It’s been a good week for Tacoma’s bootleg T-shirt industry.
Heavy metal fans pushed past the sidewalk entrepreneurs hawking knockoff tees and the usual arena-show religious zealots warning of eternal damnation outside Tacoma Dome on Thursday, as Iron Maiden played the second night of a coincidental hard-rock doubleheader at the arena. A day after Heart’s comeback roar threatened to blow a hole in the domed roof, the U.K. metal gods cranked up the decibel levels even higher amid their Legacy of the Beast tour stop.
Subtlety isn’t a high priority for the band named after a torture device, at least with its famously over-the-top live shows, and Thursday night lived up to its lofty, campy standards.
The British sextet burst onstage beneath a full-size replica of a careening Spitfire plane with a shotgun blast through “Aces High,” kicking off a two-hour set covering much of its classic ’80s material. A few songs later, a sword-wielding Bruce Dickinson — looking like a soap-opera pirate with his ponytail, frilly shirt, leather pants and exaggerated movements — swashbuckled a 10-foot-tall monster (band mascot Eddie). For a soaring “Flight of Icarus,” the archetypal power metal vocalist emerged wearing a flamethrower, shooting double-barreled gusts of fire above the crowd between belting sustained high notes capable of shattering glass. By the end, the image of a giant winged man hovering behind the stage burned and fell to the ground in smoldering ash.
Yes, it’s completely ridiculous and as much fun as the campy horror flick in which you find yourself rooting for the bad guy (albeit with a bigger budget). And the enthusiastic crowd, which Dickinson pegged around 15,000, was there for it — so eager, in fact, that a pre-set commercial for the band’s new mobile game that the tour is named after garnered cheers.
Without a new album to push, Iron Maiden drew heavily on classics from its heyday ’80s albums, laden with war and historical references, which wasn’t the case during its last Tacoma Dome visit on 2016’s Book of Souls run.
“You know you’re old when Rolling Stone gave you a good review,” Dickinson joked after “2 Minutes to Midnight,” with its gleeful-sounding melody and lyrics touching on Cold War-era nuclear threats. “But seriously, we do a lot of songs about history and now we are history. Actually, if you add up our combined ages, we predate the Revolutionary War.”
Now 61 years old, Dickinson is still remarkably spry, sprinting underneath the legs of a stilted Eddie and up to the top of a riser above the stage, waving a British flag during a galloping bridge on “The Trooper,” later prowling around like a shadow boxing panther. As much darting around the stage, coming and going for various wardrobe changes and prop grabs as he does, his Fitbit likely got as much of a workout as he did over the course of the show.
“Epic” is the only setting on the headbanger heroes’ dial and all the sweat-pouring, flame-shooting pageantry is well-suited for Iron Maiden’s metal anthems. Guitarists Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers played solo roulette throughout the night, taking turns unfurling screeds of squealing guitar heroics.
Before starting the encore, Dickinson returned to the stage aiming pointed remarks at Tacoma Dome security, accusing staff of being overly physical with one fan whom Dickinson said was “bleeding from head wounds.” Earlier in the evening, security was engaged in a lengthy incident near the front of the crowd, drawing the attention of the singer who walked over with an illuminated cross that was part of a graveyard stage set to shine its light on the area. It wasn’t immediately clear if that was the incident Dickinson was referring to.
According to a statement provided by the Tacoma Dome, during the show “multiple complaints were received about an overly aggressive individual who when addressed, physically attacked a security professional. In response, additional security guards engaged to remove the patron from the area.” Tacoma police arrested the fan on investigation of assault, according to the arena’s spokesperson.
Dust-up aside, the closing tandem of “Hallowed be Thy Name” and fists-in-the-air sprinter “Run to the Hills” capped a crowd-pleasing riff-fest in triumphant fashion.