Sunday, June 19, 2016

Live review: Iron Maiden + Opeth and The Raven Age at Ullevi, Gothenburg

My first main metal show took place 8 years ago (man, I feel old), and the band that headlined was Iron Maiden. The tour was Somewhere Back In Time, which of course meant that I got to hear all of the classics from the 80's era of the band, and while I was almost oblivious over how big the band actually was, I was shell shocked over the show, the atmosphere, and the overall experience. It was an amazing night, and still to this day, I hold it as one of my favourite shows of all time. I was supposed to see them again 2 years later, when they played on Sonisphere in Stockholm, but god decided to recreate his main hit, a massive rain storm that would drown all the sinners, or in this case, all metal lovers. It was supposed to be a day filled with awesome music, but it ended early, I was soaking wet, and I only got to see two bands, Slayer, and Iggy Pop and The Stooges (and yes, Iggy played without a shirt despite the rain, he is a crazy man).

After the release of "The Book of Souls", I was determined to see the band again, not only because I loved the album, but because it had been ages since I saw them. So I took my bag, packed some necessities, and traveled to Gothenburg, the metal capital of Sweden, and the fantastic stadium Ullevi, and prepared myself for a awesome night with awesome music.

Opening act 1: The Raven Age

Well, here is where I would have written about the performance of this relatively young and unknown British band The Raven Age, a band that has followed with Maiden throughout the tour, but I did not make it in time to see their show (thanks public transportation!). To be honest though, I am pretty sure that I did not miss much. Some of the people I spoke to that saw the show said that they were okay, but nothing more, one even stated that it almost felt like they wrote new material on the fly, which would not surprise me at all since I think they have only officially released 4 songs.

I did listen to them though on my way to Gothenburg, and I can best describe them as a modern In Flames clone, in other words, not the most unique band I have ever heard, but the songs I did listen to were quite good. I really hope that the band takes the most out of this experience, and channel it to make a killer debut record, because this band has potential.

No rating since I did not see the show, but give this band a look at their Soundcloud page right here.

Set List
1. Uprising
2. Promised Land
3. The Death March
4. Eye Among The Blind
5. The Merciful One
6. Salem's Fate
7. Angel In Disgrace

Opening act 2: Opeth

When I saw that Opeth was gonna open up for Maiden, I was like "Hell yeah!!!". Seriosuly, getting to see two amazing bands from two very different spectres of the metal universe for the price of one, it is a offer you cannot refuse. Unfortunately, it almost feels like I was the only one who truly was excited over Opeth, because the arena was not even close to full when they played.

This was a obvious risk Opeth had to deal with, since the Maiden fans are of a different nature, it is difficult to make them pay attention to Opeths long, complex, and heavy songs. The band did a good job though, and they played the gig in a very professional matter, delivering a nice performance that unfortunately went to deaf ears. All around me I could see people sitting down, chatting, and minding their own business, ignoring Opeth almost completely. Sure, I know that you all are here to see Maiden, but give the opening acts some appreciation at least. Is it really that difficult?

As for the set list, I really do miss "Ghost of Perdition" in it, but I really do not mind all too much about that since they were the opening act and they only had so much time to work with (approximately 50 minutes if I recall correctly). I enjoyed every note from the band, and I hope that Opeth gathered some new fans out of this gig, but as Mikael Åkerfeldt himself said, "compared to the main act, we are elevator music", at least to the ears of this specific crowd.

Best: Can't complain on Opeth's professionalism and flawless execution

Worst: The band did not get the appreciation they deserved

Rating: 6,5/10

Set List
1. Cusp of Eternity
2. The Devil's Orchard
3. Demon of The Fall
4. The Grand Conjuration
5. Deliverance
6. Heir Apparent

Main act: Iron Maiden

So finally, it was time. UFO's "Doctor Doctor" had just been played through the speakers, which of course meant that it was time for Iron Maiden to enter the stage. But before they did that, we got spoiled with a short movie clip from the jungle of the Amazonas, watching a gigantic Eddie hand tossing away the Ed Force One towards our location, building up the tension to what would come.

Not surprisingly, Bruce opened up the show with that epic intro to "If Eternity Should Fail", but a problem showed itself already, and that was the sound. The sound was literally all over the place, not only on this song, but more or less the entire first half of the show, which was horrendous. Bruce could disappear time and time again, both during and in between songs, making me, and everyone else, frustrated. It is 2016 for god's sake, and we have yet to invent a way to perfect the sound in a live show. How hard can it really be?

