IRON MAIDEN ARE LIKE FINE WINE & KEEP GETTING BETTER AND BETTER LIVE WITH TIME
Date: August 13, 2019
Venue: Keybank Center
Location: Buffalo, New York, USA
It seems that I’ve been doing a mini-tour of the homes of various NHL hockey teams for the last week or so. After attending KISS‘ concert at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, which is the home arena of the Florida Panthers, I got to visit the Keybank Center in Buffalo, New York, which is the home base for the Buffalo Sabres, to see the mighty Iron Maiden perform live. Now you might be wondering why I was going to see Iron Maiden play in Buffalo when they had just played two nights in Toronto (where I live) on August 9th and 10th. I initially wasn’t expecting to catch their performance in Buffalo but once the heavy metal veterans’ latest North American tour schedule was released, I was horrified to see that I would be away in Florida while the band was playing not once, but twice in Toronto! How close was it? Well, we were leaving Florida in the morning of August 10th but unfortunately, driving back rather than flying, which meant that I would be home the next morning and missing Maiden‘s second night in Toronto by about 12 hours. Given that I consider Maiden‘s tours as “must attend” concert events, I scoured through the rest of the band’s tour stops this time around and was very pleased to see that they would be playing in Buffalo (about two hours away from Toronto in good traffic conditions) a few nights later when I would be back in the greater Toronto area.
Accordingly, I was really looking forward to the Maiden concert and particularly since that was going to be my only scheduled concert after the very disappointing demise of the Hair In The Fair Rock Festival that never took place from July 11 to 13, 2019. My last concert (until I ended up seeing KISS in Florida the week before) dated all the way back to June 21st (Helix and Anvil in Hamilton, Ontario) which is quite the drought considering there are so many concerts in Toronto during the summer. To give you an idea of how much of a concert drought that it had been, last year, I saw nine different concerts from June 28th to August 3rd. This year, none during that time span, mainly because I had put all my eggs in one basket (the Hair In The Fair Rock Festival). Now, there were many signs that the Hair In The Fair Rock Festival wasn’t going to happen and I had decided that I would likely attend the Roxodus Music Fest in Edenvale, Ontario instead (which surprisingly was being held at the same time as the Hair In The Fair Rock Festival although I think the former announced its festival first) if that was the case. What happened? Well, the Roxodus Music Fest pulled the plug first and then it was only a matter of time before the Hair In The Fair Rock Festival had to concede defeat as well. All this to say that I had been concert starved over the last two months or so and attending the KISS concert in Florida didn’t satisfy that hunger.
A couple of things struck me as I crossed the border from Canada to the USA and arrived at the Keybank Center venue. First off, while I am hardly ever concerned about my safety while in Canada, I felt unsure about whether to park in one of the nearby public parking lots with some of the dodgier characters milling around. Would my car be broken into? I wasn’t the only one thinking that as another concert attendee asked one of the parking attendants if his vehicle would be safe here to which the parking attendant replied “yes” while reassuring the man that the attendants would be there until the events (there was a baseball game occurring as well) were over.
Secondly, the amount of police presence leading to and at the Keybank Center was a lot more than I was used to. I was shocked — or perhaps I really wasn’t given the recent mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas — to see two military guys in full green camouflage army clothes with machine guns standing next to one of the entrances. While this made me feel uneasy, it some ways it also made me feel more secure until I quickly realized that if there was some crazy shooter getting into the venue, the army’s machine guns might help to eliminate the shooter a little quicker but it would not eliminate the problem that too many of the wrong people have easy access to guns in the USA. In some ways, the two army men reminded me of my trips to Guatemala City, Guatemala and Nairobi, Kenya, respectively 11 and 13 years ago. In Guatemala City, on our way to the airport, most of the shops had armed gunmen at the entrances. In Nairobi (or affectionately known as “Nairobbery”), our medium quality hotel had a barrier and armed guards with machine guns manning the entrance. Although there was “security” there, I felt quite unsafe in those areas given the need for the armed personnel. It’s the same thing with the United States of America and the apparent increase in “armed” security guards. That being said, enough about the USA’s gun issues, as it’s time to dissect the concert!
