Iron Maiden September 12, Mandalay Bay Events Center
They queued up as if waiting for Space Mountain, down Mandalay Bay’s long back hallway. Within the Events Center, a similar line awaited, with the same purpose: scoring an Iron Maiden T-shirt before Thursday night’s show. Who says Rush and Bruce Springsteen have the most rabid fans in rock?
Surely, the colorful presence of Eddie—the British metallers’ ghoulish mascot since 1980—has a lot to do with the popularity of Maiden’s merchandise. He also played a big role in the show, appearing on giant backdrops that changed with each song, in the form of giant statues atop a two-level stage set, and, during “Run to the Hills,” as a massive, animatronic General Custer, who stomped around the stage swinging a sword and rubbing against Janick Gers’ guitar strings. If that last bit felt like a Spinal Tap moment, it wasn’t the only one. For all their chilling lyrics about the number of the beast and the seventh son of a seventh son, Iron Maiden has always been unabashedly, wonderfully kitschy, and fans cheered loudest when singer Bruce Dickinson leapt over monitors, Gers swung his guitar around his back and pyro shot toward the sky.
The band also happens to have some killer tunes, most dating back to its ’82-’92 heyday. Leaner numbers (“Afraid to Shoot Strangers,” “Fear of the Dark”), where it was easier to pick out specific instruments and lyrics, and super punchy stuff (“The Trooper,” “The Clairvoyant”), where identifying exactly who was doing what didn’t really matter, came off best on this night, while the band’s three-guitar mix sounded somewhat murky on more mid-tempo cuts. Dickinson was in fine voice through it all, most importantly in his still-pristine famous upper register.
At one point, the 55-year-old frontman paused mid-song to call out a fan Dickinson said was “pushing his weight around” near the front of the general-admission floor section, chastising the man for nearly a full minute as security convened and the band continued jamming in the background. It was yet another reminder why Iron Maiden’s fans feel so strong a connection with the band—and yet another reason for them to head for the merch table after the three-song encore.