Monday night however, was all about the metal, and while a lot might have changed since the Iron Maiden’s September 1990 ‘No Prayer on the Road’ Northern Ireland debut, in the city itself, in the world, and within the band itself, keener fans will have spotted among the merchandise a faithful reproduction of one of the shirts from that very tour, making the show a truly cyclical affair.
Coming two years on from its’ original planned date, the show had been a long time coming, and boy, was it worth the wait. The enforced layoff due to the global pandemic has only strengthened the six headed beast’s resolve, and coming off the back of their spectacularly well-received ‘Senjutsu’ album, live, Iron Maiden are in fierce form.
Focusing on the 2021 set for the first three songs, with its Japanese theme, livewire front man Bruce Dickinson dressed for the part, his hair in samurai-inspired bun and dressed head to toe in black. Kicking off with the epic title track, the band arrived on stage in defiant form, as the beating heart of ‘Senjutsu’ came to life. With an early appearance of Eddie himself, prowling the stage menacingly, sword in hand, it was clear that it was going to be a special evening.
Swiftly careering into the single ‘Stratego’, it was with the arrival of ‘The Writing on the Wall’ that the evening really came alive. Arguably the finest Iron Maiden lead single since ‘The Wicker Man’ back in 2000, the crowd sang along loudly, with Dickinson leading from the font.
A brief set change saw the segue back into ‘Legacy of the Beast’ territory. Bursting into life with biblical epic ‘Revelations’, the ‘Piece of Mind’ era classic garnered a rapturous response, and proved an early highlight. Showcasing the combined skills of guitarists Dave Muarray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers with it moods, solos and harmony passages, almost forty years on it’s still one of their greatest works.
Greeting the crowd, Dickinson said; “Well a very good evening to you! It has been a while; not just since we've played Belfast, but since we've played anywhere!” Acknowledging the various flags in the crowd he continued; “Most of the world has come to Belfast tonight. We've got friends from all over the world here!”, which served as the perfect segue into Maiden family anthem ‘Blood Brothers’.
Following with the first epic of the evening, in X-Factor era epic ‘Sign of the Cross’ - which has really grown to become a true Maiden classic in recent years - the band showed what they really can do with these extended musical marathons; from its dark, pensive intro, to its glorious singalong chorus and haunting instrumental passages.
From there on it was classic after classic, as ‘Flight of Icarus’ - complete with flame-thrower wielding Dickinson - gave way to hymn to the damned ‘Hallowed be Thy Name’ and perhaps their most well-known track of all, the iconic ‘The Number of the Beast’.
With the ‘big’ Eddie rearing his decidedly ugly head for set closer ‘Iron Maiden’, a brief set change saw the first of the encores in a frenetic ‘The Trooper’, Blaze Bayley-era ode to William Wallace ‘The Clansman’, and a galloping ‘Run to the Hills’.
All that was left was to fire up the Spitfire for a spirited run through ‘Aces High’. With the inflatable plane rolling, turning, and diving overhead, the band brought the evening to a close in decidedly ferocious form.
Taking their bows on what had been their biggest ever show on the island of Ireland, Dickinson signed off saying; “Belfast we love you. Goodnight my friends!”
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Iron Maiden Belfast live show history
1990 – 24th September – King’s Hall – No Prayer for the Dying Tour
1993 – 24th May – King’s Hall – A Real Live Tour
1996 – 1st February – Maysfield Leisure Centre – The X Factour
2011 – 3rd August – Odyssey Arena – The Final Frontier World Tour
2018 – 2nd August – SSE Arena – Legacy of the Beast Tour
2022 – 13th June – Ormeau Park – Legacy of the Beast Tour
Check out our gallery from the show below. All photos by Darren McLoughlin.