Announced in late 2022, 'Future Past' was something that fans of a certain generation hadn't dared hope for. Concentrating on their criminally overlooked 1986 masterwork 'Somewhere in Time', along with 2021's 'Senjutsu', it promised to deliver songs not performed in close to four decades as well as deeper dives from their critically acclaimed latest. And it did not disappoint.
With the sold out arena packed to bursting, Iron Maiden are well used to the devoted masses. Now more popular than they were even at the peak of their popularity in the mid to late '80s, a Maiden show transcends the generations, with old school fans mixing with families, and parents treating their excited kids to their first ever Iron Maiden live experience. From the old to the young, it's difficult to say however, which had eyes more filled with wonder.
As the nostalgia-inducing theme from Bladerunner announced the bands arrival, with a burst of explosive energy and glorious technicolour the six-piece entered to 'Caught Somewhere in Time'. Aping the opening of their 1986 'Somewhere on Tour' jaunt, front man Bruce Dickinson raised the excitement even further with a knowing roar of; "scream for me Dublin!". A truly electrifying start.
In a moment fans in Europe had waited for since 1987, the familiar bass rumble of 'Stranger in a Strange Land' came next. Last performed on the US leg of the 'Ed Hunter' tour in 1999, this was an early highlight, as evidenced by the huge singalong in the crowd. With founder Steve Harris staunchly in favour of curtain-style backdrops, a refreshing use of animated side screens took the audience right inside the alien watering hole from the track's original single artwork, as the fan favourite raised the roof.
Greeting the crowd Dickinson said; "Dublin! You look amazing! How the fuck are you? It's great to see so many people. We haven't seen each other for a while". Going on to introduce 2021 single 'The Writing on the Wall', he continued; "This one proved exceedingly popular. There's a lot of fucked up stuff in the world, but this one at least has a happy ending".
Notable from even this early point, was just how much Adrian Smith was enjoying the performance. The son of a Co. Mayo woman, as revealed in our 2020 chat, the guitarist looked much more at ease and truly into the moment than he had been at Hellfest in France just a week earlier.
Going into a pair of songs debuted for this tour, Dickinson confessed; "We had no idea when we wrote this that the Moody Blues had a song called 'Days of Future Past", while referencing the DeLorean build just up the road in Northern Ireland ahead of an enthralling 'The Time Machine'.
Of course, the 'Future Past' tour is not just about two albums - although the set thus far had concentrated solely on them - and the biggest surprises came with both with 'The Prisoner' and 'Can I Play with Madness?' returning to the set, as the euphoric audience response proved.
'The Death of the Celts' meanwhile prompted Dickinson to comically admit; "I have to explain the next song, and I have a particular difficulty this evening... because you're not dead! However, somebody had a go at it once a long, long time ago, but it just goes to show you can't keep a good bunch of people down."
Ignored in the live set until this year, Smith's praying gesture as its interlude arrived showed exactly why the band have been reluctant to play 'Alexander the Great' until now. Finally bowing to fan pressure, its 7/8 instrumental passage has proven particularly difficult even for musicians of Maiden's calibre. They needn't have worried however, and the centrepiece of the evening, it was as epic as its preceding reputation.
Visually, the show was a real spectacle. With a trio or walk-on Eddies, a gunfight between the mascot and Dickinson, and numerous themed backdrops, it was a glorious feast for the eyes. The more eagle-eyed meanwhile, will have spotted the many easter eggs hidden in the drapes, which included most of the Eddies that represent the songs in the set on Alexander's army's shields, and the tombstone from the 'Live After Death' sleeve for encore 'Hell on Earth'.
Read our 2023 interview with Eddie creator Derek Riggs here.
Only the victory laps of 'The Trooper' and 'Wasted Years' remained before, as has become traditional in the Irish capital, a tray with six pints of stout arrived just in time to toast the audience.
"Every night we do this, this is the best night of our fucking lives up here", said Bruce in closing. He can rest assured that the feeling was the same out in the crowd.
Check out our gallery from the show below. All photos by Darren McLoughlin.