Iron Maiden at the Stadium

{mosimage}Having sold out the Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium’s 44,000 tickets in minutes (Tampere’s 26,000 took longer), it goes without saying that this British band is popular in Finland. Their heavy rock/light metal mix has not only an adoring audience here, but one that transcends generations to the point where parents go to the same concerts with sons and daughters. 

Many may have thought the youthful contingent was noticed by singer Bruce Dickinson when thanking the audience, he noted that “We're gonna play songs from the past 25 years tonight and from the looks of it, many of you weren't even born then!” However, he apparently says that every time. It seems time has marched on and been noticed. Still a good time was guaranteed to be had by the Iron Maiden heads and after all these years (decades in fact), the sextet know how to work a crowd: stoking the mass up into a synchronised choral frenzy with arms pointing skywards in unison when it seemed to flag with another golden oldie supported by stage antics.

 

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And Finns are able to have a good time without being filled up (though many had obviously whetted their whistles before entry judging by the  rubbish tip outside). This virtuous patience was illustrated by a full house at Pori Jazz years ago patiently waiting an hour while James Brown had his cup of tea backstage and readied himself for the exertions ahead. 

For nearly two hours on stage, Iron Maiden rolled out their composition compendium, blasted out by walls of speakers with the stage flanked by two huge screens. Unfortunately, in parts the sound system went wonky as guitar riffs clashed with the laws of electronics, which spoilt the result occasionally, if not the enjoyment. No such criticism could be aimed at the singer: BD’s voice has held up despite the years of over-exertion – unlike some aged screamers whose chords have cracked at high pitch in Helsinki in the last couple of years. He belted out every note, not one missed or compromised. In addition to the full-on singing he leapt about the stage impressively in a variety of uniforms ranging from British Boer War soldier waving a Union Jack to voodoo witchdoctor according to the number. 

The other band members, bassist and founder Steve Harris plus guitarists Janick Gers, Adrian Smith and Dave Murray – all hair and tattoos aplenty, no beards though – went through their paces in time-trusted fashion, finger dexterity on display with each able to have a small solo, though not the drummer Nicko McBrain. Possibly this was his punishment for not living up to a promise to buy the whole stadium a drink. He was hidden by what was possibly the world’s largest drum kit and had to stand to be seen and had a separate camera inside his percussion castle. 

{mosimage}As sweat rolled down off and on the stage, BD led the way and was soaked after the first three songs: Aces High, 2 Minutes To Midnight and The Trooper. Fortunately, the enclosure in front of the stage was watered regularly as the security defied their appearance to gently hand out paper cups of thirst-quenching liquid. It’s hard work playing and enjoying a good live rock gig and it’s good to see everyone wanting to give and get their money’s worth. 

Unusually for these large open air shows, the stage scenery changed too from ancient Egyptian spirits to a thing that looked like the “Creature from the Deep” (aka Eddie the Head) to a 5-metre tall skinless cyberman that moved around the stage briefly. This was something those who left before the encore missed.  So after Fear of the dark, Rime of The Ancient Mariner (before which a large seagull flew timely around above the audience, BD is talismanic too it seems), Wasted years and so on, everyone left for a bar to talk about seeing rock legends alive. Many no doubt were looking forward to Tampere the next day…… 

Photos: Eduardo Alonso