• Concert review of Iron Maiden & The Raven Age at Bell Centre in Montreal

    Exactly three weeks ago, I went to see one of my favorite bands of all times in concert. After work, I took a taxi to the next bus station to get a quick ride from Ottawa to Montreal. I realized I wasn't the only one who had decided to travel for two and a half hours since I met a handful of other fans who attended the same concert on the bus. Once I arrived in Montreal, I met with a good friend of mine and we took the metro to Bell Center. Six weeks earlier I had taken us almost half an hour to get inside the home arena of the Montreal Canadiens for a Black Sabbath concert but that night we found a different entrance and it didn't even take thirty seconds to pass the security measures. That's why we had plenty of time to take a look at the merchandise section. The band had a selection of numerous shirts that cost fifty dollars each. Despite those elevated prices, I decided to grab three shirts: one to support the upcoming Android game Legacy of the Beast, a limited event shirt for the Canadian dates of the tour only and a shirt inspired by the legendary cover artworks of ''Powerslave'' and ''Brave New World'' with a twist of the new ''The Book of Souls'' style. I also bought a huge flag inspired by the last cover artwork for thirty dollars. It was an expensive night but I got some real high-quality products that I display and wear with pride. Up next, my friend and I went to our excellent seats in the front row of the top level. Throughout the entire concert, there were no disturbances and we had an outstanding view despite a sell out crowd of 14,963 people that night.

    The Raven Age

    Opening band The Raven Age hit the stage for a set of seven songs that lasted for a little bit longer than half an hour. Just like heavy metal legends Black Sabbath that chose underwhelming blues rock band Rival Sons as opening band for its important farewell tour, Iron Maiden's choice in favor of melodic metal newcomers The Raven Age that has no international touring experience and only released one EP two years ago, seemed like a poor choice. The reason behind this choice was that the band's guitarist George Harris is actually the son of Iron Maiden bassist and founder Steve Harris. To my surprise, The Raven Age delivered a quite good show compared to the tedious performance by Rival Sons one and a half months earlier. Their music sounded like a mixture of modern alternative rock acts like Fall Out Boy and melodic metal in the key of In Flames without harsh vocals to me. This is definitely not the kind of music most Iron Maiden fans would listen to but the band convinced with a sympathetic interaction with the crowd, a couple of great guitar melodies and solos and a solid vocal performance. The crowd cheered the band and reacted surprisingly positively.

    After a break of a little bit more than half an hour, the tape switched to UFO's famous hard rock anthem ''Doctor Doctor'' which announced that the British heavy metal legend was about to get going. A short and not so impressive animated video clip of Iron Maiden's Boeing 747 stranded in the Central American jungle led to the first sounds of last record's opener ''If Eternity Should Fail''. This song wasn't the best choice as an opener since the track has a rather long overture with overlapping vocal effects that work well on record but not in concert. These vocal parts sounded strangely cacophonous and there were also some minor sound issues concerning specifically the vocals during the first three songs. Once the song sped up, the crowd reacted positively and the British heavy metal legends hit the stage with a lot of energy.

    Iron Maiden I

     

    Drummer Nicko McBrain was solid and joyful on drums despite his age of sixty-three years, bassist Steve Harris was running around the stage and banging his head, guitarist Adrian Smith looked relaxed and his performance was spot on, his colleague Dave Murray kept a very low profile but looked very happy and third and last guitarist Janick Gers was proving his flexibility with his entertaining stunts. The best performer that night was by far singer Bruce Dickinson. Let's not forget that the charismatic singer had beaten cancer last year but he was running around and hitting all the high notes as if he was in the prime of his youth. In addition to this, Bruce Dickinson constantly interacted with the crowd and most importantly spoke only French throughout the entire show which is a big sign of respect for the local crowd. He even underlined that the fans in the beautiful province were the most enthusiastic in the whole world. I'm not sure if Bruce Dickinson makes this kind of comment in front of all bigger crowds but when he said it that night, everybody could feel that he really meant it in that special moment.

    Iron Maiden II

     

    Another element that must be mentioned is the stage setting that recalled both an ancient Mayan temple and the majesty of Iron Maiden's legendary Powerslave tour more than three decades ago. The giant back drops were also originally colorful and changed for each track after a few technical problems during the first three tracks. One could also admire different puppets and statues of band mascot Eddie. Eddie's giant head that appeared behind the drum kit during the band anthem ''Iron Maiden'' and especially the brand-new Mayan Eddie that entered the stage to fight Janick Gers and to get his heart ripped out, cooked up and thrown into the crowd by Bruce Dickinson during ''The Book of Souls'' were absolutely jaw-dropping and added to the bombastic entertainment of the show. A chillingly devilish puppet loomed behind the stage during the opening encore ''The Number of the Beast''.

    Iron Maiden III

    The band played fifteen songs and performed just under two hours. From the new songs, especially the title track ''The Book of Souls'' sounded much more energizing and structured in concert than on the album which was also due to the fitting and memorable effects including the Mayan Eddie, Bruce Dickinson's and Janick Gers' addicting energy, an exotic bowl right behind the drum kit and several light and other special effects. The last record's first single ''Speed of Light'' had a nice nostalgic touch yet tons of energy and was a clear step in the right direction after the less efficient opener. The epic and classic ''The Red and the Black'' was played much faster than the studio version and the band really nailed the exciting instrumental parts in twelve and a half energizing minutes. Among the older tunes, the inclusion of the mysterious epic ''Powerslave'' was a bright decision since it perfectly fit to the theme and style of the more recent material. The last three songs of the regular set ''Hallowed Be Thy Name'', ''Fear of the Dark'' and ''Iron Maiden'' always work great in concert and made the crowd go wild. Many people wondered whether the very last track ''Wasted Years'' would be a good choice to end the show and in my opinion it was refreshing to conclude an amazing set with one of the band's catchiest and most emotional hits instead of another classic epic. The band really poured its heart and soul out during the performance of this final masterpiece that satisfied the crowd which saluted the band with long and loud standing ovations long after the six artists had already left the stage.

    Iron Maiden IV

    In the end, Iron Maiden delivered a constantly entertaining, perfectly choreographed and refreshingly juvenile performance that satisfied everyone in the large sellout crowd. This was the second time I have seen Iron Maiden and this concert was even more diversified, enthusiastic and personal than the show I had witnessed five and half years earlier at the same place. The band really proved that it's still one of the very best live bands on the planet in 2016. This concert didn't beat the incredible performance by Black Sabbath I had witnessed at Canadian Tire Center in Ottawa back in 2014 but it's a realistic candidate for the second best concert I have ever attended. Needless to say that I would immediately go see the band again in concert if they came around with some new material in a few years. If you haven't seen the band yet and care only a little bit about rock and metal music, you should go see this band as soon as you can.

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