Blaze Bayley – The Glory Of Iron Maiden 30th Anniversary In Dublin

If this gig had been two days later, I would have placed myself in a bit of a marital pickle. With the wife’s something-something birthday falling on the 10th, her ever-loving hubby buggering off for a night of middle-aged Metal high jinks might have resulted in an extra dose of cold shoulder. With nil chance of her reading this, I can safely say, with my knackers still where nature intended, that a night with Blaze Bayley, the former member of Iron Maiden, up close and personal beats sweet nothings in a dimly lit and overpriced eaterie.

Blaze Bayley – Iron Maiden 30th Anniversary

Whelans, Dublin – 8 February 2024

Words: Brian Boyle

Photography: Carl Foran

Blaze Bayley - Iron Maiden 30th Anniversary - 8 February 2024
Blaze Bayley – Iron Maiden 30th Anniversary – 8 February 2024. Photo: Carl Foran/MetalTalk

Believe it or not, there is a small minority of Iron Maiden fans who refuse to acknowledge the fact that Blaze Bayley fronted the British Metal institution for five years. Come to think of it, there is probably an even smaller minority of Di’Anno disciples who still can’t accept Bruce Dickinson.

But tonight, none of that bullshit held any weight whatsoever. This was a night for celebrating the Brummie Bruiser’s two album stint with Harris and co, which started with 1995’s The X Factor and followed up three years later with Virtual XI.

Blaze Bayley - Iron Maiden 30th Anniversary - 8 February 2024
Blaze Bayley – Iron Maiden 30th Anniversary – 8 February 2024. Photo: Carl Foran/MetalTalk

During his tenure with Maiden, Bayley would have, of course, played far more glamourous rooms than the four walls he is occupying tonight. Bluntly speaking, Whelan’s is a backstreet boozer. There are no frills, but that ties in perfectly with tonight’s main event. And as we all know, Metalheads aren’t snobs, and tonight’s host is as real as they come, the epitome of a working-class Metal hero.

Regarding production, a personalised banner at the back of the stage is as glamorous as it gets.

Bayley casually takes to the modest-sized stage, akin to a heavyweight entering the ring, hellbent on dispersing someone else’s blood.

Blaze Bayley - Iron Maiden 30th Anniversary - 8 February 2024
Blaze Bayley – Iron Maiden 30th Anniversary – 8 February 2024. Photo: Carl Foran/MetalTalk

Lord Of The Flies kickstarts the carnage, and there is none of that feeling-the-crowd-out stuff. A revved-up Bayley knows how to weave his spell by now and has them in his pocket right from the off.

The last time I heard Sign Of The Cross in the flesh, predecessor and successor Dickinson was dishing it out a couple of hundred miles up the road to 20,000 in Belfast, decked out in a black cloak and brandishing a massive crucifix. Tonights rendition is of course minus the pomp and pageantry and more meat and potatoes, but Bayley wrapping his larynx around the Grand Canyon of a chorus made this famous South Dublin venue sound like the Hollywood Bowl.

Blaze Bayley - Iron Maiden 30th Anniversary - 8 February 2024
Blaze Bayley – Iron Maiden 30th Anniversary – 8 February 2024. Photo: Carl Foran/MetalTalk

On paper you might think the likes of Judgement Of Heaven and Fortunes Of War as album track fodder and sitting in the lower echelons of Maiden’s back catalogue. But these tracks are different animals in the live domain, and the form Bayley was in made the tunes sound reborn.

A meaty trio from his War Within Me album, including the title track, Pull Yourself Up, and Warrior, didn’t go unnoticed and didn’t herald a mass exodus to the dunny. But let’s be honest, we all came for a slab of lesser spotted Maiden. Bayley pummeled out a free-wheeling Virus like his life depended on it, and bizarrely, a song he never performed live while fronting the band.

Blaze Bayley - Iron Maiden 30th Anniversary - 8 February 2024
Blaze Bayley – Iron Maiden 30th Anniversary – 8 February 2024. Photo: Carl Foran/MetalTalk

Although billed as a Blaze Bayley show, this guy is a team player, and his performance was more than matched by his four comrades, better known as Absolva, who earlier in the evening tore the roof off with one of the finest support slots I’ve witnessed in years. Led from the front by the Appleton brothers Luke and Chris, two ferociously talented guitarists who played the parts of Messrs Murray and Gers effortlessly.

Blaze Bayley - Iron Maiden 30th Anniversary - 8 February 2024
Blaze Bayley – Iron Maiden 30th Anniversary – 8 February 2024. Photo: Carl Foran/MetalTalk

Playing in a city just thirty-odd miles from where Braveheart was filmed, The Clansman’s rousing call for independence wasn’t lost on the Celtic gathering as they showed the whites of their knuckles and the size of their tonsils with rallying chants of “freedom”.

The pounding rhythm of Martin McNee and Karl Schramm, who actually wouldn’t have looked out of place alongside Mel Gibson, held the charge like battle-scared warriors.

Blaze Bayley - Iron Maiden 30th Anniversary - 8 February 2024
Blaze Bayley – Iron Maiden 30th Anniversary – 8 February 2024. Photo: Carl Foran/MetalTalk

Aside from the mountain of Metal that was feasted on, one of the highlights of the night was witnessing the humbleness of Bayley and the undying affection he has for his fans. His gratitude for selling out the show and support during hard times was palpable. He still looks mean and cool as fuck in a sleeveless t-shirt and baggy combats, but he has no problem dropping his guard and letting his joy spill out. On Man On The Edge, his wide-eyed smile just added to a rollicking execution.

Blaze Bayley - Iron Maiden 30th Anniversary - 8 February 2024
Blaze Bayley – Iron Maiden 30th Anniversary – 8 February 2024. Photo: Carl Foran/MetalTalk

Unfortunately, it had to end sometime, and it did so with a proper thumping. A song that stands shoulder to shoulder with any of Iron Maiden’s big guns, Futurereal gave one last reminder of the quality material Bayley created with the legendary EastEnders. It even kicked off a polite little mosh pit that still looked a tad iffy for my fellow middle-agers and me.

Nights like this don’t come around often enough and thank God Blaze Bayley is back on these shores in September. The world is a shitbox at the moment, but people like Blaze Bayley and Absolva make life a whole lot easier. Long may it continue.

Blaze Bayley - Iron Maiden 30th Anniversary - 8 February 2024
Blaze Bayley – Iron Maiden 30th Anniversary – 8 February 2024. Photo: Carl Foran/MetalTalk
Blaze Bayley - Iron Maiden 30th Anniversary - 8 February 2024
Blaze Bayley – Iron Maiden 30th Anniversary – 8 February 2024. Photo: Carl Foran/MetalTalk

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