The Maiden Voyage to a Brave New World
Iron Maiden, Slayer and Entombed
at Earls Court 1, London, England on June 16th, 2000

by: Paul Schwarz
Having arrived and just sat down, I was immediately greeted by the dimming of lights, and shortly by the eruption of "Eyemaster", preceded as ever by Entombed's Imperial March intro, from the -- at this remove -- tiny stage. Though going back only as far as _Wolverine Blues_ -- save for the closing half of "Left Hand Path" which likewise closed the set --, Entombed put on a good show, with a half-full Earls Court sporting enough Entombed fans to voice the post chorus "Fuck!" of "Out of Hand". Entombed acquitted themselves adequately to the Maiden-only, truly -adult- audience, but their impact is much more profound in a club atmosphere where their punk attitude and overdriven rage can fester under contained pressure rather than dissipate uselessly into the air around them. Entombed are just -not- an arena band.

But neither are Slayer. However, the major difference between the two is that while cramming Slayer into a smaller venue compacts their aggression down into an inexorable juggernaut of musical destruction, the band are experienced and adaptable enough to cope with other situations; in five times of seeing Slayer (two outdoor, three indoor including this evening) they have always ruled and always reaffirmed my faith in metal's worth, never have they even come close to disappointing. Tonight was no different. Veterans of more than two or three Slayer gigs in the nineties will note, and maybe object to, the fact that there is only a certain catalogue the band ever draw from live (and every song pre-'94 on tonight's set list can be found on the _Live: Decade of Aggression_ double CD set), though this catalogue covers virtually every album in some way or another. But this was certainly no pitfall this evening; where Slayer may actually be gaining new fans rather than merely reaffirming the faith of their following. Anyway, who can seriously object to being treated to belting renditions of the likes of "War Ensemble", "Bitter Peace", "Raining Blood", "Hell Awaits" and "Angel of Death"? Tonight the extra treat on the menu is not the lack of Tom Araya's usual stoic silence, but "Here Comes the Pain", a new track which is showcased. With lots of dirge and a crushing low-tuned riff its nucleus, "Here Comes the Pain" was progressive while still retaining Slayer's very individual character, and it bodes well for a forthcoming new record.

So, it's on to Iron Maiden. Seven years since Bruce was last here with "the boys", or vice-versa, and things have finally come to the crunch on their "home-turf", after the band have been half way around the world. Strange maybe, that Iron Maiden should wait so long to come home, but there is no bitterness in the air as Earls Court goes ablaze with light, sound -- and a few small pyros -- as the opening riff of "The Wicker Man" sounds out and Maiden kick off a set filled at every moment with energy and exuberance, but unfortunately not always filled with the greatest of their songs. "The Wicker Man" is a damn fine opener (as I wagered it would be), but "Ghost of the Navigator" is not quite the follow-up -I- was looking for, and immediately adding "Brave New World" to the catalogue of new tracks showcased did stretch my patience, and visibly the patience of others around me. Maiden return to safe waters with "Wrathchild" and then follow with the godly "2 Minutes to Midnight" before challenging our minds once again with the present-day-Metallica Vs. Manowar-isms of "Blood Brothers". Things continue in more or less this vein with Maiden contrasting old and new -- crowd-pleaser vs. crowd-challenger -- and thus trawling through two more ("The Mercenary" and "Dream of Mirrors") from _Brave New World_ and a small selection of Bailey-era material in the shape of "Sign of the Cross" and "The Clansman". Despite closing with a straight run of old material -- from "final" song "The Evil That Men Do" through the whole four song encore of "Number of the Beast", "Hallowed Be thy Name", "Iron Maiden" and "Sanctuary" -- Maiden delivered a set which, overall, was disappointing. I understand that _Brave New World_ needs promotion, and that this is the time to do it, but -forty minutes- of it in a less-than-two-hour set? Where were classics like "Flight of Icarus", "Aces High" or "Run to the Hills" while the -nine-minute- "Dream of Mirrors" echoed its choruses twenty times or more through my head? All the same, whatever my qualms about the new songs chosen or the old ones left out, what cannot be denied is that, musically, Maiden were more than a force to be reckoned with, they were a force to conquer the world with. The likes of "Fear of the Dark" and "The Trooper" were mesmerising, powerful and anthemic: metal songs to lose your voice to. Performance-wise, Maiden were spot on expect for a few hairy-timing and mushy-sound moments. Set-wise, Maiden -were- heavy on new songs, but between the old ones they gave us and Bruce's promise in "Sanctuary"'s final throes that the band would be back before Christmas, they assured that no proverbial mud this performance might have thrown up would stick. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, Maiden kept the attention of their crowd, and pandered to their patience as necessary, but only as necessary. They cut a fine balance, but ultimately their expertise at the give-and-take game of live performance, sent, I believe, everyone home smiling and expectant of the next time they would roll into town. I can't tell if it was deliberately planned, but Maiden succeeded in getting a -very- indulgent set list past an audience who'd waited at least seven years to see them. To me, that's testament not only to their fans' loyalty, but also to the quality of the performance they put on.

(article submitted 12/8/2000)

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