Air Canada Centre, Toronto - August 1, 2000

JOHN POWELL -- Jam! Showbiz

, Last Updated: 4:56 PM ET

TORONTO -- Anyone who's been a headbanger as long as I have - twenty one years and counting - has seen it all. Drum sets that revolve in mid-air. Band members repelling from the ceiling. Enormous inflatable bunny rabbits bouncing to the music. A lead singer beheaded by a guillotine. Robocop storming the stage, gun drawn.

 Leave it up legendary Brit rockers Iron Maiden to once again blaze a new trail by filling a lingering void which has plagued the heavy metal genre for years: pagan virgins "burned alive" in a twenty-foot tall wicker statue. A kick ass stunt to be sure though I would've taken it one step further by barbecuing the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and all of their putrid, wretched clones too.

 Someone please start that fire. I promise to bring the marshmallows.

 Returning to Toronto with their Brave New World tour, Iron Maiden was back bigger and better than ever. Back was original Maiden lead and rhythm guitar player, Adrian Smith, who couldn't make it last time around due to a death in the family. Back too was the large scale, thematic stage show that Iron Maiden is famous for though the band only used about a third of the available Air Canada Centre arena.

 Before Maiden took the stage, Entombed and former Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford, slayed the crowd. Halford and his band stoked the fire set by Entombed into an blazing inferno with a set based on his new album Resurrection and some rip-roaring Priest material that had the crowd giving the heavy metal icon an appreciative standing ovation.

 Flanked by the Brave New World cover - the face of demonic band mascot Eddie forming in the clouds above a futuristic London, England, his eyes moving back and forth as if searching for his next victim - and a strange set comprised of metal bars positioned haphazardly everywhere like someone had upturned a giant Mechano set and two sliding, repelling devices on other side of the stage for lively lead singer, Bruce "Air Raid Siren" Dickinson, to swing from, the band kick started the show with three cuts from the new album: Wicker Man, Ghost Of The Navigator and the title track.

 Benefiting most from Maiden's lethal four man guitar contingent (Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Janick Gers and Steve Harris), was Ghost Of The Navigator which had even more power and precision to it when performed live. Just as Running Free and Rime Of The Ancient Mariner have had whole new meanings attached to them since the Live After Death release, so too will Ghost if it is included on Maiden's next live album.

 Reaching back into their diverse catalogue Maiden counterbalanced the new material with The Trooper, Wrathchild and Two Minutes To Midnight. Noticeably absent from the play list was Run To The Hills, a venerable Maiden favorite.

 Strengthened by Smith's additional guitar work, Two Minutes came off sounding the best it ever has though Blood Brothers was a complete dud failing to maintain the pace the pair of Maiden oldies had inspired. Taking a break backstage, Dickinson had to come out and encourage the crowd to clap along with the tune as their enthusiasm had curled up and died part way through it.

 Sign Of The Cross, The Trooper, Fear Of The Dark, The Clansman and amazingly enough, Dream Of Mirrors with its brilliant, cascading light show, got the most spirited head bobbing and fist waving of the evening besides the encores later on.

 For his part, Dickinson was once again the driving force behind the show. Whether it was guiding the crowd in the many sing-a-long sessions or dashing from stage to stage, Dickinson's exuberance could not be contained. He had a pretty easy night too as the crowd, who never sat down once Maiden hit the stage, sang many of the choruses for him. Unable to hear himself over the crowd, he repeatedly surrendered the mike waving it back and forth like a conductor.

 The extravagant on-stage theatrics saw Dickinson crucified during Sign Of The Cross, a fifteen-foot tall Eddie (the Ed Hunter version) stomp out and harass the band as well as the aforementioned Eddie wicker man replica housing four sacrificial virgins whom Dickinson attempted to rescue. Dickinson failed in that regard but so confident was he in the Toronto crowd that he stopped singing during an encore of Hallowed Be Thy Name allowing the fans to continue with the song as he playfully admonished someone for lighting up a smoke backstage. Naughty. Naughty. Virgins torched. A smoker's soul saved. There's nothing like heavy metal justice. Rock on.

JAM! Rating: 4 out of 5

Videos

Photos