With suitably gorgeous sunny weather conditions, pseudo-Satanic occult rock act Ghost kicked off the proceedings at the Budweiser Stage for a weekend of heavy metal that saw both iconic metal acts Iron Maiden and Metallica play in the city. This evening, it was Iron Maiden who took top billing for round two of their "Book of Souls World Tour," which also visited the city a year prior.
After opening with a pop-oriented number, Ghost eased into debut album banger "Ritual," their smooth exterior befitting the unrelenting sunshine. With a massive stage banner adored with Satan (or was that you, Papa Emeritus the III, or IV, or whatever you call yourself?), a Baphomet, and the Virgin Mary, the band were tuned far heavier than current albums have been. This gave them a metallic edge their current recorded output has been sorely lacking. After a handful of tracks with Papa in his perverted pope outfit, Tobias (oops, I mean Papa Emeritus) stripped down to a suit that was uncannily similar to the outfits worn live by death doomsters Skepticism before demanding the crowd "sing loud and clear a song to celebrate the female orgasm." Aye, aye, captain.
Maiden used their customary soundtrack of UFO's "Doctor Doctor" to get the roaring crowd pumped for their performance, kicking things off with two back-to-back Books of Souls tracks. Bruce's hilariously integrated monologue regarding fans in attendance being literal "Children of the Damned" — thanks to the fact they could have been conceived while the song was playing — came as a fitting introduction to the band's old school banger; unfortunately, a lack of hilarious transitions between old and new material made the sonic differences much more pronounced as the set progressed.
As the band's new material becomes far more prog influenced and lengthy (a fitting and suitable change for an act with such tenure), the difference between galloping hits like "The Trooper" and "Fear of the Dark" and newer offerings like "The Red and the Black" and "The Book of Souls" is abrupt and obvious. Not to say the majority of the crowd minded one bit: they were screaming and throwing back those $16 beers copiously. Conversely, a middle-aged gentleman who'd proudly consumed MDMA was sitting in the beer gardens, completely unimpressed, lamenting the loss of what made the band so exhilarating as a teenager.
While it's difficult to agree with his assessment given that Maiden are aging well, it is more undoubtedly more enjoyable to see the band on their cumulative anniversary tours than on the album tours this past decade. Good to hear then, that the Maiden fan boards are awash with rumours about their next outing being focused on just that.