Metal's not dead, just underground, and -- as Bruce Dickinson
reminded the crowd at the sold-out Madison Square Garden in New York Saturday -- it's about to be brought back into the light. Iron Maiden
and Halford (former Judas Priest
singer Rob Halford's latest band) championed the dark and sometimes morbid genre with their respective intelligence, hooks and quasi-macho posturing.
With an early (by NYC standards) start time, it was a bit unusual that the house would already be filled for the opening act. But Halford is no ordinary opener. "The Metal God is back!" he screamed before ripping into "Cyber World." In his black leather and studs, he looked like a weathered Hell's Angel. And though he's not a short man, he appeared to grow a few feet once he opened his mouth, rolling and roaring his way through a set equally divided by new material from Resurrection
and old Judas Priest songs. For those less familiar with his repertoire, the main way to discern which songs belonged to his past ("Breaking the Law") and which were of his present ("Made in Hell") were the delivery -- only Priest songs were actually sung
. Screaming his way through Resurrection
numbers like "Locked and Loaded," every time he let out another rebel yell, the crowd screamed its approval.
Also getting the crowd going -- well, at least the women in the crowd -- was Queensryche frontman Geoff Tate, who stripped down to a tank top by the third song in his band's set. Stalking about like a sleek panther, Tate had started singing offstage while his band played the opening chords of "Revolution Calling" from Operation Mindcrime
. Soon his band confederates were also roaming the stage as well, emoting in body as well as instrument. During one bridge, Tate threw his head back and threw his arms out, appearing to float on the music, fitting for Queensryche's fluid metal.
But the piéce de resisténce of the night, of course, was Maiden. Though Halford and Queensryche had played on mostly bare platforms by comparison, Iron Maiden's stage was a playground, filled with ramps and bars to swing from, with drummer Nicko McBrain's kit in the midst of it all, looking like a huge cybernetic black and gold spider. When the lights went down, mock Gregorian chants echoed through the speakers before the band kicked off with heavy "The Wicker Man" from their latest Brave New World
. For almost every song, there was a prop or painting coinciding, making for total ear and eye candy. For "The Clansmen," Eddie, Maiden's rotting corpse of a mascot, wore a kilt. Later on, Dickinson waved around a Union Jack for "The Trooper." And for "Sign of the Cross," Dickinson was carried aloft on a wooden cross with wings.
Throughout, Dickinson's unflagging energy was contagious. He never stopped moving, never stopped clowning around. In between songs, he grabbed a glass of water, and exclaimed, "Water! Ah, that'll be the death of me. You have to be careful about water. Fish fuck in it." Well, when you put it like that . . .
During a few songs, while exhorting the audience to join him, Dickinson even clapped to get the audience to clap along with him. Burly men roughened by outdoor work, college kids and metalheads all acted as if they were at a campfire sing-a-long. How could anyone say metal's dead?
Written by PJ GACH for RollingStone.com News