Maiden, Motorhead Ageless At MSG; Dio, Not So Much

Bruce, Lemmy show how to make mincemeat of bands half their age.

NEW YORK — Before Iron Maiden played the only new

song of their 90-minute set on Wednesday night (July 30) at Madison

Square Garden, frontman Bruce Dickinson offered a little sociology

lesson.

Dickinson spoke of how 10 years of vapid trends and media manipulation

have resulted in legions of manufactured, uninspiring hard rock bands

with two good songs per album and careers that last no longer than two

records. Then Maiden blasted into "Wildest Dreams" — a galloping

track from their upcoming disc, Dance of Death — and it was

as if the past decade never happened.

"Out on my way, out on the road again," wailed Dickinson before

guitarists Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers traded deft,

galvanic solos while bassist Steve Harris and drummer Nicko McBrain

kept the rhythms pounding.

Sadly, time only really stands still in intensely boring classroom

lectures — or, as Groucho Marx once said, "Time wounds all heels."

The members of Iron Maiden are in their mid-to-late 40s now. Their

faces are lined with wrinkles, their hair is growing grayer by the day,

they all have families and they're not as freewheeling or impulsive as

they once were. But they still have the energy, enthusiasm, agility and

musical chops to win over an arena crowd.

One of the keys to Maiden's longevity is devotion. Through thick and

thin, the band has never strayed from its epic metal course, and its

fans have rewarded it with undying loyalty. That's why Maiden are still

able to sell out Madison Square Garden and other large venues without

the aid of radio or video exposure.

Fans at the Garden had plenty to be excited about. Iron Maiden were

loud, dramatic, and looked so metal. Dickinson ran a marathon from side

to side and across a platform at the back of the stage, vaulted

monitors like an Olympic long jumper, threw his fists in the air as if

slaying giant dragonflies and waved a giant Union Jack flag. Yet he

never got too winded to sing with accuracy, passion and authority.

While the frontman led the crusade, the band's guitarists put on

kinetic displays of six-string precision, and each sported trademark

moves that helped establish their identity. When he wasn't navigating

the stage, Smith stood stoic, knees bent, legs wide apart, and threw

his head back when he ripped through speedy, melodic leads. Murray was

less mobile, often looking down at his guitar as he played, though he

frequently arched his back at the string-bending apex of his screaming

solos. Gers, with his flowing blond hair, was the band's most acrobatic

and hyperactive axeman. As he played he jogged in place, whipped his

instrument in circles around his body, windmilled, hoisted his guitar

against his outer thigh and kicked his monitor with his heel.

Such gestures would seem absurd from Nickelback, but Maiden fans expect

nothing less than overblown showmanship. They screamed with joy when a

giant metal robot version of the band's mascot, Eddie, ascended during

the set closer, "Iron Maiden." As the creature's head opened on a

hinge, a car-sized brain descended from the rafters and landed in the

gleaming skull, causing the torso to wiggle and the metal jaws to make

chewing motions.

 

Motörhead and Iron Maiden live photos


The set list chronicled Iron Maiden's career and offered a healthy dose

of crowd-pleasers, but there were also numerous surprises. After

opening with "The Number of the Beast" and "The Trooper," Maiden plowed

into "Die With Your Boots On" and "Revelations" from 1983's Piece of

Mind, though they didn't play the better known "Flight of Icarus"

or "Where Eagles Dare" from the same album. And while they performed

the nine-minute-long "The Clansman" from Virtual XI, an album

recorded in 1998 when Dickinson was out of the band, they avoided their

signature epic "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Similarly, they played

the somewhat obscure cut "The Clairvoyant" from Seventh Son of a

Seventh Son and the title track of Fear of the Dark, but

didn't perform "Aces High" or "Wrathchild."

Such quibbles are minor. Compared to other bands from their era and

most contemporary hard rock outfits, Iron Maiden are theatrical,

honest, even joyous. Staind and Metallica may sneer while they play,

but guitarists Smith and Murray often exchange wide grins. Bassist

Harris is such a fan, he sings along wide-mouthed even though he's

nowhere near a microphone. Refreshingly, Maiden aren't too

self-important to be self-deprecating. While other bands may avoid

talking about scuffles with the law, Dickinson took two jabs at drummer

McBrain, who was arrested last week for striking a parking attendant

with his car (see [article id="1474863"]"Iron Maiden Drummer Arrested After Allegedly Driving Into Lot Attendant"[/article]). "Don't get into a moving vehicle with this man," he said

when introducing McBrain mid-set. Before Maiden encored with "2 Minutes

to Midnight" and "Run to the Hills," Dickinson exclaimed, "Fresh out of

San Quentin, madman Nicko McBrain on the drums."

With Maiden, stage drama heightens a euphoric experience. For show

opener Dio, theatricality seems more than a tad bit absurd. Frontman

Ronnie James Dio, who hasn't exactly aged well and kinda resembles the

Cryptkeeper, continually saluted the crowd with the heavy metal "devil

horns" sign and wiggled the splayed fingers to the beat like a

Hell-bound orchestra conductor.

Guitarist Craig Goldy was similarly comical when he repeatedly yanked

his instrument to the side to display Rockettes-style high kicks, and

ran his fingers mystically up and down his guitar neck between

fuzzbomb riffs. Simon Wright's insistence on playing along with a

tape of the climax of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" during his overly

long drum solo was equally hard to take seriously.

Yet, those who closed their eyes or otherwise overlooked

the visual display were treated to a thundering showcase of mystical,

anthemic metal. Dio's voice is still a fine-tuned machine that is

equally capable of delivering hushed, eerie passages and belting out

daunting vibrato crescendos, and the band's musicianship was tight and

gripping. The only recent song Dio played was "Killing the Dragon"; the

rest of the set included '80s classics such as "The Last in Line,"

"Stand Up and Shout," "Rainbow in the Dark," "Holy Diver" and "Heaven

and Hell," a song from Dio's two-album tenure with Black Sabbath.

Biker metal stalwarts Motörhead opened the show with 30 minutes of

ground-shaking, teeth-busting clamor. Unlike Dio and Maiden, it doesn't

matter how old frontman Lemmy Kilmister gets, because he has no

aspirations to be cool or theatrical. Paradoxically, he's one of the

coolest, most watchable figures in rock.

As he ravaged his bass, Lemmy craned his neck to sing into his

downward-tilted mike. When he wasn't roaring in a shattered-larynx

voice, he played with one knee bent while ponytailed guitarist Phil

Campbell sawed hardcore-paced blues-metal riffs and drummer Mikkey Dee

battered away on a double-bass kit so emphatically, it sounded like

roadway construction.

Motörhead flawlessly ripped through "Motorhead," "Sacrifice" and

"Killed by Death," but the showstopper was the timeless "Ace of

Spades," which inspired an enthused sing-along from the crowd. Lemmy

introduced the cut by saying, "If you know the words you can sing

along, but I won't be able to hear you." Ever hear of earplugs, Lemmy?

For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.