if i were to give the name of one band that is iconic for all things heavy metal in the 80’s, i’d go for iron maiden. the number of the beast tee. the conspicuous band font that all school kutus strive to learn to emulate on their schoolbags / toilet wall. and not forgetting eddie the ‘ead.

i saw them in 1990 at wembley arena in support of their no prayer for the dying album. i was a bit pissed off as i didn’t get to see the classic adrian smith-dave murray combo (didn’t really like janick gers’ playing). i could have seen adrian smith playing but i was still in sixth form when they were going around the country after the release of (the synth-addled) seventh son.

now with bruce dickinson and adrian smith back in the maiden fold, i just couldn’t miss their sheffield date at the arena. i was expecting the usual in this gig – a walking eddie, a large stage prop with eddie in it (again) and bruce going “scream for me, [insert venue name here] !!!“. may not sound fresh, but after 30-odd years, the fans expect to see / hear the same shit all over again!

lauren harris kicked off the gig with a short set which was kinda ok. the support act that i really wanted to see was trivium. i’ve only started to listen to some of their stuff after jimbo gave me the heads up (i really know only two tunes – rain and ascendancy. haha.) and rightly so, they were tight and heavy as hell. the last time i was gobsmacked watching awesome guitar was at a pantera gig. matt heafy’s and corey beaulieu’s guitar work were blazing! they only played a 30-minute set and the only tune i can vividly remember was pull harder on the strings of your martyr. not to worry, i’m catching their gig in nottingham come april and i should know more of their stuff by then!

at about nine-ish, the stage lights went down and a pseudo-operatic/choral number came on the PA. there was this little noise from nicko mcbrain behind the drum kit and maiden started their show with an incendiary rendition of different world. little did i know that maiden was to do a pink floyd. they were to play their latest opus, a matter of life and death, back-to-back. whilst i don’t admit to memorising the CD liner notes, it wasn’t much of a surprise to the punters which song was gonna come on next. the backdrop changes with every song, pretty much like their 1990 tour. it was great to see adrian smith back, it felt like watching the live after death video! steve harris and co. didn’t look like they changed or aged. bruce may have shorn his mane but the rest of the band looked the same to me, even after all those years.

these colours don’t run came on on next with a large backdrop of eddie in full british army kit. like some of their other memorable tunes like the trooper and aces high, their current material (brighter than a thousand suns, the longest day) is filled with war-related themes. their new songs are great, but having only listened to the CD a few times made it difficult to rock along with the music as hard as you would with their older and more familiar material. i was not alone, you could see the ‘lack’ of sing-alongs and fist-banging in the crowd throughout.

maiden performing the entire new album meant one thing – how much time will they have to play some of their older tunes?

fear of the dark was the first of the not-so-old tunes they played. however, you could hear a difference in the way the crowd sang along. it just sounded way louder and way more enthusiastic. as i feared, the oldies could be counted with the fingers of one hand. “scream for me, sheffield!!! the iron maiden!!!”. iron maiden has got all of us, indeed. the second highlight for me after iron maiden was 2 minutes to midnight. i was in NWOBHM heaven, i can tell you that.

eddie came onstage during the evil that men do. not one of the best eddie effigies really. i think they nailed it much better in the 80’s. maiden didn’t disappoint as they ended the evening with hallowed be thy name. no way they were not playing that. for a moment, the stage lights sent down again. another encore in the books? not this time, but i have to say after seeing them tonight, i’d never thought from seeing how they rocked onstage that this band had been around for that long.

hallam FM arena, sheffield 18.12.06 set : different world / these colours don’t run / brighter than a thousand suns / the pilgrim / the longest day / out of the shadows / the reincarnation of benjamin breeg / greater good of god / lord of light / the legacy / fear of the dark / iron maiden / encore: 2 minutes to midnight / the evil that men do / hallowed be thy name