Written by Tom Collins
Edited by Scott Johnson
This past Sunday featured the much anticipated return of Iron Maiden to Philadelphia! The Book of Souls Tour 2017, along opening act Ghost, rolled in to the Wells Fargo Center to the exuberance of thousands of metal heads. Having seen Maiden a few times in my life, I felt like an experienced veteran! That was until I got in the GA line at 3pm and talked to the fans around me. I was floored at how many shows some of these people had seen of Maiden! One in particular, who I talked to, was on his 31st show from all around the world. If that wasn’t enough to make me feel like a less passionate fan, there was an incredible abundance of “Eddie” tattoos on numerous of the waiting faithful. It wasn’t long before many fans were comparing their ink with one another. After all, why not? We had several hours to kill outside before doors were set to open. The dedication of fans, traveling with the tour city to city, from around the globe was incredible! I came across several large groups of fans who only knew each other from meeting at various shows. “See you in NY, Boston, LA” I would hear them say to each other!
Equally impressive was a large fan base, for a much newer band on the scene, called, GHOST. Virtually everyone in attendance was sporting the t-shirt of Iron Maiden or GHOST. Some fans went as far as to paint their faces to look like the apparition and lead singer of GHOST, Papa Emeritus. This was a band I had been looking forward to seeing for the first time. Finally the doors opened and bodies quickly filtered into the venue. Everyone with a GA ticket made their way to the vast empty floor, while jockeying for the perfect spot up near the stage. The setting was already prepared for us as the stage was made to look like some kind of Satanic cathedral. Now the lights go down and it’s time to get this show started. Several identical “Nameless Ghouls” fill the stage with their respective instruments and play to welcome their leader, Papa Emeritus! Dawning a mostly black and white bishops hat and robe, this haunting figure glares over the crowd before him. His “skull” face and black eyes were haunting, with a voice and demeanor reminiscent of Dracula. They played about an 8 song set that thrilled their fans and made many new ones.
I had the great pleasure to interview many concert goers, while waiting for Maiden’s set to begin. The great thing about these metal heads is that they really are like a giant extended family. Everyone is easy to talk to. They get along and are there to enjoy and honor a band that they all love and respect. We were all eager for Iron Maiden. As the lights go down, the crowd roars loudly at a hooded figure standing over a smoking Aztec cauldron. Slowly, the hood is removed to reveal the legendary Bruce Dickinson! The rest of the band explodes on to the stage with the energy of people a third their age! The voice of Dickinson has not weakened even a little bit over the years. His vocals still hit and hold notes of which todays vocalists can only dream. The stage is set to look like ancient Aztec ruins. We soon learn it’s protected by a tribal, 9 foot tall, warrior version of Maiden’s mascot Eddie! Chasing Maiden’s several guitarists around stage, and taunting the audience, Eddie sets his eyes on Dickinson. Bruce lets this monstrosity know who the real star of the show is, and literally rips Eddie’s heart out of his body. A sacrifice to the Heavy Metal gods! But, with Eddie, you can’t kill what’s already dead. He makes several more appearances, rising from the back of the stage, more massive and menacing than before.
Flames shoot from cauldrons and idols across the entire stage. Hell hath no furry like an Eddie scorned. The dueling and harmonizing guitar work of Adrian Smith, Dave Murray and Janick Gers was perfection. Steve Harris thrilled the crowd with his incredible bass playing, not to mention his trademark move of looking down the neck of bass guitar, like a scope sight set on the audience! Nicko McBrain is some place buried behind a mountain of a drum kit. Occasionally, during the show, you catch a glimpse of him peeking over his mountain of percussion. Though it would take a marathon show for Maiden to play all of their greatest songs, they played fan favorites like “Wrathchild”, “The Trooper”, “Powerslave”, “Fear of the Dark” and “Iron Maiden”! Ending the incredible show, they dove into “The Number of the Beast”, “Blood Brothers” and my personal favorite, “Wasted Years”! As the lights came up to cue the fans to exit, typical British humor played through the speakers “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” via Monty Python. It was a great night had by all and a stellar performance by a truly legendary band. Be sure to check out our LIVE video coverage and fan interviews from the show!