In late August 2015, the news broke that IRON MAIDEN would release a new album (the first ever double studio album) through Parlophone Records on 4 September. As if this was not amazing enough, the good news kept coming with the announcement that these pioneers of New Wave of British Heavy Metal (abbreviated NWOBHM) would also return to South Africa as part of their “Book of Souls” World Tour! The Metal Community (young and old) went ballistic when the latest Ed Force One (the new Iron Maiden 747-400) was revealed with Cape Town and Johannesburg clearly added to the touring list on the plane’s nose.
With that magical announcement, Big Concerts set the scene to make the dream of every Heavy Metal fan a reality … especially given it has been 21 years since they last played South Africa in October 1995 to support of their tenth studio album “The X Factor”. Of course, back in 1995 Blaze Bayley was on vocals and Adrian Smith was not in the band, so this would be the first time the iconic lineup rocks the socks off SA! The new album is number 1 in over 40 countries now.The stunning artwork on the cover (created by Mark Wilkinson) seems to resonate with South Africans who feel the Mayan symbolism strongly resembles elements in African art.
Every Metalhead will agree it has been a long agonising wait with ups-and-downs since the announcement back in August 2015. Great events also kept spirits up and fans barely sane, like the official “Book of Souls” album launch with Warner Music and Iron Tusk, as well as the battle for the opening band. But then the near-disastrous accident with Ed Force One in March at the Chile Airport in Santiago (so close to the SA tour) had many fans holding their breath to see if this would have a negative impact on our SA shows. Thankfully this was resolved speedily and on Sunday, the majestic Ed Force One cruised into our airspace and touched down at Cape Town international Airport with vocalist Bruce Dickinson at the helm.
Fans were glued to online plane-tracking websites and flocked to spot the beast roar overhead at special welcoming parties. This mammoth four-engine jet has in itself become an icon, essentially a celebrity of the sky! The new Ed Force One is almost twice the size and three times the weight of the Boeing 757 (used on previous tours) and has been transporting the band and crew with over 12 tons of equipment almost 88 500km around the globe. This tour has been months in the planning. Bruce even had to first learn how to pilot and captain this beast … “Even though we have worked out the logistics of taking a plane of that immense size out on tour, I still have to learn to fly it before we can go anywhere!” says Bruce in an interview back in March.
In preparation for covering this tour, I had the opportunity in April to chat to Adrian Smith (Guitar, Backing Vocals). I had to know what we could expect from the coming shows. Adrian shared as follows, "I really enjoy what we're doing now. I think that the set we've got now is a great balance of the old and the new. We're playing quite a bit of stuff off the new album, but we're playing our favourite of the older songs, of the classic songs. The stage set is designed around the album cover theme, so we've got all the Mayan imagery going on. And I think the actual opening of the show is one of the most dramatic things we've ever done, so it's quite theatrical and it goes great with the music. So I really enjoy what we're doing now as much as anything we've ever done, if not more."
On Wednesday 18 May 2016, the magic day finally arrived. Dawn broke into an eerie misty-rainy day greeting the Mother City (but this could never dampen spirits). Some fans started to flock to Grandwest early in the day with IRON MAIDEN anthems blaring loudly and proudly in the parking areas. Chants and cheers coupled with flags and IRON MAIDEN shirts were everywhere! The merchandise was stunning with a great variety to die for. Social Media networks were ablaze with photos, videos, and buzz about the band and the coming show. The brotherhood of Heavy Metal was collecting and ascending to Up The Irons! The excitement simply escalated hour-by-hour, reaching fever pitch by the time dusk descended over the Grand Arena. The IRON MAIDEN Blood Brothers and Sisters were collected and ready to rock. Looking at the pure energy of the crowd it made me think of what Adrian Smith said to me … "I don't know what it is. I think it's just the band has an energy all of its own. Sometimes if some of us are tired or we start dropping a bit, you just get wrapped up in it again, the whole energy. And I think part of that comes from the audience as well, when you get on stage and they're so up for it and so passionate about our music. It kind of lifts you up, even if you feel a bit tired or whatever on the road."
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The opening band, called “The Raven Age” took the stage. They are a melodic metal band from London that served to warm the crown. Their set was passionate and energetic, but the crowd had only one thing on their mind… At, 9pm the stage started to glow with a spooky yellow ambiance, whilst the customary intro song started to play. For this tour, it is a track called “Doctor Doctor” by the British Hard Rock band UFO (from their 1974 album “Phenomenon”). As the intro track faded to black the audience broke into a chant. The video walls started to project images of the Mayan Jungles with Ed Force One and the iconic IRON MAIDEN mascot (Eddie the Head) made an appearance. Flames all of a sudden erupted on stage and IRON MAIDEN filially took to the stage in their full glory in a spectacle befitting their Godly Metal Status! If Eternity Should Fail from the new album was first up immediately followed by the Speed Of Light (incidentally go have a look at the Music Video which is an homage to decades of video gaming directed and produced by Llexi Leon, the creator of the comic book series Eternal Descent). Hereafter it was time for a classic with Children of the Damned from the 1982 album “The Number of the Beast”. Hit-after-hit, anthem-after-anthem followed. Massive stage props and extravagant pyrotechnics made this one of the most entertaining shows ever on African soil. The energy of each band member seemed endless. Each song was also coupled with theatrics, most notably during “The Book of Souls” where a mammoth Mayan Eddie engaged in hand-to-hand combat with Bruce (who proceeded to triumphantly rip his heart out and threw it into the audience). “Fear of the Dark” had the audience chanting at full voice whilst Bruce characteristically bellowed, “Scream for me Cape Town”! The main set concluded with the bands’ title track “Iron Maiden”.
Then there was a short break (which was almost welcome, as the crowd got an opportunity to mercifully catch their breath). The crowd was rewarded with a scorching encore consisting of “The Number of the Beast”, “Blood Brothers” and “Wasted Years”. To top everything off, the outro consisted of the quirky Monty Python Song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”.
The sound was amazing and the theatrics mind-blowing. What a show, what a night … memories made for a lifetime! Few bands can bring such a performance and demand such respect from the get-go! After 40 years, IRON MAIDEN is still at the top of their game. We better not wait another two decades to see these heavyweights back in South Africa! Special thanks to all who made this unforgettable experience a reality … UP THE IRONS!
THE FULL IRON MAIDEN CAPE TOWN SETLIST:
Intro: Doctor, Doctor (UFO Song)
- If Eternity Should Fail
- Speed of Light
- Children of the Damned
- Tears of a Clown
- The Red and the Black
- The Trooper
- Death or Glory
- The Book of Souls
- Hallowed Be Thy Name
- Fear of the Dark
- Iron Maiden
- The Number of the Beast
- Blood Brothers
- Wasted Years
Outro: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Monty Python Song)
The Current Iron Maiden Lineup:
Bruce Dickinson (Lead Vocals) | Adrian Smith (Guitar, Backing Vocals) | Steve Harris (Bass, Backing Vocals)
Dave Murray (Guitar) | Nicko McBrain (Drums & Percussion) | Janick Gers (Guitar)
Credits & THANKS:
Review & Photos by David Devo Oosthuizen for Underground Press © 2016 All Rights Reserved.
Content Publication by Frederic Egersdorfer (CEO Underground Press) © 2016 All Rights Reserved.
Special thanks to Big Concerts, Warner Music South Africa, Iron Maiden,
Phantom Music Management and all associated PR Agencies.
- *Review & Photos by David Devo Oosthuizen