I had purchased a general admission ticket and was pleased to be able to make it to about ten rows back from the stage. That was probably the closest that I had ever gotten at an Iron Maiden concert as the previous times that I had seen the heavy metal giants play live (1988, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012(2), 2016 and 2017), most of the times had been at the Molson Amphitheatre (now the Budweister Stage) in Toronto and I always had a seat at least 20 to 25 rows back from the stage. One of the only other times that I was in the general admission area for a Maiden concert was for the A Matter of Life and Death Tour back in 2006 and although I really enjoyed the atmosphere on that night, the setlist wasn’t the greatest since the band played its entire A Matter of Life and Death album before playing a handful of its better known tracks. This time around would be different as Iron Maiden were not touring in support of a new studio album but essentially celebrating their past with a tour dubbed the Legacy of The Beast Tour. I had previously seen Iron Maiden during their Eddie Rips Up The World Tour back in 2005 when they played only songs from their first four studio albums and that was a fantastic show! While I totally respect Iron Maiden for playing many songs from their latest studio albums in a live setting, I really prefer hearing their older material and I really like that once in a while, they tour with a focus on their immense back catalog of great songs.
The Raven Age:
For the first time in a very long time, I had no information whatsoever on the opening act, which was going to be The Raven Age. What would they sound like? Iron Maiden did have a pretty good record in terms of openings acts (for instance Alice Cooper in 2012 and Ghost who I stupidly did not go see in 2016 and 2017). I was very impressed with how much stage area that The Raven Age had to work with. Clearly, Iron Maiden had given their opening act lots of wiggle room stage wise. The Raven Age had a huge banner serving as backdrop and frankly, the biggest that I had ever seen for an opening band playing a non-festival type concert. The Raven Age essentially had all of the “ground floor” area that Iron Maiden were to use. As it turns out, The Raven Age play a heavier style of melodic metal. I was expecting some sort of growling type vocals from their singer upon hearing the opening chords of the first song but lead vocalist Matt James had a very “light” and melodic voice which gave a good contrast to the heavier music.
James advised the audience early on that The Raven Age emanated from the UK, which perhaps partly explains why they ended up getting the opening slot on this Maiden tour. The Raven Age group members were full of energy and James‘ tall height and long died blond hair helped him stand out from his bandmates. I particularly enjoyed watching bassist Matt Cox who was pumping his fist in the air inciting the crowd to do the same whenever he wasn’t playing his bass lines during songs. I also enjoyed watching him crouch down while headbanging and playing his bass. I can’t say that any song played from The Raven Age stuck out above the rest but they were at least they were all enjoyable on a first listen. I also enjoyed James‘ interactions with the crowd and obviously, he got the biggest pop from the audience when mentioning Iron Maiden but didn’t do that to the point of nauseam as I believe that he only mentioned Maiden twice. Overall, I enjoyed The Raven Age‘s set even if they played for a longer time than expected with ten songs. I don’t think they won me over to the point that I’ll be purchasing their music anytime soon but I would not be upset to catch them live again as an opening act in the future.
The Raven Age’s setlist (as per setlist.fm):
01. Bloom of The Poison Seed
02. Betrayal of The Mind
03. Promised Land
05. The Day The World Stood Still
06. The Face That Launched A Thousand Ships
07. Fleur De Lis
08. Grave of The Fireflies
09. Seventh Heaven
10. Angel In Disgrace
The Raven Age performing “Surrogate” live at the Keybank Center in Buffalo, New York, USA on August 13, 2019:
Opening for Iron Maiden
Removing The Raven Age‘s set gear and finalizing the Maiden‘ stage set took very little time. It was neat to see what Iron Maiden might have in store for everyone as all of the monitors and “walls” around the stage seemed to be brown and later covered with greenery. It was funny hearing some of the conversations beside me as there were many people my age and everyone seemed to be reminiscing about their first Maiden show. One gentleman hadn’t seen Iron Maiden perform live in more than 22 years! It was neat seeing that there were quite a few young people. One older gentleman (well, around my age really) quizzed two younger ones on how old they are to which they respectively responded “21” and “22” to which the older man replied “I could be your father!”
Before long, the familiar notes of UFO‘s classic track “Doctor Doctor” began to play and anyone who has been to a semi-recent Iron Maiden concert will know that is the cue for the audience that Maiden are about to start. One of the best intros ever recorded on an album was next with “Churchill’s Speech” blaring before Maiden took the stage with a spirited version of “Aces High” that seemed to have the whole audience singing along. A giant inflatable airplane came up over the stage during the song which was really spectacular to see. From then, Maiden launched into “Where Eagles Dare” from the Piece of Mind album and with that great and memorable drum intro.
