Iron Maiden NIA Birmingham 21-5-17 and O2 Arena London 27-5-17
When you love a band as much as I have done Iron Maiden since my first live sighting of them way back in 1983 the chance for seeing them on their first full UK tour since 2011 (apart from a pop in to the O2 back in 2013) was a no brainer.
Taking my youngest son Matt to his first and second Maiden gigs was going to be special as was taking my mate Neal to his first Maiden show at the grand old age of 50 as I hit my 27th and 28th time of seeing this legendary band.
First up for both nights was Shinedown who we had seen last year supporting Black Stone Cherry and they were given a good reception from the Maiden army.
Led by the motor mouth of Brent Smith their 50 minute set was loud brash and well received with the following set list.
Fly From The Inside
How Did You Love
Cut The Cord
Sound Of Madness
When they play the songs with the superb choruses of How Did You Love,Cut The Chord and Sound Of Madness they are a great live act.For me the more modern take on rock with a lack of guitar solo's can be a little one dimensional and Brent does go on a bit too with lengthy passages when you want to scream shut up and play the songs.
They did manage a huge feat of getting the entire crowd bouncing on one song where I think in Birmingham you could feel the floor of the building moving and his words after the Manchester tragedy and a minute's silence were well timed too.
After the initial disappointment of only one UK show last year at Download in the mud the anticipation was palpable as we finally got to witness the bands huge Book Of Souls stage show based on the Mayan era and with a slight tweak in the set list we were ready.
Here is the what they played after the obligatory UFO Doctor Doctor intro for a near 2 hour set.
It can be very hard sometimes to be objective when you love a band so much but this was something very special.
Looking back at the shows one from a standing perspective and the other seated I think Birmingham was a 9 with London a 10.
After the horrific event's of last Monday at Manchester Arena 20000 people came to London to stick a defiant middle finger to any terrorist and rejoice in the spectacle of live music that we all love and hold so dear.
Bruce Dickinson gave an impassioned speech in London with his thoughts on the events and the following song Blood Brothers was so apt not only on the night but across all walks of life.Bruce counted out at least 20 different flags of countries from all across the world as we all came together and the singing from the crowd was spine tingling and the show of arms waving that the band also used on their thank you to the fans was incredible.
From the opening 1-2 of new songs If Eternity Should Fail and Speed Of Light the sound was superb and the light show immense and the band were firing on all cylinders.
The former song is a Maiden opener of epic proportions with a great chorus and Adrian Smith's outro guitar solo alongside Bruce's vocal was wonderful.
The latter song starts with a Bruce scream that takes you right back to the early days and I have to say the man was on mighty form.He used every inch of the huge stage and of course plenty of Scream For Me (insert city) moments.His vocals were excellent too the man is a marvel.
Wrathchild was back with its short sharp venomous chorus shouted back by all before Children Of The Damned was performed in all it's glory with the sound engineer doing his job as we heard all of the nuances of a song which ebbs and flows wonderfully.
Death Or Glory saw Bruce in full entertainer mode with his monkey mask,bananas and to see 20000 hairy rockers climbing like a monkey was a real sight to see.
Red And The Black was a 12 minute epic with Steve Harris on bass playing the intro and the man looks no older ever and he still shoots the front row with his bass and his desire and love for Maiden shines through at all times.
The Trooper was greeted with a roar to lift the roof and the twin solo's from Smith and Dave Murray were nailed as only they can and with all of the lengthy song's the band have wow what a song in 4 minutes.
Fitting in perfectly with the Mayan set was the song Powerslave which is a personal favourite.The first mid song guitar solo from Murray is always a thing of beauty with it's melodic picked notes a joy to hear and the hairs on my neck stood to attention wow just wow.Nicko Mcbrain is a phenomenal drummer and amazingly gets a bus pass in a few weeks and sat behind his huge kit with Mayan themed Sooty the guy is the driving rhythmical force behind the band.
The Great Unknown has been added to this leg of the tour before the title track Book Of Souls was played.A real Maiden epic with the mid song gallop amongst the finest the band have ever done.Lights fire and a huge walk on Eddie and Bruce at his theatrical best taking out Eddie's heart made it a set highlight.
Fear Of The Dark is a staple of the set with the crowd in full voice and Janick Gers at his prancing best with excellent intro and outro solo's.
Iron Maiden off course finished the set with it's near punk feel and another huge Eddie head up at the back of the stage.
Number Of The Beast was the first encore with a huge beast stage left and more fire than what hell has to offer before Blood Brothers took it up ever higher with Gers picked solo superb.
Wasted Years saw a mass singalong with Smith's guitar solo hitting the spot and teh band and crowd coming together as one.
Nicko provided a huge laugh as he left the stage last as always he fell over Janick's guitar to huge hilarity.
Words at time are not enough you had to be there but as we all left through a huge police presence all you could see was huge grins and the knowledge that we had seen one of the world's finest live bands playing as good if not better than ever before.
Iron Maiden thank you but don't leave it so long next time.
Iron Maiden's Instagram photo from 02.