After his five band mates had abandoned the elaborate stage at the conclusion of Iron Maiden’s concert at the Sprint Center on Saturday, drummer Nicko McBrain continued to toss souvenirs to fans of the heavy metal band. He hurled a drum head in the air only to watch it spiral to the back of the stage. The errant toss was one of the few things that didn’t go exactly as planned at the carefully choreographed concert.
An audience of about 12,000 was inundated with a spectacular sonic and visual barrage. Although Iron Maiden’s members were born in the 1950s, they pranced about with the enthusiasm of children on a playground. Each man carefully sidestepped the ceaseless onslaught of fireworks, flames and special effects that embellished all 18 songs of the band’s high-energy set.
The British band’s robust attack helped to change the course of heavy metal in the 1980s. In spite of the iconic band’s steady tour schedule, Iron Maiden hadn’t performed in the Kansas City area since 2000. The long drought resulted in a rabid reception. Fans shouted the band’s name during a frantic rendition of the title song of its 1980 debut album “Iron Maiden” and provided impressive harmonies during “Fear of the Dark.”
The audience also cheered the introduction of each prop. A enormous version of Eddie, the band’s ghoulish mascot, clutched a beating heart during “Iron Maiden.” A giant sword-wielding soldier chased guitarist Janick Gers during “Run To the Hills,” the 1982 single that remains Iron Maiden’s best-known song.
The 90-minute spectacle more closely resembled a big-budget Broadway production than a rock concert. The antics of vocalist Bruce Dickinson were similarly theatrical. He chewed scenery like a shamelessly ostentatious actor. Dickinson hurdled stage monitors during “The Prisoner” and waved a Union Jack during “The Trooper.” Because he was fully committed to his role as a manic entertainer, Dickinson’s frenzied performance was inspirational rather than ridiculous. His powerfully histrionic vocals provide a human element to Iron Maiden’s songs, most of which reverberate with the ominous rumble of life-threatening landslides.
The 50-minute opening set by thrash metal giants Megadeth was also imbued with a sense of unstoppable momentum. In addition to being one of metal’s foremost guitar shredders, front man Dave Mustaine is an acerbic social commentator. His forceful performance reflected his bleak perspective. Iron Maiden manages to temper its recurring themes of Orwellian dystopia, war and the occult with an optimistic outlook. The band’s headlining performance, consequently, was outlandishly entertaining.
Setlist: Moonchild; Can I Play with Madness; The Prisoner; Two Minutes to Midnight; Afraid to Shoot Strangers; The Trooper; The Number of the Beast; Phantom of the Opera; Run to the Hills; Wasted Years; Seventh Son of a Seventh Son; The Clairvoyant; Fear of the Dark; Iron Maiden; Aces High; The Evil That Men Do; Running Free.