Iron Maiden : Gothenburg, Ullevi Stadium, Saturday July 9

Iron Maiden : Gothenburg, Ullevi Stadium, Saturday July 9

The part-time author, swordsman and pilot leads his veteran Brit metal overlords into Sweden for another successful stadium rampage – the perfect warm-up for headlining the Carling Weekend: Reading an

Gothenburg is under siege. The city is awash with thousands of slightly toasted Swedes, speaking in that strange brand of Swinglish they’re known for. It has the air of a Cup Final, only more drunken. This is underscored by the fact that those with poor enough judgment to sport Kiss and AC/DC (rival clubs, effectively) T-shirts find pints – and in one grisly instance, a chair – being chucked their way.

There are 56,000 of them heading to the Ullevi Stadium tonight, which accounts for a ninth of Gothenburg’s population. Not only that, but the show is being broadcast across Scandinavia, which conservative estimates suspect will draw in over 20million viewers. For a pack of metal behemoths pushing 50, Iron Maiden never show their age. Bruce Dickinson’s voice is in top form and he manages to land a surprising number of wince-free jumps during ‘Wraithchild’. There are cracks, of course – like when NME inadvertently barges in on a member of the Maiden getting their arse massaged pre-show, or when drummer Nicko McBrain, care of some badly planned camera angles throughout ‘Die With Your Boots On’, treats the audience to a glimpse of his pulsing, spandex-cocooned scrotum, 10 feet wide on the big screen. Teens – a surprising number are in attendance – avert their eyes in surrogate embarrassment.

The Maiden have never shirked on spectacle, and tonight bodes well for their upcoming headline slot at the Carling Weekend: Reading and Leeds festivals. Signature tune ‘Iron Maiden’ sees a gigantic and expensive-looking bust of their legendary mascot Eddie appear, shoulders jiggling to the beat, while huge columns of flame book-end a wailing Bruce. Then, as the encore thunders past, a shambling mini-Eddie lumbers onto the stage like a nightmarish Disneyworld abortion, only to gently pat guitarist Adrian Smith on the head. This is simple music for a simpler time, but it has great purity of vision. It’s disheartening when Bruce announces, “This tour may be the last time we do these songs.”

Now we look to the top of the Reading/Leeds bill not with bemusement but with genuine enthusiasm. Expect from Iron Maiden one of the great festival turnarounds, those glorious acts of rediscovery. Break out the denim vest, children, British metal is coming home.

Mike Sterry