The Bus of Souls arrived in Ireland on 6th May bringing heavy metal giants Iron Maiden to the 3Arena for the first and only show of the UK/Ireland tour, this of course in support of their 2015 and 16th studio album, The Book Of Souls. The band brought with them the Florida rockers Shinedown who previously had the honor to back the mighty Alter Bridge alongside Halestorm back in 2013.
Shinedown was first to the stage. The band opened with “Adrenaline” of off the 2012 album Amaryllis. It was met with a good reception but the crowd were not into the swing of it, with only a handful of the seats filled and a patchy crowd below the balcony.
It was after the second song of “Fly From The Inside” once singer Brent Smith began to reach out to the audience and show his ability as a true showman. With his booming voice, he called out to those of us in the seated area saying it was not a library and not a funeral, beckoning everyone to their feet to support the band. Despite his confident and commanding tone, the audience were skeptical to following the singer’s request. He then dictated for everyone in the arena to shake the hands of their neighbours to the left and right of them before himself climbing off the stage to shake the hands of his neighbours at the front of the crowd.
“Boom lay, boom lay, boom” are the words made shouted out by the audience that led into “Diamond Eyes”. During this performance, the stage became drenched in bright green lighting which only backed up the visual performance of the band with both guitarist Zach and bassist Eric flailing and jumping around the stage.
The attitude of the crowd towards the band was that generally of indifference. Although the songs were enjoyed by the arena, the energy levels and enthusiasm of the band was not matched by the audience with many people sitting down almost immediately after being told to rise by the singer. At one point he even pointed towards my direction in the seats, I want to say because I was the only one in my section standing but we’ll never know for sure.
Two high energy tracks later, Brent took his showmanship to a whole new high. The singer divided those on the floor of the venue creating a line down the center of the stage with his band mates continuing the intro and keeping the audience pumped. It was at this point that he, rather bravely, jumped over the barrier to walk among the now ecstatic fans, walking down the divide in which he had previously created, receiving many pats on the back as he did so with one happy fan even getting a brief hug before filming the rest of the experience via phone. Once back on stage he counted the audience down to jump that would lead into the track “Enemies” that went down well with the crowd despite not maintaining the jump far into the song.
This was followed by “Second Chance” and “Cut the Cord”; being the penultimate song of the set. The band went out with style for their last song, opening with the Oscar Wilde quote “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars” before descending into “Sound Of Madness” which was a strong finish for the band.
Finally, they took a bow, thanked the audience for supporting them and greeted the members of the standing crowd with a volley of picks and drumsticks. The showmanship of Brent would not be matched easily by other frontmen so despite the lack of audience response he and the rest of the band cannot be faulted for their performance.
After a lull that seemed like a lifetime, it was nearly the time for the mighty Maiden. A team perhaps 20 stage crew strong helped to get stage prepared and paved the way for the legends of metal. Huge drapes hid the mystery stage from the eager and anxious audience. Not long into the stage preparation one of these curtains fell exposing Nicko McBrian’s drums to the expecting crowd which was naturally met with a massive uproar. Whether this gimmick was planned or not one of the stage crew ran to quickly cover up the teasing image. He was quickly met with a chorus of boos which was after met with the chants of Maiden by the whole room. The speakers were turned up to concert levels with UFO – “Doctor Doctor” an Iron Maiden pre-show staple being blurred throughout the arena to help further excite and hype for the impending show ahead. It was after this that the speakers dropped and the room went silent.
The stage was exposed to display the Mayan temple theme of The Book of Souls album with a raised platform bearing a walkway, small pillars and a central altar above the drums. It was at this moment that the huge screens at both sides of the screen flickered to life, showing an animated first person journey through the eyes of an explore, with flaming torch in hand journeying through the creepy ancient temple, building fear and suspense among the audience, with a certain Iron icon appearing throughout the film.
