Review: Iron Maiden, Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle

Iron Maiden at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle. Pic: Carl Chambers.
Iron Maiden at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle. Pic: Carl Chambers.

They might have got less mainstream radio airplay over the last four decades than, say, Little Mix have mustered in as many weeks, but that hasn't stopped Iron Maiden selling more than 90 million albums worldwide.

The heavy metal veterans, founded in London back in 1975, still retain enough punter-pulling power to pack out venues such as the Arena last night, and there are, of course, reasons for that.

They don't get much airtime other than on specialist rock radio stations because their lyrical subject matter strays into Boy's Own-style ripping yarns, horror movie summaries and Reader's Digest-like summaries of historical events too often for the liking of your average disc jockey.

But the reason they remain so popular is they appear not to care too much about that, and just carry on doing what they want to do without taking themselves too seriously or craving critical approval or mainstream appeal.

That approach appears to be working, as their 16th and latest album, 2015's The Book of Souls, was their second chart-topper in a row and their fifth altogether, and they will have sold more than two million tickets for this tour by the time it draws to a close in July.

It's not all about numbers for Iron Maiden, though, except, of course, for The Number Of The Beast, the title track of their 1982 breakthrough album, which was one of two tracks from that LP (their first No 1 and also their first with current frontman Bruce Dickinson) to get an airing last night.

Iron Maiden at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle. Pic: Carl Chambers.

Iron Maiden at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle. Pic: Carl Chambers.

It's also about putting on a show, and this one didn't disappoint, being as preposterous and spectacular as could be wished for.

Crucially, like fellow Planet Rock favourite Alice Cooper, they never lose sight of the fact that all the spectacle in the world doesn't amount too much unless it's underpinned by solid musicianship. As ever, it was.

Bassist Steve Harris might be the only founder member left, but their current line-up - featuring Hartlepool's Janick Gers as one of three guitarists and Dickinson, still sprightly at 58 and seemingly none the worse for throat cancer therapy in 2015 - has been together since 1999, making it the longest-lived in their 42-year history, and that shows.

This tour being a showcase for The Book of Souls, it accounted for the lion's share of the setlist for last night's show, which was their fourth visit to the arena.

Iron Maiden at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle. Pic: Carl Chambers.

Iron Maiden at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle. Pic: Carl Chambers.

Six of its 11 tracks featured among the 15 they played last night, and with it being among the best of their career, that was no bad thing.

This was the band's first show in the city since their last date at the venue in 2011, although Essex-born Harris, 61, did play at the Riverside with his side project British Lion in 2015.

He's due to return there in August, so any fans left wanting more after last night won't have too long to wait.

Iron Maiden at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle. Pic: Carl Chambers.

Iron Maiden at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle. Pic: Carl Chambers.

Iron Maiden at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle. Pic: Carl Chambers.

Iron Maiden at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle. Pic: Carl Chambers.