with an orchestra, that seems like pretty much a sure thing at this point (although it would be really cool if Maiden was involved that seems less likely)

Among the shorter songs, you have more of a mixed bag. I love both Smith/Dickinson songs. Super catchy and a ton of fun live. The Great Unknown is very cool and feels like new ground for the band, just a unique vibe and unpredictable song structure. Tears of a Clown rocks really hard and has a profound message. The only song where the album really loses me is Shadows of the Valley. It just doesn’t seem to really go anywhere and feels like the most fillerish and inconsequential tracks since the Dance of Death album. It has some cool parts, it just doesn’t feel very well arranged, it actually feels like a cut and paste job.

The production also feels like a step down from the previous two albums. The drums and vocals sound really good, but man these are some of the dullest guitar tones the band has had maybe ever. So far Senjutsu is a huge improvement, but it seems weird that they regressed so much after having some really good guitar sounds. There’s not a lot of differentiation between the three players, the tones are super dry, and the rhythm guitars don’t have any bite. What should be crushing chords in IESF are more of a whimper. The solos on this album also aren’t as interesting as the previous two albums.

Those things aside, The Book of Souls is a fantastic album that definitely lived up to the hype, even if it’s not the best album this lineup has made (that speaks more to the overall quality of the band’s late stage output). I kinda see this album as a cross between Powerslave and Brave New World. It’s live ready and energetic in the way of BNW, and it has the balance of catchy and more progressive that Powerslave has.
A little late, but I'd like to talk a bit about the Maiden England Tour. I saw them in Oberhausen in 2013, which was my second time, firste being the A Matter Of The Beast Tour in 2007. I was pretty into Sabaton at that time, so knowing that they'd be one of the openers and coupled with the fact that SSOASS is one of my favorite albums it was even more exciting.

Sure, the setlist had some glaring omissions, since Still Life and Killers are my favorite songs from their respective albums, and Infinite Dreams is another fantastic song, but hearing ATSS live was phenomenal. I've always adored that one, so it was totally unexpected and awesome to hear it in such a context. The stage set was amazing and IIRC it's the only tour with two big Eddies. I did notice that the crowd lost a bit of interest during SSOASS, but I didn't care, it's probably my favorite epic and to this day I find the last few minutes to be some of the best of their entire career.

Unfortunately there was an incident during TETMD that soured the end of the concert for us, I'll put it into spoilers:

So, if the stage was north, we were standing at the eastern edge of the site (it was an Open Air btw), around 1/3 of the distance to the stage away. There was a beer truck there, a bit of space, and people were drinking, partying and moshing. During TETMD a middle-aged man in the moshpit bounced off someone, lost his footing and basically sailed down, hitting his head on the ground pretty hard. I was standing probably 10 to 15 meters away, didn't see it happening, but I can swear, I felt the impact. He was hurt badly and started bleeding. Everyone was in shock, but a bunch snapped out of it and immediately tore down the barricade. Thankfully an ambulance was right on the other side, so they took him and transported him. The interesting thing is, that 20 meters in the other direction people hadn't noticed a thing, so you've got a huge crowd partying and going crazy and the this little part being shocked and confused. It was the main topic for the rest of the night and I don't think I'll ever forget that.

As far as TBOS is concerned:
I'm mostly still a big fan of the record. While it has one of my least favorite songs of their entire discography with Speed Of Light, and has a few weaker songs like TMOS, the highs of the album are incredibly high. The title track, the instrumental section of TRATB, large parts of EOTC, the verses of WTRRD, the ending of SOTV, those are all freaking amazing parts and I'm looking forward to them each time I listen to the songs. A few of the things that bother me with the record:

The production is weak. The album is full of heavy riffs and grooves, but the production makes them sound incredibly soft. It often sounds like a hard rock band instead of one of the biggest heavy metal bands ever. The next issue is the massive amounts of mistakes. I understand that people enjoy the sound of the live recording Maiden does post reunion, the arrangements suffer from it (the transition to the outro of TGU feels super random and not thought through) and I don't understand why some mistakes were left in. Off the top of my head there are some in IESF, SOL, TBOS and I'm sure we could find more in other songs too. My last issue is Bruce's performance. I know the man had cancer and I feel bad even raising the issue, but this album has some of his worst moments ever professionally recorded. Take the opening verse for WTRRD for example. It sounds plainly bad, there is no reason to write such an awkward vocal line. We all know that Bruce can reach very high notes, but simply going for them because you can leads to a weaker end product. On thing I love about the verses of WTRRD and the verses of Stratego is his use of mid range vocals, which still sound fantastic. TFF for that matter had a bunch of mid range passages on the whole album and I really think they should use that more often. Hopefully Senjutsu has more of that.
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I know people get annoyed by the necropolis bit, but I don’t mind it. Maiden introduce characters and concepts all the time for the purposes of just one song. Seems like we’re treading that ground again with Belshazzar.

Introducing characters just for a song is fine and the idea was great, only the name Necropolis doesn't sound great for a person. Like if you had somebody called Highway. Yes, why not, but still.
Introducing characters just for a song is fine and the idea was great, only the name Necropolis doesn't sound great for a person. Like if you had somebody called Highway. Yes, why not, but still.
It probably would’ve made more sense if we’d gotten the rest of the story from Bruce. Even Bruce approached Steve like “hey, this last bit doesn’t make sense without the context of the rest of my album.” And Steve as usual is fine with it. I like it, but see why folks don’t.