Saturday Night: Iron Maiden at The Woodlands
With 15 studio albums and at least as many world tours now under its belt, Iron Maiden is not a band from which fans are seeking innovative new sounds. More than 30 years after they shoved heavy metal in an electrifying new direction with their self-titled debut and sophomore classic, Killers, the British rock stalwarts' show is mostly a celebration of reliability: Reliable riffs, reliable props and reliable precision.
Saturday night at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, Iron Maiden reliably delivered. Better than many of their peers on the heavy-metal nostalgia circuit, Maiden is adept at infusing nostalgia with novelty. This summer's Maiden England World Tour harkens back to the band's 1989 live VHS of the same name, which captured the band's '88 tour in support of the album Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. That trek's 24-year-old set list and stage dressings were dusted off for the occasion.
Rehashed as it was, the show was still spectacular. Not just spectacular for some old dudes with pointy guitars, either -- just plain spectacular, period. A lot of the credit has to go to the crowd. A fist-pumping sea of black Iron Maiden shirts, they joyously hung on every note.
After a modestly received set by emo progsters Coheed and Cambria, Maiden appeared to orgiastic approval for a pair of tunes from Seventh Son, "Moonchild" and "Can I Play With Madness." On a stage set to resemble the frozen hell depicted on that record's cover, the band would go on to play more than half of the album's songs, several of which have become live rarities in the ensuing decades.
During the doomsday revel "2 Minutes to Midnight," Maiden comfortingly (and convincingly) proved that they can still match their fans' energy. Steve Harris fired off machine-gun licks on his bass as singer Bruce Dickinson nimbly leapt off of monitors, just as they always have. Drummer Nicko McBrain was completely obscured by his kit in the middle of the group's multi-tiered set, but when the cameras caught his face, he looked once again to be having more fun than anyone else in the amphitheater.
The ecstatic crowd was more than happy to play its role in the show, too. They banged their heads, clapped their hands and held up hundreds of posters, banners and flags as electricity crackled through the venue. Though many in attendance looked old enough to be reliving long-gone high-school salad days, a large contingent of teens in the crowd were clearly having their minds blown for the very first time.
"Scream for me, Houston!" Dickinson demanded, and the audience repeatedly obliged.