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Live Review and Gallery: Iron Maiden at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre

| June 16, 2017

Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden (Photo by Curt Baran)

Iron Maiden
Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
Tinley Park, IL
June 15, 2017
Photos by Curt Baran
Review by Jeff Elbel
The weekend began a day early for local headbangers of all ages, when legendary British metal band Iron Maiden made the final Chicago stop on its juggernaut The Book of Souls World Tour. The six members may hover near 60 years of age, but they’ve clearly found their spiritual fountain of youth through music. Throughout an electrifying and virtuosic two-hour show, the band’s power and intensity never flagged.

Singer Bruce Dickinson ran rings around the stage and prowled his catwalk, leaping and kicking like a high school hurdles champion while wearing desert boots, cargo pants and a hooded sweatshirt. Guitarists Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and Janick Gers roamed as they pleased, striking heroic rock poses during intricate solos and joining forces shoulder-to-shoulder at mid-stage for blistering unison riffs. Without the aid of a microphone, bassist and principal songwriter Steve Harris belted the words to songs like Killers single “Wrathchild” from the rim of the stage while rallying fans to join him.

The elaborate stage was designed as an ancient Mayan temple. Dickinson began the show high above the drum riser as a hooded figure over a roiling cauldron, singing “If Eternity Should Fall.” Soon after, he addressed the crowd on behalf of the 42-year-old band. “There’s one reason we’re still here, and it’s because you’re still here,” he said as the crowd roared.

“Who here was born after 1982?” asked Dickinson, who proceeded to raise the “really unpleasant subject” of parents having sex. “You know it happened at least once,” he said. To those born around 1983 to parents that happened to be Iron Maiden fans, Dickinson dedicated “Children of the Damned” from 1982’s The Number of the Beast. “There’s a bit at the beginning of this song that gets a bit smoochy,” he joked.

“Smoochy” was not the overall tone of the evening. The epic-length “The Red and the Black” was bookended by moody solo bass passages from Harris. The rest of the song, however, was ferocious, with the needle buried into the red at 10 and digging for 11.

Dickinson’s command to “Scream for me, Chicago!” was repeated often. The cry was met with vigorous compliance from the front row all the way back to “the lunatics on the grass,” as Dickinson called ticket holders on the lawn, invoking Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. The singer was more than able to lead by example, with a lupine, operatic howl during songs like “The Number of the Beast” and “Wasted Years.”

The band’s humor was apparent even during grim songs like “Death or Glory,” for which Dickinson performed in a chimpanzee mask and offered Murray a banana to use when playing his guitar solo. Murray gamely obliged for a couple of bars before tossing his fruit plectrum into the front rows. Murray performed an impressive blues-infused solo during “Powerslave,” before trading off for high-octane shredding from Smith.

During “The Trooper,” Dickinson wore a British soldier’s outfit and waved a battle-tattered Union Jack flag to match an image of ghoulish mascot Eddie. From the catwalk, Dickinson used the flag to capture guitarist Gers below by the neck, and blindfolded him as he soloed. The song was propelled by Harris’ galloping bass and drummer Nicko McBrain’s meticulous and thundering rhythm.

A stilt-walking Eddie appeared in the flesh and larger than life during “The Book of Souls,” tormenting the band members with a hatchet. From the catwalk, Dickinson pulled Eddie’s beating heart from his chest and sprayed stage blood into the crowd before tossing the heart after it.

Fan reaction was rabid during “Fear of the Dark,” with a powerful roar of voices singing along. Dickinson later praised the “band family” in the crowd for its unity. The shock-horror lyrics of early single “Iron Maiden” were repurposed as a rallying cry, emphasizing the inclusive message that “Iron Maiden wants you.” Dickinson addressed the topic again during the encore before playing “Blood Brothers.” “I’m not big on dividing people up,” said Dickinson, citing class, color, religion and orientation as unnecessary lines of separation. “People who come to see Iron Maiden are Iron Maiden people.”


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