Iron Maiden returned to Utah for the first time in 16 years Wednesday night — and the first time in 21 years since a Bruce Dickinson-fronted version of the band was in the Beehive State. And in the words of the British, it was brilliant.
Maiden did not disappoint in their long awaited return, playing an 80s heavy set-list for two hours on an elaborate stage in front of a packed USANA Amphitheatre. The current Maiden England World Tour is supposed to closely resemble the band’s 1988 concert video of the same name. That original Maiden England video was in support of the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album.
For those who remember watching staples like “The Trooper,” “Run to the Hills” and “Wasted Years” on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball every weekend, Wednesday’s concert was like a throwback to that era, focusing heavily on the Seventh Son album as well as some of Iron Maiden’s earliest material.
Iron Maiden has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years. Whether it was that resurgence, or simply a case of being away for so long, large numbers of enthusiastic fans showed up for Wednesday night’s shows. The last time Maiden played in Utah, they were at Saltair. This time around, the much smaller Saltair wouldn’t have come to close to holding all the people who showed up at USANA.
A full USANA Amphitheatre – including a healthy number of young fans who weren’t even born the last time Dickinson and Maiden were in Utah – roared in approval for songs like, “Can I Play With Madness,” “The Number of the Beast,” “2 Minutes to Midnight,” and “Fear of the Dark,” one of the show’s highlights.
Dressed in tuxedo coat tails and white high tops, Dickinson, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Nicko McBrain and Janick Gers started the show with “Moonchild.” Dickinson changed into a red coat and waved the Union Jack for “The Trooper” while running around all parts of the large bi-level stage. Deeper cuts Wednesday night included “The Prisoner,” “Afraid to Shoot Strangers” and”Phantom of the Opera.”
Dickinson acknowledged to the crowd it had been awhile since the band had been in Utah and seemed to be in good spirits all night, even when making fun of what he described as beer in Utah without alcohol.
Maiden brought an elaborate bi-level stage production, as one would expect, this time with a polar iceberg theme. Two video screens on each side of the stage gave even fans on the back of the USANA lawn a view of everything happening on stage. And, of course, the Maiden mascot “Eddie” – a zombie-like creature that has graced every album cover of the band’s 30+ year history – played a heavy role, from his face on a plethora of rotating backdrops, to a 12-foot Eddie dressed in a Civil War type uniform walking around the stage, to giant a Eddie from the Seventh Son album cover, rising from the back of the stage.
Sticking with the Seventh Son theme, Maiden also played some of the album’s stronger tracks in “The Clairvoyant” and “The Evil That Men Do.”
Dickinson, whose vocals got stronger as the night progressed, can still sing after 30 years, and the musicianship of the band, including blazing guitar solos from Smith and Murray and the galloping bass of Harris, remained as strong as ever.
Unlike most USANA concerts when a line of cars to exit has already formed by the encore in an attempt to avoid traffic, the large majority of the audience stuck around until the very end for Maiden. Those who stayed heard “Iron Maiden,” “Aces High” and “Running Free.”
At the rate Iron Maiden has been making appearances in Utah, it’s hard to say if Wednesday night show’s was their final appearance here. But if it was, they certainly went out on a high note, showing why they are one of the most popular heavy metal bands of all time.