September 22, 2019
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
Our arenas are littered with aging bands creaking through "farewell" tours before decades of excess force their hands, and then there's Iron Maiden. The laws of nature state that we must inevitably grow old, slowing down as we do so. But after last night's show at the Mitchell Pavilion, one has to wonder if the sexagenarian sextet (introduced by lead singer Bruce Dickinson as "your rock and roll granddads") made a deal with that devil guy they occasionally sing about.
Maiden’s latest tour is dubbed “Legacy of the Beast,” for some reason. The Number of the Beast was released in 1982, and 37 years isn’t exactly a nice round anniversary. Mostly it was an excuse to play songs many fans haven't had a chance to hear live, like “Flight of Icarus” and “The Clansman," one of two cuts from the Blaze Bayley era (the other being "Sign of the Cross").
Dickinson did remind us to remember to spell "Clansman" with a "c" when doing YouTube searches. Sound advice.
All Maiden shows are highlighted by Dickinson's operatic howls and energetic stage presence, but the rest of the band get into the act as well, Bassist (and chief songwriter) Steve Harris and guitarist Janick Gers bounce across the stage, while drummer Nicko McBrain (a top five rock name if there ever was one) grimaces and snarls as he works the kit. Every time I've seen them (almost always outdoors), they produce gallons of sweat as they work the crowd.
Last night's stage show was a bit subdued, at least compared to the "World Slavery" or "Somewhere Back in Time" tours. Or as subdued as a Maiden show gets, anway. An oversized Eddie did make an appearance, clad in Dickinson's traditional kit for "The Trooper," and the two battled with swords. Like you do.
"But wait a minute," you say, "Why give KISS so much shit for their goofy theatrics, while letting Maiden slide?" It's true, an actual-size Spitfire menaced the band during "Aces High," while Dickinson brought out a goddamned flamethrower during "Flight of Icarus." What's a little blood spitting compared to that?
Maybe it’s because Iron Maiden never laid claim to being the best band in the world (though they're up there), or maybe it's because they always seem like they’re having so much fun. Sure, Dickinson will repeatedly bellow, "Scream for me, Houston!" and mock you if you don't remember the lyrics to "The Clansman," but it's out of (what appears to be) honest affection for the audience.
And in my defense, I don't like the Blaze Bayley albums.
Whenver Iron Maiden hits town, it's an event. Local fan club members (and not so local, people come in from other states and countries) host parties and get-togethers before gigs. Thus, the turnout never disappoints, even given the band's penchant for playing outdoor Texas venues in late summer. At first, I thought this tendency toward al fresco rocking was because indoor arenas constrained their energy, but now I have a different theory.
You see, every time Maiden comes to Texas (or South America, another hot warm region they're fond of), we're at the tail end of five or six months of cruel, cruel summer. But England is a cold country, and I think these sadistic bastards want to soak up as much of our warmth as they can before returning to their frigid homeland, like thermal energy vampires.
It might explain why "Transylvania" is their intro song.
Like I said before, these guys are all over the age of 60 (at 67, McBrain is the elder statesman), and it's natural to think they have to slow down eventually. Last night, Iron Maiden managed to stave of mortality a little bit longer. And honestly, I don't know if I want to live in a world where Steve Harris isn’t machine gunning me with his bass, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith aren't soloing back-to-back, Janick Gers isn't high kicking his monitor, and Bruce Dickinson isn't dashing across the stage waving the Union Jack at the climax of "The Trooper." What a dull place that would be.
Up the Irons.
Personal Bias: My kicks for the show:
The Crowd: My black T-shirt collection is severely lacking.
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Overheard In The Crowd: It was hard to hear anything over the music, which is good, because you people never shut up.
Random Notebook Dump: "Who thought it was a good idea to give Bruce a flamethrower?"
Where Eagles Dare
2 Minutes to Midnight
For the Greater Good of God
The Wicker Man
Sign of the Cross
Flight of Icarus
Fear of the Dark
The Number of the Beast
The Evil That Men Do
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Run to the Hills