Approaching the end of this, the stage filled with billowing smoke. Fire lit to life from the small pillars that littered the upper walkway. The music faded in. The altar on center stage slowly came to life, casting white smoke everywhere. The stage blackened for just a second, with the powerful lights shifting their focus to the crowd. Once they returned to the stage, the alar shone with a blinding bright white light with smoke now piling from it. A ghostly apparition, just as bright as the altar was present behind it, hunched over as if taking a drink. The room was met with powerfully strong vocals that pierced through the smoke from none other than Bruce Dickinson. As he rose up and spread his arms wide the crowd burst to life. The temple background was exposed as the curtain containing it swept across the wall. On completion, the rest of the band crept onto the lower stage from both sides of the room. Nicko’s drums roared to life with a thump of bass that seen rising columns of fire blind the audience with Nicko seemingly instantly appearing behind his drums. Leading into “If Eternity Should Fail”, the opening song from The Book Of Souls. Bruce immediately drew my attention from the top of the walkway, dancing passionately with excellent footwork derived from his fencing past. The main floor took back a lot of the attention due to the vigor of the rest of the band with guitarist Janick Gers placing one foot on top of the far right speaker as if stretching for the show ahead of him. It was an epic opening for what would be an unforgettable performance and was met with enthusiasm by the crowds.
Next up was “Speed of Light”. Probably my favourite song from the mighty 11 track album, it was a hallowing experience to hear it live, especially after it being blasted from a portable speaker whilst barrelling down the Dublin train line thanks to the two tattoo/piercing artists across the table to me. It was during this performance that the whole band picked up the tempo and displayed what has cemented them as metal idols for the masses. Janick continued his antics from the previous song, spinning swiftly in concentric circles at various points of the stage and then kicking the amps at the far left and right. Both Dave and Adrian were more reframed and well behaved than their fellow guitarist but this seen Steve attempting to match the athletic prowess of Bruce, running from one side of the stage to the other and back again.
Following this, Bruce turned to the crowd saying that next up was a song from 1982 which was met by the applause of many hardcore Maiden fans who grew up on these older tunes. Noticing the huge age range of the crowd, he followed it up by saying that many of those there that night would not have been born yet, although their mums and dads may have been thinking about it. This was the perfect introduction and ran smoothly into “Children Of The Damned” which seen a hoard of lips moving in sync with the classic hit.
The next song “Death Or Glory” seen a change of scenery with the temple background being swapped out for a gruesome and terrifying poster of Eddie, with hand stretched out towards the crowd holding a heart. It was at this point Bruce also decided for a costume change which set up one of the more comical and memorable moments of the entire show. Bruce burst onto the stage sporting a monkey mask, swinging in an apelike fashion around pounding his chest and reminding Maiden fans young and old why we love the frontman so much. He was backed up on vocals by both Steve and Adrian who were unfazed by the shenanigans of their counterpart. During the lines “climb like a monkey” the singer took a vocal break and instead, almost in a charade like fashion, used his hands to get across this part of the song which had the whole audience shouting back to him. He took it on step further during the interlude, pulling out several bananas and presenting them to various band members. ‘Curious Bruce’ had the biggest attraction to Adrian, holding the banana towards him, wishful that he would take it, holding it against his guitar as he expertly played on and maintained his professional composure despite Bruce’s antics. It was a huge surprise to me that the song was delivered as successfully as it was, however, it had now rendered Bruce dripping with sweat, only four songs into the set.
Another song off of the latest album, “The Red And The Black” was next on the band’s setlist. This allowed us a closer peek into the true talents of Steve Harris as one of the greatest bassists of all time with an epic bass intro and outro that was made seem effortless. This was one of the longest songs of the set but did not see the band taking their foot off the pedal for any moment of it. Bruce was not present for large parts of the epic track with many portions of the song being instrumental. Although, this allowed him plenty of time for yet another wardrobe change before one of the most iconic Maiden songs of the night was unveiled.
The backdrop behind the stage changed once again and was instantly met by hollers from every corner of the room. One of the most recognizable Maiden riffs then sprang which was soon followed by Bruce dressed in British military apparel, flying the flag in hand in support of “The Trooper”. It was a song I was wishing would be on the setlist and it was off of the first Iron Maiden album that I even owned Piece Of Mind, which I listened to religiously. This seen Bruce continuing to show his comical side to the crowd, draping the flag over Janick from atop of the platform as he attempted to play through it. This song was most definitely a crowd pleaser and served as a great intermediate between The Book Of Souls tracks, showcasing both new and classic Maiden.
