GIGS THAT CHANGED MY LIFE: Iron Maiden, Cardiff Motorpoint Arena, 1st August 2011

Iron Maiden have been one of my favourite metal acts for a very long time, although my love of them was strengthened by the experience of finally seeing them live!

I adore the 80s output – 'Number of the Beast', 'Powerslave', and 'Seventh Son of a Seventh Son' to name a few, are staples in my record collection. Although later works follow closely in my estimations: 'Brave New World', 'A Matter of Life and Death', and of course 'The Final Frontier' – the album they were touring at the time! I can actually say with certainty that I don’t feel that Maiden has a solitary bad record in their catalogue – I’ll even defend their 90's material if you get me talking about them for long enough!

Much to the ire of certain family members who are from a traditional metal background, and regard Maiden as ‘the start of the scene getting silly’, I’d spent months insisting they buy me tickets to the concert. In fact, the gig had actually reached sold-out status by the time they’d agreed on the precondition that they didn’t have to come. My hopes pinned on social media, I wasted no time in snapping up the first offer that appeared. The day of the gig I spent the day rehearsing Iron Maidens melodies, trying and failing to impersonate Bruce Dickinson’s distinctive ‘air raid siren’ howl.

Come the hour of doors opening, I was tense with excitement. I walked in just as Airborne was creating a fantastic impression with their vivacious blend of huge choruses with astounding riffs. They earned my respect as they held a toast to the crew members who made the show possible. I remember that moment ‘cause despite being one of the largest shows I’ve ever been to in terms of scale and significance, the huge scale and theatrical production, artistry, and sound design speak of a collective endeavour from a family of fans, crew members and musicians – which come together in service of making ‘Maiden one of the best bands in the world.

‘Doctor, Doctor, Please…’ those infamous lines from UFO which begin many a show from Steve Harris and co. acted as a rallying cry as the first collective sing of the night ensued. As the blood-red curtain fell, an otherworldly scene presented itself. The lighting rig which hovered above the stage was designed as a spaceship. The vast, detailed nature of the design, as well as the lights which swept the audience and the performers as if in anticipation of alien abduction, immersed me in a sense of cosmic exquisiteness.

‘Scream for me, Cardiff’’ Bruce Dickinson howled numerous times throughout the show, the grandeur, and vigour of everyone on stage, inspiring the already enthused audience. Feeding off the energy emanating from the crowd they charged through fast moments – ‘Eldorado’, ‘2 Minutes to Midnight’, ‘The Wicker Man’, all the time running between and jumping from the towers and podiums which adorned the stage. There was many a contemplative moment as well - a speech from Dickinson decrying discrimination and championing the metal community, preceded ‘Blood Brothers’ and ‘Fear of the Dark’ – unifying moments which allowed everyone there to sing in harmony, conscious that they are a family.

The Trooper’ and ‘Number of the Beast’ were, of course, standout moments. On the later, the star-studded backdrop fell to reveal a massive figure of Eddie’ – Iron Maidens’ monstrous mascot, teeth bared, claws brandished as if charging into battle. Never ones to allow aesthetics to distract from the music, Bruce, bassist Steve, and guitarists Dave, Adrian and Janick strode to the front of the stage – the fact that they can play these at every show, and still show such pride in their creations proves fascinating to me.

As ‘The Evil that Men Do’ and ‘Iron Maiden’ ensued, the figure of Eddie became animated eyes glaring red, its evil form seeming to regard the band and audience menacingly. In the final moments of the later, an alluring red mist flooded the stage, leaving only our frontman on a podium overlooking his audience, a hazy void behind him. “I’m waiting in my cold cell when the bell begins to chime…” sounded the first few lines of ‘Hallowed be thy name’ the sound emanating inspiringly from everyone in the arena.

With the raucous closer of ‘Running Free,’ I was left to contemplate the stunning experience I had just witnessed – I have not seen Iron Maiden since yet hope to again, soon – with whispering of new music on the horizon, I hope to again experience the sense of community and theatricality. Even if that doesn't happen, the gig has given me a lifelong love of them and shaped my music taste in a way that is ceaseless and ever changing.

Immerse yourself in the live Iron Maiden experience with their latest live album 'The Book of Souls: Live Chapter' - stream it here.

Feeling like indulging in the full visual Iron maiden live show during this gig hiatus? Their performance from 2019's Rock in Rio is simply stunning: