Paul Di’Anno Delivered An Incendiary Set Of Iron Maiden Classics

For anyone stumbling into Shepherds Bush Empire on Thursday for KK’s Priest, Paul Di’Anno and Burning Witches, the feeling may have been of disconcertingly thrust back into the glorious early 1980s era when the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal was reviving rock music around the world.

Paul Di’Anno – Burning Witches

O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London – 12 October 2023

Words: Paul Monkhouse

Photography: Robert Sutton

Paul Di'Anno - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 12 October 2023
Paul Di’Anno – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 12 October 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Having stepped out of the DeLorean and through the doors, the sight of denim and leather is everywhere and with the night’s line-up the perfect soundtrack, this is both a heady rush of nostalgia and proof that blistering, high-volume rock ‘n’ roll is not just still alive but thriving.

Paul Di’Anno

Having been the frontman for one of the world’s biggest bands, Paul Di’Anno needed no introduction. His work on the first two seminal Iron Maiden albums is the stuff of true legend. 

Paul Di'Anno - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 12 October 2023
Paul Di’Anno – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 12 October 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Whilst his former band may have gone onto well-deserved global conquering success, things have been considerably harder for the vocalist, with recent and ongoing health issues refining him to a wheelchair. 

He is the very epitome of a fighter, though, and his spirit blazes, his voice having the same character and force as it ever did in those nascent days.

Paul Di'Anno - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 12 October 2023
Paul Di’Anno – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 12 October 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

The majestic tones of The Ides Of March heralded a set packed with cherry-picked highlights from those first two albums, the sparks flying as the band tore into Wrathchild. Very few bands could fully bridge that gap between punk and Metal as early Maiden, the whole the epitome of NWOBHM and Di’Anno and band tap into that primal power with these songs. 

Paul Di'Anno - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 12 October 2023
Paul Di’Anno – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 12 October 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Sanctuary and Purgatory are a rush. Remember Tomorrow perfectly mixes the wistful with the brutal, and Murders in the Rue Morgue packs a wallop like a freight train. Burning Witches Courtney Cox and MetalTalk’s very own Chris Dale joined for a bombastic version of Running Free.

Paul Di'Anno - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 12 October 2023
Paul Di’Anno – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 12 October 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Incendiary as it all was, nothing could top set closer Phantom Of The Opera, though. A knockout punch full of the dynamic highs and lows, fast and slow, that’s made it one of the greatest classics of the era and still has few peers in the Maiden catalogue. 

Paul Di'Anno - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 12 October 2023
Paul Di’Anno – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 12 October 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Genuinely a killer set from a band on fire and roaring like a drag racer.

Burning Witches

Burning Witches - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 12 October 2023
Burning Witches – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 12 October 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Kicking off the night, Swiss outfit Burning Witches once more proved that the girls can rock as hard as any of the boys. There’s an adrenaline rush as the quintet hit the stage and immediately tore into the frantic riff of Unleash The Beats, the twin fretwork of Romana Kahkuhl and Courtney Cox scything as it sliced and diced. 

Burning Witches - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 12 October 2023
Burning Witches – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 12 October 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

Vocalist Laura Guldermond possesses a voice made for this brand of high-velocity Metal, her chops similar to Rob Halford, the growls forceful and highs eardrum shattering. 

Burning Witches - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 12 October 2023
Burning Witches – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 12 October 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

The equally Metal-as-can-be Wings Of Steel is driven by the rapid-fire drumming of Lala Frischnecht, the band the living embodiment of the sort of heroic flag bearers of the genre.

A heroic We Stand As One conjures visions of battles won, and the dark Hexenhammer has elements of Sabbath meets Priest at their most crushing, the bass of Jeanine Grob rumbling enough to loosen bowels and fillings. 

Burning Witches - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 12 October 2023
Burning Witches – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 12 October 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

With their none-more-black outfits, their gloriously colourful guitars are a wonderfully stark contrast, their token a well-chosen change to the archetypal image. With the anthem Burning Witches closing their short, sharp set, this was a breathless and passionate display that hopefully points to their swift return to these shores. 

Burning Witches - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 12 October 2023
Burning Witches – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 12 October 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

With Krokus having retired, Burning Witches are the natural and worthy successors of the Swiss Metal crown.

You can read the report of KK’s Priest at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire here.

Burning Witches - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 12 October 2023
Burning Witches – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 12 October 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk
Burning Witches - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 12 October 2023
Burning Witches – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 12 October 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk
Burning Witches - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 12 October 2023
Burning Witches – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 12 October 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk
Burning Witches - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 12 October 2023
Burning Witches – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 12 October 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk
Burning Witches - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 12 October 2023
Burning Witches – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 12 October 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk
Paul Di'Anno - O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire - 12 October 2023
Paul Di’Anno – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 12 October 2023. Photo: Robert Sutton/MetalTalk

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