Iron Maiden is one of the few absolutely reliable things in life, as evidenced by their performance last Friday at the Estadi Olmpic in Barcelona. The latter, which is obvious to the majority of the band’s longtime fans, appeared to surprise a portion of the 50,000 in attendance at Iron Maiden’s first live performance in a venue of this size in our country. An unprecedented achievement that comes after more than four decades of experience outside of fashion and trends; a success that is not only measurable in terms of numbers and level of popularity, but also palpable in terms of prestige and widespread recognition –even in our country, where there has always been and continues to be a certain mistrust of heavy metal styles–.
A frontman from another planet, Bruce Dickinson, who at 63 looks almost in better shape today than he did twenty years ago; a spectacular live performance with a staging that is as baroque as it is timeless, employing papier-mache sets, backdrops, and countless visual tricks without becoming dated; and a spectacular live performance with a staging that is as baroque as it is timeless, employing papier-mache sets, backdrops, and countless visual tricks without becoming. The Barcelona date, his only date in Spain, was unquestionably something historic, and not just because of its size: the collective euphoria ran through the stadium like an electric shock, already from the first bars of Airbourne: a hard rock steamroller that, as if it were some accelerated and revitalized AC/DC, it possessed us on the basis of cutting riffs and runaway energy. Agreed, they are not the epitome of originality, but they more than accomplished their mission: to warm the environment despite the intermittent afternoon rain. They began with “Ready to Rock,” a true declaration of intent, and concluded their brief set with “Runnin’ Wild.” A locomotive without brakes and on fire.
Within Temptation was an oddity misplaced on a more traditional and festive poster. Iron Maiden have often toured bands a priori far from their coordinates, from Entombed to My Dying Bride; perhaps it is that the gothic metal of Within Temptation has matured worse than classic heavy metal, despite its moment of glory in the wake of the brief international success of Evanescence in the 2000s. Life’s ironies, since the Dutch had been in the void for a few more years with records as intriguing as “Enter” after the initial Theater of Tragedy and The Gathering albums. Due to songs such as “Stand My Ground,” “Ice Queen,” and “Mother Earth,” the band was able to make a comeback in the waning moments of the match despite a chilly reception from the audience.
However, the desire to experience a concert of this magnitude after the pandemic-induced live music drought remained intact for Iron Maiden. This concert was postponed to coincide with the current greatest hits tour, titled Legacy of the Beast, and the live presentation of their most recent album, “Senjutsu,” which was released in 2021. The fact that their original setlist, which began with the first three songs from the new album performed in the same order, has been slightly modified says a great deal about a band’s exceptional confidence in the present. Their most recent material is among the best they’ve released in the past two decades.
After unleashing the collective euphoria with the first bars of “Doctor Doctor,” the UFO theme that the British use to open their shows on a regular basis, Iron Maiden began with the song that gives their latest album its name, an enveloping mid-tempo crescendo that was progressive and majestic, performed in a massive Japanese temple supported by two inflatable pagodas. Bruce Dickinson, dressed in all-black and sporting a samurai bow, was the scene’s primary focus, while Eddie, the band’s mascot, made his first appearance of the evening clad in bushi armor and brandishing a katana against the musicians. A resource for the theater that is as predictable and granguiolesque as it is endearing. They were followed by “Stratego,” which featured his signature rhythmic trot, and “The Writing on the Wall,” whose opening arpeggio reeked of classic and which exquisitely combined Celtic harmonies, punch, and a luminous chorus.
After this opening trio, there was a brief intermission to reconfigure the stage and prepare for what was to follow. Thus, we were presented with the opening bars of “Revelations” from 1983’s “Piece of Mind.” A journey through instantaneous time that caused many in attendance to smile, stand on end, and even shed tears. Without detracting from his current stage performance, it is inevitable that his eighties repertoire will dominate. Iron Maiden has been the quintessential introduction to heavy metal for multiple generations, including the next, as evidenced by the lit faces of numerous children on the side screens, who were captivated by the performance and knew the majority of the songs. Few can access the game of mirrors and intergenerational communion.
True to his defense of his entire career, two unexpected songs were performed: “Blood Brothers” from “Brave New World” (2000), the album that marked Dickinson’s return to the band, and “Sign of the Cross” from “The X Factor” (1995), a multilayered song that has improved over time. And back to the classics in capital letters: a resounding “Flight of Icarius,” with the winged figure of Icarus presiding over the stage and Dickinson shooting flashes with a flamethrower in the purest Rammstein style; an effective “Fear of the Dark,” better or worse depending on the intrahistory of each one but with an effectiveness that is hard to refute; and “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” celebrated here without nuances, executed with class
Beelzebub did not want to miss the party in the foundational and almost punk “Iron Maiden,” with a gigantic horned bust of Pink Floyd that challenged even the farthest stands. Thus, the final stretch is governed by the war motif. The encores brought together two of his most popular pieces: “The Trooper,” with Dickinson shining into the microphone and waving the British flag; and the inevitable and catchy “Run to the Hills”; in the middle of both, a “The Clansman” was defended with dignity but appeared to be a foreign body during stoppage time. And as a climax, Churchill’s famous speech, with which they typically announce “Aces High,” the vertiginous theme that opens “Powerslave,” and which the band attacked with courage and a reproduction of a Spitfire battling the turbulence above. A crescendoing conclusion that left the audience smiling for hours but craving more. It is possible that his own legend and the extensive songbook of Iron Maiden sometimes work against him: even in two-hour sets like the one in Barcelona, there are too many absences and omissions. The solution is simple: let’s go see them whenever they return, in case they play our favorite songs — we all have them — but primarily because we will miss them when they leave.