The following review was co-written with Viola. Viola wrote the Dream Theater portion.
In all my years as a metalhead, there are a few key bands I have yet to see in live performance. Iron Maiden was one of those bands. For whatever reason, whenever Iron Maiden did come to the states to tour, I was never able to attend a show. Thankfully, on Sunday, July 18th it all changed.
Through our relationship, Viola has become a big fan of Iron Maiden as well. So it was a real treat that we were able to both go together and enjoy Maiden for the first time.
As a proud member of the Mike Portnoy forum, I’ve read posts by fans and even Portnoy himself about the lukewarm reception Dream Theater has received as opening act at some of the shows on the Iron Maiden tour. I’m thrilled to say that the audience at Sunday’s show gave Dream Theater an enthusiastic welcome.
Dream Theater tailored their set to appeal to the Iron Maiden fans by playing songs which favored the band’s metal side rather than their progressive. Highlights included “Home”, before which front man James LaBrie proclaimed, “Anytime we come to Chicago, you make us feel at home!” “Panic Attack” featured keyboardist Jordan Rudess jamming at the front of the stage on his Zen Riffer (a cooler cousin of the keytar), followed by a duet with lead guitarist John Petrucci. The band closed out the show with “Pull Me Under”, their only so-called “hit” song. I’ve heard this song at previous concerts. This time, with the help of a pinkish-gold sunset, the song felt magical.
Dream Theater is legendary for their technical prowess not only on their albums but also in their live shows, and this was no exception. John Petrucci and John Myung sounded incredible in their infamous unison licks; Jordan was his usual one-man orchestra self; Portnoy pulled off a mind-blowing solo at the end of “Home”; and James LaBrie’s soaring voice was pitch perfect on all of the songs. 25 years into their career, Dream Theater just keeps getting better and better.
How do you talk about the legendary Iron Maiden without being in total awe of the band’s prowess in the metal world? After the first song of a two hour set, which was the “The Wickerman”, it was crystal clear why Iron Maiden has been around for 30+ years. It was also made clear why Bruce Dickinson is irreplaceable. Aside from Dickinson’s distinctive voice, his stage presence is incredible. I was truly amazed by Dickinson’s ability to run all over the stage hurdling over objects and sing without losing pitch or power.
The majority of the Iron Maiden’s set featured music from the band’s more recent albums, A Matter of Life and Death, Dance of Death and Brave New World. The band did play the title track from Fear of the Dark. During the middle of the concert, the audience cheered as Dickinson gave a tribute to the late Ronnie James Dio. Dickinson pointed out that Dio gave the metal world its metal horns. Fans applauded, screamed and held metal horns up high as the band performed “Blood Brothers”, a song about family.
Dickinson proclaimed the Sunday performance as the most attended Chicago concert in the band’s history. And when he asked the crowd if this was their first Maiden concert, it was hard for Dickinson to believe and repeated the question, which received the same answer – it was the first Maiden concert for a large percentage of the audience.
The audience remained interested throughout the concert as the band performed new songs like “No More Lies” and the band’s new single “El Dorado” from the upcoming album, The Final Frontier. However, the crowd really erupted when the old hits were performed. It was clear the audience was hoping for a little more of the older stuff, as was I. Regardless of whether Maiden performed what fans hoped to hear, everyone took it all in by cheering after every song and singing along to the ones that were better known.
The concert concluded with “Hallowed Be Thy Name”, “The Number of the Beast” and an extended version of “Running Free”. Although I didn’t get to hear Maiden’s classics, like “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”, “Run to the Hills”, or “The Trooper”, the concert met my expectations. Bruce was on fire all night long, and the veteran band was as tight as a fan could expect after decades of performing together.
This tour is in support of Iron Maiden’s new album, The Final Frontier, which is scheduled for release on August 17, 2010 in the US and is already available abroad.
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