at The First Direct Arena, Leeds, U.K., June 28, 2023

IRON MAIDEN (Live at The First Direct Arena, Leeds, U.K., June 28, 2023)
Photo: Mick Burgess

It has been said that you can judge a band on how they treat their support act. Often they get a postage stamp sized piece of stage, a couple of lights and half of the PA if they’re lucky. Tonight Lord Of The Lost had the works – an imposing drum riser, raised platforms, a stage encompassing backdrop and lights and smoke galore. Iron Maiden are clearly confident in themselves that they give everything to their support act. Lord of the Lost duly obliged with a stunning set of Gothic/Industrial tinged fist pumping Metal fronted by the enigmatic Chris Harms. With “The Curtain Falls” and “Die Tomorrow” they performed as if their lives depended on it. They may have come last in Eurovision but “Blood and Glitter” blew the roof off as Lord Of The Lost put on a headliners performance winning many new fans in the process.

While some bands of a certain vintage seem content to roll out the same tired setlist tour after tour that accusation can most certainly not be levelled at Heavy Metal giants, Iron Maiden. The only predictable thing about Maiden is their unpredictability.

Every tour features a radically different setlist from the previous one and tonight was no different with only four songs remaining from their last jaunt around the UK in 2018.

As soon as UFO’s “Doctor Doctor” blasts from the PA, the atmosphere ramps up tenfold as the fans know it’s almost time to end the five year wait to see their heroes return to these shores. Maiden certainly did not disappoint as they exploded onto the stage with a bombastic “Caught Somewhere In Time,” performed for the first time in over 35 years followed by the brooding “Stranger In A Strange Land,” both from their Somewhere In Time classic, an album that would feature heavily throughout the course of the evening.

Backed by a stunning stage show including huge, constantly changing backdrops stretching right across the back of the expansive stage, flanked by video screens with ramps and platforms around the stage perimeter and a lighting rig that could illuminate a small city, this was one impressive spectacle.

Maiden continue to create and innovate and rather than hide their new material away they celebrate a new release like bands used to and tonight no less than half of their latest album Senjutsu was aired including “Writing On The Wall” and the two epics the Progressive tinged “Hell On Earth” replete with a curtain of flames around the stage and “Death of The Celts,” with its rousing Thin Lizzy-esq guitar dual.

Singer, Bruce Dickinson whose thunderous voice shook the rafters to within an inch of their life, was the consummate frontman, racing across the stage with boundless energy, never still for a moment while the triple guitar assault of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers saw them trading riffs and solos at will as powerhouse drummer Nicko McBrain kept all it altogether at the back behind a citadel of drums, all watched like a proud father by band founder, bassist Steve Harris, who spent half the show “machine-gunning” the front row with his bass.

What Maiden’s hardcore fans really want are those rarely played deep cuts and they duly obliged with a stunning, cinematic “Alexander The Great” of such grandiose proportions you could almost expect Charlton Heston to ride out on stage in a chariot, making you wonder why such a gem has never been the centre-piece on a tour since its release on Somewhere In Time back in 1986.

What is really astonishing about Maiden is their worldwide appeal. Tonight the front rows were akin to a meeting of the United Nations as fans had travelled as far afield as South America, Greece, New Zealand and from all over Europe as evidenced by the colourful array of flags hanging over the crash barrier. Metal really does unite the nations. When Dickinson hollered, “Scream for me Leeds”, 10,000 voices duly obliged. Metal really does unite the nations.

Such is the depth and quality of their seventeen album catalogue, Maiden are spoilt for choice and as a result are never afraid to drop a few classics from their set to replace them with other songs of equal pedigree meaning tonight there was no “Number Of The Beast,” “Running Free” or “Run To The Hills,” and the set seemed all the more fresh for it however there was still place for perennial stage favourites “The Trooper” with Dickinson rallying the fans to raise their fists to the sky. “Fear Of The Dark” too survived the cull and who could fail to be inspired by the sound of 10,000 people singing along with a hooded Dickinson shrouded in an eyrie haze of smoke. A rather stirring experience it was too.

Of course, their much loved mascot Eddie made an entrance here and there most notably during their standard ‘Iron Maiden’ where he was taunted by Gers and on “Heaven Can Wait” where a cyborg Eddie pointed his gun at Dickinson who mocked, “Call that a gun –THIS is a gun” before unveiling a rather large, futuristic canon as a rocket firing duel commenced. All good fun to watch.

As an up-tempo riff-fest of “Wasted Years” brought a high energy show to an exhausting end, Iron Maiden showed once again that after over 40 years at the very top which has seen them achieve five Number One albums and a further ten Top Ten albums, there is plenty of fire in their bellies and while their peers are slowing down to retirement, the Maiden machine just keeps on running. Absolutely stunning from a band still at the very top of their game.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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