Words and images by Steve Rose
A tour three years in the making, fans were eagerly lined up around the Honda Center in Anaheim starting early in the afternoon to secure their spot as close to the front of the stage as possible. A sea of black shirts wrapped around the building (mostly draped in Maiden gear), waited at every available entrance for doors to open. This was the band's first time playing this particular venue, and the crowd's enthusiasm was undeniable, palpable and matched the intensity of what was yet to unfold onstage. There were a few makeshift "Maiden Anaheim" signs, fans in Eddie Masks, and the heavy metal parking lot was in full effect as the Maiden loyal, cranked their favorite tunes, indulging a bit of pregaming before the show.
Trivium kicked things off and played an inspired, high-energy set. Guitarist and vocalist, Matt Heafy, did a great job of getting the crowd involved in their set, while sharing guitar duties with lead guitarist, Corey Beaulieu, who put his signature Jackson V through its paces with his fiery leadwork. Bassist, Paulo Gregoletto and drummer, Alex Bent, held down the rhythm section, providing a solid sonic foundation for the guitarists to do their thing. "Into the Mouth of Hell we March," "Strife," and "The Shadow of the Abattoir" were standout songs on the set and were all well received by the audience.
Shortly before nine, the lights dimmed and UFO's "Doctor Doctor" played through the arena's speakers which meant that in a little over four minutes, the band that these rabid fans waited years to see, would take the stage. As soon as the song ended, the lights went out and Iron Maiden led with "Senjutsu," the title track from their critically acclaimed 2021 release of the same name.
The one consistent thing about an Iron Maiden show is that they always put on a helluva performance and this night was no different. Singer, Bruce Dickinson, ran around the sizable stage making sure every fan was engaged as he belted out the well known songs along with the sold out crowd.
Bassist, Steve Harris, patrolled stage left with his Fender P bass strapped on playing his complex basslines with fleet-fingered accuracy. The guitar tandem of Dave Murray and Adrian Smith played their famous guitar riffs and harmonized lines while some fans in front did their best air guitar versions of the same parts. Every now and then they would catch the eye of these six string legends and be met with a smirk in appreciation of their effort. Janick Gers, the band's third guitarist, added his own flair to these songs while interacting with the fans on his side of the stage. Keeping this metal machine chugging along was drummer Nicko McBrain who, while buried behind his massive drum kit, played all those signature parts that had many in the arena air drumming along with him all night long.
The band played a good variety of songs spanning their storied career including setlist staples like "Aces High," "The Trooper," and "The Number of the Beast." "Flight of Icarus" featured Dickinson with a flamethrower strapped to his back; he shot flames from each arm to accentuate parts of the song. Judging by the amount of flags representing other countries, this night was an international get together of like minded metalheads here to celebrate their favorite band. These NWOBHM pioneers haven't lost a step and with Senjutsu, they have proven they are still putting out top notch material.
See the complete gallery of images featuring Iron Maiden and special guest Trivium below.
All images by Steve Rose