Iron Maiden's 'Legacy' secure after DCU Center show

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WORCESTER — Iron Maiden. They came. They saw. They conquered … with a little help from pyrotechnics, giant inflatables, elaborate set-pieces and costumed ghouls on stilts.

Iron Maiden first played the Centrum on Oct. 1, 1982 during a stop of its “The Beast on the Road Tour.”

Monday night, the British metal pioneers made their way back to the DCU Center for its only New England stop of its “Legacy of the Beast World Tour.”

And, boy, have they grown in 40 years as world-class performers.

Iron Maiden fans in the front row raise their fists and cheer after the first song at the DCU Center Monday.
Iron Maiden fans in the front row raise their fists and cheer after the first song at the DCU Center Monday.

Whether you love the band’s fire and brimstone assault on the senses, Iron Maiden puts on one hell of a show, with emphasis on hell.

On top of that, I didn’t know learning world history could be so much fun.

Singer Bruce Dickinson rocked with reckless abandoned as he led his head-banging brigade into the unrelenting metal maelstrom that is Maiden.

With three long-haired guitarists (Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers), one long-haired bassist (Steve Harris), one long-haired keyboardist (Michael Kenney) and one long-haired drummer who also looked long in the tooth (Nicko McBrain, who is the oldest member of Iron Maiden at 70), the English heavy-metal veterans performed a killer, 15-song, two-hour set to a sold-out show of 10,200-plus fans.

Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson performs next to the band's long-time mascot Eddie, dressed as a samurai on this tour, at the DCU Center Monday.
Iron Maiden lead singer Bruce Dickinson performs next to the band's long-time mascot Eddie, dressed as a samurai on this tour, at the DCU Center Monday.

Opening with three tracks from last year’s “Senjutsu” (Gesundheit), Iron Maiden came barreling on the stage like conquering marauders.

Parading through an elaborate stage set that looked like an ancient Japanese village complete with Shinto shrines, pagoda, tera and temples, a two-story tall version of “Eddie” (the band’s skinless, skeletal, psychopath mascot) came barreling on the stage with glowing eyes and kabuki-style red warpaint and wearing ancient samurai armor and wielding a katana. That alone was worth the price of admission and this was only the first number.

While I couldn’t help to think that Akira Kurosawa, the famed director of “Seven Samurai,” must be spinning in his grave, at the same time, I was grinning from ear to ear watching the theatrics unfold onstage.

Iron Maiden – April 1, 1987
Iron Maiden – April 1, 1987

Despite refraining from the use of devil-horn hand gestures, Dickinson appeared to have all of Ronnie James Dio stage moves down pat. During “Stratego,” which unfortunately had nothing to do with the popular Milton Bradley board game, Dickinson — dressed in black leather pants, biker books and a loose black shirt and sporting a man bun — marched to both sides of the stage, egging on the crowd that didn’t need much egging on to start off with.

Although starting with a lone acoustic guitar, the cautionary damnation ditty “The Writing on the Wall” was another high-decibel assault on the senses complete with buzz-saw guitars and bone-crunching drums.

Iron Maiden in concert at the DCU Center Monday.
Iron Maiden in concert at the DCU Center Monday.

At the end of the trio of tunes from “Senjutsu,” the Japanese village came crashing down in the dark to make room for the interior of a demonic cathedral with faux-stained glass images of devils, demons and debt collectors.

Wearing a black cloak, Dickinson recited “Revelations” from 1983’s “Piece of Mind.” Despite sounding more like Dickinson was reciting the Iron Maiden’s album catalog rather than the unholy scriptures, the audience was truly digging it.

Prior to the Gaelic-flavored, misery love company ode “Blood Brothers,” Dickinson pointed out that there were Iron Maiden fans from “all over the (expletive) world” represented in the DCU Center this given night including from Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador, Germany and Poland.

