Iron Maiden: London Shepherd’s Bush Empire

Ver Maiden skirt along the thin line between 'sexy' and 'sexist'...

The touts are not happy. It’s the second night of Iron Maiden’s surprise two night residency at the Shepherds Bush Empire, and at 8.15 it’s becoming clear that the expected walk-up of ‘ironic’ metal fashionistas and curious nu-metal teens has evaporated into the Sunday night drizzle.

Inside, however, all is denim’n’leather. Lead guitarist Dave Murray strolls on in shiny leather trousers and fires off a volley of what can only be called high octane riffola. Judging by the facial contortions which accompany it, this sends him into the uncharted hinterland between agony and ecstasy. He is swiftly joined by fellow lead guitarists Adrian Smith and Janick Gers (who, frankly, is David St. Hubbins), and the whole place is quickly gurning away in appreciation. So this is the heads-down mindless boogie that our ancestors told us about!

Bruce Dickinson sprints from the wings. Unlike the others, he is not togged out in the metal battle-dress of a thousand Donningtons, but in sweat-vest and shorts. Bruce knows he has a lot of hill-running to do. Not a song goes by without him clambering up the mountain of Marshall amps or teetering precariously on the stage-front monitors (when the others haven’t already beaten him to it).

During a pulverising ‘Two Minutes To Midnight’ he bellows “So that’s what you look like!” and you realise he’s perched on the edge of the balcony whilst the band, giddy with joy, trade solos that would make Tap blush. The beyond-parody mood culminates in the arrival of ten-foot monster-mascot ‘Eddie’ who lurches on for the encores, during which the band reprise ‘Number Of The Beast’, first-ever single ‘Sanctuary’ (from 1980) and new, not dissimilar-sounding tune ‘Out Of The Silent Planet’.

“We’re off to raise some hell in South America!” yells Bruce at the close, as the band-crowd love-in concludes with a riot of devil-rock hand signals. An institution, and still mental.

Paul Moody