Summer 2023 has begun with grand concerts of grand european bands. A week ago Rammstein shook the ground at the Olympic stadium in Helsinki on two consecutive days, and this weekend Iron Maiden aims to do the same at Nokia Arena in Tampere. Another interesting detail common to both of these bands is that they’ve taken to focusing their touring activity of recent years to the summer season. Starting from Slovenia last weekend, “The Future Past” tour is direct continuation to “Legacy of the Beast”, a tour that arguably showcased Iron Maiden at their finest. Thus it was interesting to say the least to see how these British veterans would develop their touring concept this time around.
Support for saturday’s Iron Maiden gig in Tampere was provided by the german band Lord of the Lost. I’d decided not to familiarize myself with the group’s music at all beforehand, thus allowing for maximum surprise. The first impression was indeed quite something when half past eight in the evening a group sporting pink and glitter in their apparel took to the stage at Nokia-arena. The provocative outlook turned out to be the most interesting aspect of the band as their music was a bland mix of older Rammstein and HIM-esque keyboards. Lord of the Lost was founded in 2007 and have kept a respectable release schedule since 2010, however, so they aren’t the newest kids on the block by any means. The band must also be credited for not squeezing their instruments to hard, so to speak, but powered through their 50-minute set without apology or excessive crowd flattery.
Little by little Lord of the Lost earned kudos from the audience, who cheered for the group just a little louder after each song. Besides serving as the opening act for Iron Maiden, Lord of the Lost made some name for themselves earlier in the spring representing Germany at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. As a curiosity it should be mentioned that the band partook in the event’s Käärijä-hype by covering his song “Cha cha cha“. Unfortunately Lord of the Lost wasn’t inspired to perform their version of the tune last night in Tampere.
Time between the appetizer and the main course flew by watching the roadies prepare the stage for Iron Maiden. Almost immediately upon Lord of the Lost’s conclusion the screens flanking the stage lit up to display Eddie, the legendary mascot of Iron Maiden. As if the crowd needed any reminder why the eleven thousand of them had gathered in the finest event center of Tampere on this particular night. The audience was already at this point well pleased with their saturday night and Iron Maiden, with rhythmic applause and excited chanting sounding in the hall well before the main act.
Whereas german punctuality might’ve failed last weekend in Helsinki, british punctuality stood its ground in Tampere. At 8:50 p.m. the lights in the hall dimmed, and “Doctor Doctor“, that most familiar of intros, began booming from the speakers. The crowd roared its approval, and the most anxious fans on the standing floor where already jumping about in anticipation. After agonizingly long intro tapes Iron Maiden quite literally exploded onto the stage to the tune of “Caught Somewhere in Time“, the opening track of their 1986 classic album. If the crowd had been rowdy already before Iron Maiden began, then the arrival of these godfathers of heavy metal was like pouring gasoline onto a fire. Already off to a promising start, the band upped the ante with “Stranger in a Strange Land“, another crowd-pleaser from the eighties. This was followed by three selections from their latest album “Senjutsu”.
The title of Iron Maiden’s currect tour is quite telling. “The Future Past” sees the band mixing their past glories with their freshest endeavors.The audience response at Nokia Arena was equally telling, for whereas the older hits were received with eager fervor, the newer songs were met with more reserved politeness. The setlist consisted of fifteen songs, five from 2021’s “Senjutsu”, five from 1986’s “Somewhere in Time”, and five from other classic Iron Maiden albums. Thus the gig certainly didn’t suffer from any lack of older material, but it was still remarkable how the atmosphere just seemed to stand still during some of the longwinded “Senjutsu”-tunes. The overall mood at the concert was excellent, however, and frontman Bruce Dickinson didn’t need to attempt long speeches between songs for his charisma to shine through. The songs performed during the night were heavy enough on the narrative on their own, making excessive chatter on the singer’s part quite unnecessary.
Visually yesterday’s Iron Maiden-experience didn’t quite measure up to the standard set by the “Legacy of the Beast”-tour, which is not to say the show wouldn’t have presented its fair share of eye candy. The backdrops switching between every song were stunning as always, and the gigantic video screens made sure the events of the stage were seen everywhere in the arena. Visually the evening’s biggest spectacle was the Star Wars-esque firefight between Bruce Dickinson and the Eddie mascot lumbering about the stage during “Heaven Can Wait“. All through the evening I’d wondered at the lack of pyrotechnics on stage, and my musings were answered during the first encore song “Hell on Earth“. Apparently the band had decided to deploy two hours’ worth of pyrotechnics during this one songs, perhaps to make up for its meandrering eleven-minute length.
The production seen on “The Future Past”-tour doesn’t quite match that of “Legacy of the Beast”, which still made last night very much a worthwhile Iron Maiden-experience. By way of critique, I should mention that the way the security guards hounded on some of the livelier spectators in the seated galleries was quite painful to behold. Vocalist Bruce Dickinson’s voice wasn’t in the best shape either, with his voice failing a bit during a few choruses. The sound mixing also left much room for improvement, as earplugs were a necessity to enjoy the audio, and Steve Harris’s bass severely overtook the other instruments here and there. In summary, I’d say Iron Maiden in the year 2023 is still truly a formidable live act, albeit not so much so as just a few short years ago.
Pictures: Tomi Vesaharju
Setlist (Iron Maiden):
Caught Somewhere in Time
Stranger in a Strange Land
The Writing on the Wall
Days of Future Past
The Time Machine
Death of the Celts
Can I Play With Madness
Heaven Can Wait
Alexander the Great
Fear of the Dark
Hell on Earth