After joking that COVID was an elaborate hoax created by Iron Maiden because the band wanted to take some time off from touring, Dickinson worked on dispelling the myth that the only people who like Iron Maiden are “(expletive) old men with beer bellies.” If he added "who talk too much during a show," Dickinson would have had the ruling demographic in the section I was sitting in to a tee.

To dispel this myth, Dickinson singled out a 5-year-old girl in the sea of Iron Maiden T-shirt-wearing minions and surveyed the audience to see how many fans were born after 1988 and after 1994, which in both cases was met with thunderous applause.

Carrying an unassuming cross, Dickinson came out in a black hooded cloak that also doubled for a twirling cape for, you guessed it, “Sign of the Cross.” After mounting the cross at the front of the stage, it turned out the cross had a few tricks of its own (Spoiler alert: It lit up!). Even though there were plumes of smoke erupting from the second-tier stage and fireworks shooting off high in the rafters, that was nothing compared to the guitar pyrotechnics being committed by Iron Maiden’s three axe-men and sole bassist.

“Flight of Icarus” was an absolute scorcher, both figuratively and literally, as well as a crowd-pleasing showstopper. If the mammoth-sized inflatable of Greek mythology’s most family air casualty wasn’t enough to win you over, Dickinson came out with the show’s coolest gadget and stage props of the night — a pair of wrist-worn flamethrowers that spit out fire at the push of the button. I checked. They weren’t selling them at any of the merch booths.

Guitarists Dave Murray, left, and Adrian Smith perform with Iron Maiden at the DCU Center Monday.
Guitarists Dave Murray, left, and Adrian Smith perform with Iron Maiden at the DCU Center Monday.

On “Fear of the Dark,” Dickinson adopted the guise of a grave robber from a late-night, black-and-white horror movie, complete with top hat, grotesque half-mask, glowing lantern and white puffy shirt that looked like it was lifted from the “Seinfeld” set. Proving that he has a future in musical theater if his heavy metal career ever peters out, Dickinson serenaded a hangman’s noose on “Hallowed Be Thy Name.” When he came out for the next number wearing a leather jacket, I thought Dickinson was going to do a number from “Grease.”

Instead, Dickinson delivered Iron Maiden’s affectionate ode to the devil’s area code, “The Number of the Beast,” which was easily the best number that was light (but not completely void) of stage antics.

Iron Maiden ended its main set with the title track from the band’s 1980 debut “Iron Maiden.” By song’s end, an inflatable, King Kong-size head of Eddie with demonic horns appeared on stage and seemed to be watching the crowd prior to casting his final judgement.

For the first encore, Dickinson took the audience on a whirlwind “World at War” tour, first starting with “The Trooper.”

Inspired by the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava 1854 and featured on 1983’s “Piece of Mind,” “The Trooper” featured Dickinson, wearing a British infantry “red coat” uniform, coming out of the trenches and waving a Union Jack flag. Before the song ended, Dickinson had a sword fight with a Goliath Eddie, wearing a similar uniform. Grabbing an American flag and 18th Century musket, Dickinson shot the Iron Maiden mascot dead, at least for now. Yes, I checked. They weren’t selling the combination American flag/firing musket at any of the merch booths either.

Despite being a call for retreat, “Run to the Hills” was one of the evening’s better battle cries. Pumping their collective fists in the air, the crowd shouted along with Dickinson’s song’s anthematic, alas defeatist, chorus.

After an inspiring speech from the British Prime Minister during World War II, Winston Churchill (thanks to Memorex), Iron Maiden returned with a one-song, second encore “Aces High.” With an enormous (and inflatable) British Spitfire Mk II World War II-era plane that would make Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters drool like Homer Simpson around a box of donuts, the song was a killer climax to a killer concert.

And, in case there was anyone left in the audience that didn’t realize that it was an explosive evening, Dickinson ended the number by pushing down the handle of a detonator marked “TNT,” not unlike a prop that Wile E. Coyote would use to try to blow up his old nemesis, the Road Runner.

Iron Maiden is known for many things but subtlety, I guess, isn’t one of them.

This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Iron Maiden rocks out at DCU Center