Iron Maiden performing “Aces High” with “Churchill’s Speech” live at the Keybank Center in Buffalo, New York, USA on August 13, 2019:
Legacy Of The Beast Tour 2019
Dickinson then addressed the audience reassuring the crowd that although Iron Maiden didn’t have any new songs to play, there would be many new ones coming in the future (i.e. a new studio album) but on this night, Maiden were celebrating their past (i.e. the Legacy of The Beast). The singer made a couple of other comments including that some men up front looked like Chippendales and these days, you couldn’t tell if someone was a male or not (or something like that). It was a comment that could have passed as “insensitive” on the part of Dickinson but didn’t seem to faze the audience in the least. Dickinson also pointed out at one point that RollingStone gave the band a “5 out of 5” review for one of their live shows, which the singer kind of laughed at. Before long, it was more sing along with Iron Maiden as the group played the popular “2 Minutes To Midnight.” I was very impressed with guitarist Janick Gers this time around. In the past, I had found some of his moves to be a tad goofy but seeing him up close, I was thoroughly entertained with his moves and very impressed by his flexibility at the age of 62.
Although the band could have played only material from its earlier albums which would have likely been fine with just about everyone in the audience, Iron Maiden played two songs from their Blaze Bayley era albums (“Sign of The Cross” from 1996’s X Factor and the sensational “The Clansman” from 1998’s Virtual XI) along with two “newer” tracks (if songs dating back to 2000 and 2006 can be considered new) in “The Wicker Man” from Brave New World and “For The Greater Good of God” from A Matter of Life and Death. A lot of credit has to be given to Dickinson for putting his ego aside and singing some of the Bayley era Iron Maiden material. Just think, have you ever seen David Lee Roth sing a Sammy Hagar era Van Halen tune? I must say that it felt like there was a slight reduction in the overall excitement and energy of the crowd when those four aforementioned songs were played but I for one loved hearing all of them except for the track “For The Greater Good of God” that I have never been that keen on. I was actually thrilled that they played “The Clansman” which is one of my favourites from the Bayley era and a powerful one as Dickinson and the crowd screamed “Freeeedom!”.
Iron Maiden performing “The Clansman” live at the Keybank Center in Buffalo, New York, USA on August 13, 2019:
Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019
There seemed to be even more visuals than usual from Iron Maiden on this night. The spectacular back drops for different songs were of course there. It was fun seeing Dickinson fencing against the giant Eddie mascot, which included the singer slipping through the giant’s very long legs. Dickinson changed outfits quite a bit including a dark monk like outfit with a huge hoodie for the song “Sign of The Cross.” After the batch of “newer” songs (and I use that term very loosely since I am talking about material from 1996 to 2006), it was simply sing along time with Maiden to just about every lyric with “Flight of Icarus”, “Fear of The Dark” with its incredible goose bump filling intro, the classic “The Number of The Beast” and the band’s signature song “Iron Maiden.” The encores were very good as well with “The Evil That Men Do”, the sublime “Hallowed Be Thy Name” and the sing along classic “Run To The Hills.” It was probably the first time that I felt a bit self-conscious singing along to lyrics such as “The only good indians are dead” but upon checking the lyrics for the purpose of this review, I realized that I had been singing that line for 35 years with one wrong word as it should be “The only good indians are tame.” Ha!
This was probably the best Iron Maiden concert that I have ever attended and like a fine wine, the group seems to get better and better in a live setting. I was also impressed that since Maiden‘s last tour in support of The Book of Souls album, the setlist changed considerably since only four songs were repeated from that set (“The Number of The Beast”, “The Trooper”, “Fear of The Dark” and “The Trooper”). How many veteran heavy metal bands could successfully pull that off? Probably only one — Iron Maiden!
Iron Maiden’s setlist:
01. Churchill’s Speech / Aces High
02. Where Eagles Dare
03. 2 Minutes To Midnight
04. The Clansman
05. The Trooper
07. For The Greater Good of God
08. The Wicker Man
09. Sign of The Cross
10. Flight of Icarus
11. Fear of The Dark
12. The Number of The Beast
13. Iron Maiden
14. The Evil That Men Do
15. Hallowed Be Thy Name
16. Run To The Hills
Iron Maiden performing “Run To The Hills” live at the Keybank Center in Buffalo, New York, USA on August 13, 2019:
Iron Maiden performs Run To The Hills at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York on August 13, 2019 during their Legacy of the Beast tour.