Dublin’s docklands on a normal day is a hive of activity. The pathways are thronged with financial wizz kids, specky techies and a mass of high-earning Henrys. But tonight is a lot different, for these concrete walkways are not pedestrianised. They’re Maiden-ized.
3Arena, Dublin – 24 June 2023
Words: Brian Boyle
Photography: Olga Kuzmenko
The masses are a pick ‘n’ mix of your traditional denim and leather, the casual t-shirt and jeans, and the chino-wearing Metalhead with a sweater over the shoulder for afterwards. And they all have one common goal, to worship upon the altar of a British Institution.
It’s been six years since Iron Maiden last set foot on Dublin soil, and in that time, the world has gone through some serious change, and undeniably not a very positive one. But the one constant that still remains is that in 2023, Iron Maiden are still the Emperors Of Heavy Metal.
With the mammoth Legacy Of The Beast Tour wrapping up in Tampa, Florida, just last October, they are back with The Future Past Tour, a sumptuous blend of the old and new with their much loved Somewhere In Time album from 1986 and latest release Senjutsu taking centre stage.
The 3Arena is just like most arenas, devoid of personality and atmosphere and guaranteed to rip you off. But when Maiden enter one, it’s a different story altogether, and as UFO’s Doctor Doctor blasted out of the PA, the feeling of Metal unison in the room was palpable.
The theme from Blade Runner showered the crowd with anticipation before the legendary EastEnders bolted from the traps and fired off a pummeling Caught Somewhere In Time. Decked out in an ankle-length coat and dodgy black shades, an eager Bruce Dickinson took no time in marking his territory, and to say the surge of energy in the room was breathtaking would be a gross understatement.
With three songs written solely by himself, Somewhere In Time is often referred to as the Adrian Smith album, and up next was one of his finest compositions, the engulfing Stranger In A Strange Land.
The legendary guitarist and rather nifty angler meticulously plucked notes from places no other guitarist knows about. And with raised fists of euphoria and the first appearance of Eddie, this underused gem’s return to the live fold was greeted like a long-lost relation.
Then a dart to the present with a hat trick from the Senjutsu album. The Writing On The Wall, Days Of Future Past and The Time Machine possibly won’t feature again in future tours, but they slotted in perfectly amongst all the big hitters.
With this being one of their most anticipated tour setlists, many were not expecting The Prisoner to be unleashed. And it proved the perfect remedy for those longing for a classic. As Dickinson enthusiastically ramped up the crowd’s screams with some crotch-grabbing, this nostalgic injection could not have gone down any better.
Performing in a building that saw the birth of Riverdance, Death Of The Celts heralded the mother of all Heavy Metal jigs. The Steve Harris masterpiece had Dickinson channelling his inner Michael Flatley to the Celtic riffage of Smith, Murray and Gers. The roof was then well and truly raised as Can I Play With Madness fired the sweaty Dubliners back to the hedonistic ’80s.
Gimmicky was always part of a Maiden show, so with Dickinson aiming a rather elaborate machine gun at a gun-toting Eddie, the performance of the always thrilling Heaven Can Wait was a little bit extra special.
Before this tour started, there was a lot of will they or won’t they as regards whether they would play Alexander The Great. Well, the Maiden faithful got their wish, and despite Dickinson hilariously knocking Nicko McBrain’s gong over, that couldn’t stop the song’s grandiose majesty from holding the 13,000 captive.
Commander-in-chief Steve Harris is still a force of nature, regularly taking aim at the crowd with his West Ham-adorned bass. This is a man who just last night was nose to nose with 700 patrons in Dublin’s Opium club with his side band British Lion. Watching the man’s endless enthusiasm on a gasping Fear Of The Dark was an education in itself.
The timeless chimes of Iron Maiden sparked another mass of Metal hysteria, with a samurai-wielding Eddie having a right old ding dong with the hyper-fuelled Janick Gers. This song has never lost its live appeal, and with beer and dandruff flying in all directions, that’s certain never to change.
With enough fire explosions to make even Kiss look reserved, Hell On Earth took its epic studio version and monumentally upped it, hand’s down one of the night’s highlights.
With the four guitarists lined up and ready to do battle, which has to be one of music’s most glorious sights, The Trooper did it’s usual all-out assault, helped by the roars of the Dublin choir.
We all knew it was coming, but that didn’t make Adrian Smith’s riff to Wasted Years any less exciting. It was hard to tell who was having the most fun, the crowd or the band. Gers and Murray did their usual mock singing act, and Nicko McBrain looked like he was having the time of his life buried behind his tubs.
So there was no one going to begrudge them a cold pint of Irish stout after. It may not have been the traditional Guinness, but that clearly didn’t matter as they barely touched the sides.
As they raised their glasses to the crowd, the band knew they were part of something special tonight. Everything felt right. There was the usual goodwill amongst the Maiden brotherhood. Even the stench of body odour and farts had a certain magic to it.
Quite simply, Iron Maiden ripped Dublin a new one.
RIP Anne Burke