The Final Frontier World Tour
Sheffield Motorpoint Arena
Sunday 24th July 2011
As the lights dimmed and UFO’s “Doctor Doctor” came over the PA the atmosphere electrified in the sold-out arena. As the strains of “Doctor Doctor” faded the long intro “Satellite 15” started with images flashing on the two large video screens either side of the mammoth stage. The band then hit the stage opening with the title track of their latest, excellent studio album “The Final Frontier” which judging by the crowd reaction is already a Maiden classic. “El Dorado” also from the latest album also went down very well and just when you thought the atmosphere could not get any better the band launched in to the first of many old classics, “2 Minutes To Midnight”.
The sound was loud but crystal clear and the mix superb. For each track the back drop changed and with an old-style galleon another new track was played by way of “The Talisman” which slowed the pace down. Another Maiden epic which I personally thought was the weakest track of the evening but still outstanding nonetheless!
Bruce Dickinson then took time out to address the fanatical 13,500 strong crowd, first to announce that this was “The Final Frontier Tour” and not “The Final Tour” which would be much to the disappointment of many music journalists! Not so the fans! Bruce went on to thank a Sheffield Fireman for the Sheffield City Airport t-shirt that he sent him, in order that he gave a shout out to his wife, who had just had a large cancerous growth removed from her back. Bruce went on to explain why they always fly in the same direction so that they are always “Coming Home” – cue another great track from the new album. It was definitely a bold move by Maiden playing five new songs in the first six. They obviously had confidence in the strength of the new material which was borne out by the over-whelming crowd reaction.
“Dance Of Death” was a welcome change of pace and highlighted the lighter musical side of Maiden. The band were obviously really enjoying themselves, Steve Harris charging around the stage, almost much as Bruce Dickinson; Dave Murray and Adrian Smith were a little more reserved but could not hide their obvious enjoyment; Nicko McBrain keeping perfect rhythm; though Janik Gers prancing around was more than a little bizarre!
When the back drop of Eddie in soldier’s uniform charging with a Union Jack Standard I thought the roof was going to come off the Arena. “The Trooper” is not only a Maiden classic but one of the all-time Heavy Metal classics singles: pure brilliance! Bruce was flying the flag and running around like a two year old replete in his red tunic and in fine voice.
The duo of songs from 2000’s “Brave New World” album followed by way of “The Wicker Man”, complete with Wicker Eddie back-drop and “Blood Brothers” and kept up the momentum. Bruce explained, prior to the latter, that Maiden belonged to everyone in the World no matter their sex, race or religion in light of the recent horrific happenings in Oslo. There also appeared to be some Norwegians down at the front of the stage and “Blood Brothers” was a very fitting tribute.
Maiden do like their epics and “When The Wind Blows” is another ten minute-plus one from the new album and was arguably the best of the new tracks aired tonight.
The next six tracks had everyone in Heavy Metal Heaven starting with “The Evil That Men Do” that had the audience, once again, in full voice and saw a 9-foot Eddie take the stage; Eddie strapped on a guitar for the end of the song! Live favourite “Fear Of The Dark” kept up the impetus and “Iron Maiden” brought the main set to a thundering climax. The latter featured a huge green Eddie rising from behind the stage; the kids love it and it sure brings a smile to the faces of us old rockers!
The band briefly left the stage before the Vincent Price narrative heralded them back to for “The Number Of The Beast” complete with a large devil at the rear of the stage!
My personal favourite track “Hallowed Be Thy Name” was superb and Bruce’s vocals were absolutely incredible on this track, as they were all evening.
“Running Free” from way back in 1979, when some of the audience weren’t even born, brought the whole show to a victorious close. I could hardly believe that 32 years after first hearing this song, as a spotty teenager, I was watching them play it live as the World’s Biggest Heavy Metal Band!
My old school friend, Mark, asked me on the way to the gig whether Maiden still enjoyed playing live. The answer was an emphatic, “Yes”. They were obviously having the time of their lives.
The mutual admiration between the band and the fans is second to none and Iron Maiden showed tonight why they are still one the biggest bands in the World. Simply awesome!