And to add salt to the wounds, the audience seemed... sleepy, or just not fully interested in the new songs. I really love "The Book of Souls", so I was happy to see that 6 songs from the album was a part of the set list, but it was hard for the band to engage the crowd to sing along here. I am not surprised though, because since most of the audience were of the older generation, and they want to hear the classics. It is a conundrum that is hard for the band to work with, but they do the best of it. Personally, I could have done without "Tears of A Clown", and it would have been interesting to see "Empire of The Clouds", but otherwise, it was a good selection of songs from the new record.

The only new song that truly got some appreciation was "The Red And The Black", which did not surprise me one bit. As I wrote on my review of "The Book of Souls", I saw that "The Red And The Black" could become a modern "Fear of The Dark", and I was right. The audience sang along to the "oh-whoa oh-whoa-oh" with a volume that could be heard in all of Gothenburg, and it really was a party through that long solo section. The band seemed to enjoy every moment through out this mastodon of a song.

Welcome to the ring, Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel Dickinson

And it definitely felt like the band woke up on the right side of the bed this day, especially Bruce Dickinson who acted like a child whom just had a big sip of its parent's coffee. He ran around everywhere, without getting tired one bit, and doing all sort of crazy shit, like doing a monkey dance on "Death Or Glory", and wear various costumes, my favourite being the wrestler mask during "Powerslave". You mean to tell me that this guy had cancer a year ago? I don't believe you.

The rest of the band was on point too of course, duelling, running, and showing off both left and right among that giant Mayan like stage. Seriously you could not tell that these guys were in their 60's, swinging their instruments and fighting rubber lizards (yes, that happened). The funnest moment though was during "The Book of Souls", in which a humongous walking Eddie comes out and starts swinging his axe towards the members, and they interact with him wonderfully, running under him and tricking him. At the end of the solo section of the song, Bruce lures Eddie to him and he just takes his hand, reaches into Eddie's chest, and drags out his heart. Simply put, it was freaking awesome, and that heart was also tossed into the crowd, so some lucky bastard got himself a Eddie heart as a souvenir.

A big Eddie

The second half of the show was more oriented towards the classic stuff, which also meant that the crowd was warmed up and ready to unleash the fury. "Hallowed Be Thy Name" was great and made the crowd jump with excitement, but that was nothing compared to the usual fan favourite, "Fear of The Dark". There are few songs in the universe that can match this song in a live setting, just hearing the crowd sing along here makes every hair on your body rise. A Maiden set list would not be complete without this roof raiser. The main set list ended with "Iron Maiden", and if I thought the Eddie before was big, then I had seen nothing yet. At the end of the song (which was the one that suffered the most from the audio problems), a massive inflatable Eddie appeared in the background, wobbling his head back and forth to the band and the audience. Epic to say the least.

An even bigger Eddie

After an incredibly short break, the encore started with "The Number of The Beast", and a big inflatable beast at the corner of the stage. Together with the looming darkness and some pyrotechnics, this rather worn out song got a neat little face lift. After that though, magic happened. Bruce was going to have another chat with the audience, but he could not get out a word, because the cheers and applause seemed to last an eternity, just making the band shake their heads and take it all in, enjoying every second of this ultimate tribute to them.

The magic continued with the only song from the 00's, "Blood Brothers". The crowd swayed in motion, sang their lungs out, and the ones on the stands took out their cell phones to create a perfect night sky filled with stars. Talk about coming together as blood brothers here, it was pure magic from start to finish. "Wasted Years" ended the show after 2 hours, and yes, there are a ton of songs that I would have loved to be added to the set list. No "Run To The Hills", no "Phantom of The Opera", no "Rime of The Ancient Mariner", no songs from "Seventh Son...", and few newer songs (except for the "The Book of Souls" songs of course), but Maiden has such a huge catalog of amazing songs that any set list they put out is a good set list, and their playful execution will always make sure that you will leave the show with a huge smile on your face.

Even with the rough start and uneven sound, Maiden delivered once again, making sure that they are still one of the best metal acts out there, even after 30+ years of service. I do feel like my first Maiden show back in 2008 was better than this one, but this is not something you can blame on the band, because they did nothing wrong, only right. Ultimately, this was a fantastic show that was spontaneous, fun, and heart warming. Go and see this band while you have the chance, you will not be disappointed, I guarantee you. Up the Irons!

Best: "Blood Brothers" have never been more magical

Worst: The sound was literally all over the place

Rating: 8,5/10

Set List
1. If Eternity Should Fail
2. Speed of Light
3. Children of The Damned
4. Tears of A Clown
5. The Red And The Black
6. The Trooper
7. Powerslave
8. Death of Glory
9. The Book of Souls
10. Hallowed Be Thy Name
11. Fear of The Dark
12. Iron Maiden

13. The Number of The Beast
14. Blood Brothers
15. Wasted Years

Stay metal!
Robert "Sharkruisher" Andersson

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