Prior to the start of Iron Maiden’s brilliantly retrospective ‘Legacy of the Beast Tour’ at Golden 1 Center this Monday, the band’s tour manager pulled all photographers aside and gave us a quick pep talk—a rarity in today’s hustle-bustle music world.
“Look, the band are fit as f*** and they want you to get some good photographs,” she said of the group, who are all in their 60’s.
True to form, the opening number “Aces High,” sung from the point of view of a Royal Airforce fighter pilot in World War II, set the standard for the night with a frantic pace. As the song began, a nearly full-sized replica of a British Spitfire descended over the stage and hovered and banked with propellers spinning to the action of the song as the band rocked just as hard. Thus, one of the greatest heavy metal acts of all time kicked off their show at Golden 1.
From there, the show would continue with magnificent images including stunning visuals during “Revelations,” “Number of the Beast” and many others.
Longtime guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith held down most of the solos, occasionally aided by energetic Janick Gers, who joined the band when Smith departed for a decade and stayed onboard upon his return. Drummer Nicko McBrain, the band’s eldest member at 67, was a force on drums all night long, driving the powerful pulse of songs like “Where Eagles Dare” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name.”
But it was the high-paced energy of bassist Steve Harris and lead singer Bruce Dickinson that stood out on Monday night. Harris drilled the crowd with his relentless bass playing, aiming his instrument into the crowd machine-gun style while playing galloping rhythms. Meanwhile, Dickinson was unrelenting, as he demanded, and received the participation of the Sacramento audience while going through numerous costume changes that had him acting out most of the band’s songs. Early on, he had a dramatic sword duel with a British soldier version of Eddie during “The Trooper” and later donned flame-throwing arm attachments during “The Flight of Icarus,” a number that featured a giant faux-stone Icarus that unexpectedly, and elegantly, folded its wings at song’s end.
Of course, Maiden has been blowing minds and pleasing ears for a long time. Ever since Harris started the original version of the group in 1975, the band has steadily grown into a worldwide phenomenon, covering massive geographical territory around the globe, while writing compelling songs that delve into topics like history, war, mysticism and mythology.
The group further expanded their logistical prowess when they came into possession of Ed Force One in 2008, a Boeing 757 transport named after the band’s distinctive mascot and outfitted to carry the band and their stage cargo. Piloted by lead singer Bruce Dickinson, the group upgraded to a Boeing 747 jumbo jet a few years ago.
Dickinson learned to fly in the 90s, during a six-year departure from the band (between 1993 and 1999) and eventually learned enough to become a captain for a charter airline. Adding to his abundant talents, he’s also been ranked among England’s top ten fencers, is a novelist and TV host. Running all over the stage, changing outfits and constantly exhorting the crowd at Golden 1, he was in excellent form on Monday night.
Strikingly, the band arrived in Sacramento a day early as Harris, an avid footballer, and some of the crew were able to arrange a scrimmage with players from the Sacramento Republic. Harris, who is 63 now, was aiming towards a career as a professional footballer when rock ‘n’ roll took over. He has maintained top fitness throughout the years and he and a team of road crew called the “Maidonians” have been playing on off-tour days for decades.
True to the tour manager’s words, this band in their sixties are about as fit as one can be at midlife and played incredibly all night. As fans exited the arena, bits of Maiden songs could be heard being sung and hummed as we all walked down K Street with big smiles and fresh bits of Eddie merch.
Naturally, Iron Maiden isn’t your typical band. They are truly a group of renaissance men who have sustained the integrity of their brand for decades—and they sure as hell know how to rock.
For more information on Iron Maiden and ‘The Legacy of the Beast Tour,’ visit IronMaiden.com.
Photos by Paul Piazza