Much has been made of the former Iron Maiden singer’s health issues over recent years, but Paul Di’Anno made a triumphant homecoming appearance as the Special Guest at KK’s Priest’s Debut Gig on Thursday evening. This was a total celebration of his immense contribution to the East End phenomenon’s formative years.
KK’s Steel Mill, Wolverhampton – 6 July 2023
Words: Sophie James
Photography: John Inglis
As Paul Di’Anno took to the stage, there was a huge welcome allied with a sea of Smartphones held aloft to capture the moment. For many of those present, catching Di’Anno was as big a deal as witnessing the headliners.
Opening with Sanctuary, the sound was crisp and punchy, with the band capturing the punk energy of that period. They were exceedingly tight throughout, with guitars appearing to be tuned slightly higher but with a deeper bass anchoring the whole shebang.
Talking of the bass, it was its rumble that introduced Wrathchild. The delivery was frenetic, with the vocal full of anger and malice. Make no mistake, Paul was in fine voice.
“This is my first time playing in the UK for 10 Years, and this is a great homecoming. Thank you ever so much.” One detected the genuine sincerity in his tone.
“Now this song is about a dirty ol baarstard – and it’s not me for a change.” Turns out it was all about a certain Prowler and again delivered at breakneck speed. After opening act Tailgunner’s set, the audience were taken on a white-knuckle ride of pure unadulterated Heavy Metal.
Like Priest’s The Ripper, Murders In The Rue Morgue was so atmospheric in conjuring images of a bygone era, only this time substitute London for 19th Century Paris. So blisteringly intense, with Paul’s voice alternating between terrifying grunts and terrified screams as he brought the characters to life. Also noticeable was the differing tones of the Strat and the Les Paul in the twin axe attack.
“It’s so fucking great to be home. You’re making an old man very happy. Next year, I hope to be back on my feet.” Cue mass chants of “Di’An-no! Di’An-no!!”
“This one goes out to the late Clive Burr. Sing with me.” And it’s back to the debut we go for Remember Tomorrow. I have to admit that I haven’t heard this song for years. I had forgotten just how good this song is, its excellence enhanced further by this reincarnation and reinvigoration.
When assessing each of the Maiden albums over the years as a body of work, it would not be unreasonable to consider some ‘patchy’. A case in point was their sophomore, their first with legendary producer Martin Birch. One of the highlights, if not the absolute zenith, was the title track. I don’t think that I have heard Killers played with such speed and energy. A glorious rendition that just sparkled.
There followed a huge cheer for the opening chords of what was the undisputed pinnacle of the set. The joint went bonkers mental for ‘Phantom Of The Opera. So many segments to this, each one rapturous, to categorise it merely as a song would be doing it an injustice. A mini-opera would be more appropriate, or even an epic epic! Now where’s my bottle of Lucozade?
“Such an honour to play for you this evening. I’m too old to get emotional and all that bollocks, but this is dedicated to the Friends who have helped me through this illness.”
How do you follow Phantom? With only sufficient time for one number, it had to be Running Free, which typically was played at a pace representative of some of The Angels it was partly dedicated to.
I would consider that many ‘casual’ fans in the audience, if not blown away, were surprised and mostly impressed by the past 40 minutes. It was all over far too soon.
With an autumn jaunt accompanying KK’s Priest already announced, as are some solo dates, these are unmissable opportunities for those who wish to relive and rejoice in the early works of the British Metal legends, and all in its original voice, which has lost none of its zeal, mischievousness, and potency.