Iron Maiden

Wolverhampton on a Saturday

Well, I managed to miss most of My Dying Bride, the support band, due to me setting off in the car at the wrong time. Not too sure if I missed anything. Loads of long hair up there, but static or what. Oh yeah, and a violin player, who, when he's not playing with his violin stands there and headbangs. Hmm, jury's out on these.

Maiden. British institution right? The scene of my first ever gig, Donington 1988. 108,000 people to see them, so they'll never be up against it? Well, it's 1995, grunge has been and gone and now we're into punk again, just like when Maiden started, oh, and the small matter that Bruce D left. So in 1995, according to the media, IM face an uphill battle. And so tonight, first gig on Britsh soil for the band with Blaze as the new singer. The judges are waiting for the verdict.

Man on the Edge, the first single from the X Factor opens preceedings, no farting around, a couple of arm movements from Nicko to gee everyone up, and it's heads down and here we go. Blaze is playing Air Drums for Britain, the arms are everywhere, and there's a bit of a look in the eye of "I'm gonna do this". Wrathchild is next up, before hurtling into Heaven Can Wait (Ye gods, it's getting a bit full of cliches now). It's here that, for me anyway, any doubts as to whether Blaze can replace Bruce are dispelled. He sings it with no problem, even doing the entire chorus that it seemed Bruce was struggling with at the end of his days.

There's a healthy mix of old and new, so we get, Afraid to Shoot Strangers, Fear of the Dark, Evil that Men do, (complete with non working bass for Steve H), The Clairvoyant, 2 Minutes to Midnight (featuring Eddie), and from the new album, Sign of the Cross, Lord of the Flies, The Aftermath, Fortunes of War, Blood on the Worlds Hands and the superb Edge of Darkness.

Once again, there's no end of running around on stage, foot on the monitor and guitar leaning into the crowd from Steve, Dave and Janick. Blaze was a bit rooted to the spot, especially in comparison to his days in Wolfsbane, and in particular when they supported Maiden back in 1990. But, nerves might have played a part. The gig ends with Iron Maiden, of course, replete with Eddie and his electric chair.

Encores are Number, Hallowed (yes he does sing it properly and damn well) and the Trooper, and that's yer lot. No Run to the Hills or Running Free, but it's good that a band can play what they want, and still be good without needing to pander to the audiences every whim. There seems to be looks of relief onstage, and then Always look on the bright side of life means that it's time to try and remember where the car is parked and how do I get out of here.

Overall Dave Verdict: Good to see the place packed, and Blaze is singing better than Bruce was at the end. If your street cred allows you too, pick up a copy of the album and check them out. They're not over the hill just because the media tells you or dictates that they're out of fashion.

There's an official web site here.