“Powerslave” is a song that usually sees Bruce wearing many manners of wacky and strange masks and this time (perhaps in light of Cinco de Mayo) he swapped this out for a Mexican wrestling mask. He continued to beckon the crowd to “Scream for me, Dublin” like he had throughout the entire show. The words I had longed to hear.
After another new album song “The Great Unknown” it was the time for the track that gave the album its name; “The Book Of Souls”. This also allowed for Maiden fans to be greeted finally by honorary member and mascot, Eddie. The giant titan paraded around the stage in his usual beast-like attitude, causing a hard time for the members of the band and the audience alike, rubbing the area under his loincloth and making various crude gestures to the crowd there. Janick ran under the abominations legs a number of times before going on to assault him by kicking him in the area that he was rubbing earlier and jumping to just about punch him in his demonic face that towered above him. Later he even went on to fight Bruce but met his downfall by Bruce ripping out his heart that was later thrown to the audience.
Next was a song that simply cannot be left off a setlist without upsetting countless hardcore Iron Maiden fans through the audience, it was of course “Fear Of The Dark”. It brought about rally of singing throughout the 3Arena as fans everywhere, who like me had been waiting for the chance to sing along with the classic Maiden rift. It was a truly a magical experience sang to a level that was on par with, if not rivaling the fabled “Live At Rock In Rio” version off of the Edward The Great album.
After echoing voices cascading around the room ceased it was time for a song that if you know Iron Maiden, it signified the end of the show. “Iron Maiden” saw the rise of a fiendish foe from behind the stage. In the darkness, bright red, blood like eyes glimmered and rose from behind of the upper stage as a gigantic Mayan Eddie inflatable grew taller before gawking fans. It remained there casting an eerie presence throughout the whole song that saw Janick swinging his guitar both around his neck and by the strap all over the stage perilously and Bruce pushing the microphone out towards the capacity crowd to sing the words, Iron Maiden. The Eddie finally met his demise at the end of the song, with the band quite literally ending with a bang with fire and smoke exploding from the stage, with the tyrant collapsing behind the stage.
Due to the impending 11 o’clock curfew in the stadium, there was no time at all for the band to mess about. In this sense, it felt to a point anticlimactic and without drama for the encore to begin without even exiting the stage but I appreciate that the band played through the setlist essentially consecutively to ensure nothing was left out.
All three encore tracks were classic Maiden songs beloved by many that have all stood the test of time in their own rights. First up was “Number Of The Beast” which involved the returned usage of inflatables, this time with the appearance of a demonic steer from the right-hand side of the stage, yet again fading in from black. The walkway became a living embodiment of hell with fire breathing out of every area of the upper stage. The old Maiden spirit was kept alive with Steve’s characteristic bass point towards the crowd as he nailed every chord. The demon cow met the same fate as Eddie as the stage crew let the air out of the bovine for him to fall onto the floor. At the climax of the song, Bruce quickly addressed the crowd saying how no one had been stabbed or murdered yet so the show was going well despite not being able to see due to a member of the seated crowd shining a light in his eye. This led into “Blood Brothers” which involved a lighting section which could only be described as an angelic halo being lowered down from the rafters with Eddie’s face at the center. This reef was present throughout the last song and finale of the show “Wasted Years”. If there was one so I screamed the loudest, it would have been this one; being my favorite song from the band’s massive career. The small pillars on the upper stage that were once ejecting fire were now emitting a red glow in the form of a face which helped set the mood for the epic ballad. Despite Bruce’s best efforts to pick up Adrian’s mic stand that he’d kicked down he did not join in with Bruce in wrapping up the track.
For a diehard fan, it truly was an experience to remember for life, especially after missing them back in 2011 at the SSE Arena, (then the Odyssey) thinking I’d never see them and that it truly was the ‘Final Frontier’ for the band. This performance, however, proved that the group has every right to continue touring and writing music as after four decades they are still able to produce fresh and meaningful albums that’ll keep the fans coming back for more. Up the Irons!
Scroll through our photo gallery, by Adrian Knight, below: