The message was clearly scrawled in black magic marker on cardboard -- "Play Classics." The sign started being displayed towards the back of the general admission floor of Nassau Coliseum as soon as I

The message was clearly scrawled in black magic marker on cardboard -- "Play Classics." The sign started being displayed towards the back of the general admission floor of Nassau Coliseum as soon as Iron Maiden took the stage, and magically, eventually made its way to the stage, into the hands of the band's frontman, Bruce Dickinson. Why would a fan send this message? What would Dickinson's reaction be?

Since reuniting with Dickinson in 1999, Maiden has toured several times, and on two of the tours (theaters in '99, Ozzfest in 2005), offered fans set lists comprised entirely of classic material. Yet on its current tour in support of the just-released "A Matter of Life and Death," the group put the classics on the backburner and opted to perform the album in its entirety.

Maiden has always been renowned for its extravagant stage sets, and on this jaunt, the stage reflected the military feel of the latest album cover. A sand bag barrier was stacked in the front of the center monitor and dangling from the lights on side of the stage was a soldier tangled up in the cords of a foiled parachute attempt.

Dickinson intermittently flashed two different huge flood lights from each side of the stage -- just in case he had to aid a plane landing on the stage. And like past Maiden tours, the stage proved to be two levels tall -- complete with catwalks to be prowled upon by Dickinson.

Always a proponent of "thinking man's metal," Dickinson proved that the group is still a chief party metal antidote during one of his stage raps. Instead of asking if the crowd was "ready to rock," he asked if they ever experienced waking up in the middle of the night, after dreaming they had died. And then upon realizing that it was only a dream, in actuality, they are getting closer to waking up in the next dimension. Certainly not a conversation Bret Michaels often has with his audience.

And once and for all, third guitarist Janick Gers has confirmed that his chief idol is none other than the legendary Nigel Tufnel -- as evidenced by this non-stop posing, prancing in place, guitar twirling and a pair of ridiculously tight black trousers.

But then there was the set list. No "Trooper," no "Number of the Beast," no bloody "Run to the Hills." The gentleman who penned the aforementioned note to the band had obviously already seen the set list, and was spot-on with his sentiment. But when the large note made it's way to the stage and into Dickinson's hand, the singer merely glanced at it, showed it to the crowd and then tore it to shreds -- while the band merrily riffed away the rest of the album. Which in a way, summarized the entire evening and the band's unwillingness to give the crowd what they wanted.

Granted, the group played the new material perfectly. But come on, an album's worth of new songs that the majority of the crowd isn't familiar with? An understandable argument is that Maiden could have easily flipped the set list from back-to-front, and with a few alterations, it would have worked far better. By the time the band got to the homestretch of classics, the audience went absolutely bonkers -- especially on "Iron Maiden," "The Evil That Men Do," and "2 Minutes to Midnight." It was also during the latter portion that a giant tank emerged from behind the stage, and later, a larger than life replica of their mascot, Eddie, came waltzing across the stage, dressed in military garb and brandishing a rifle.

Performing an album's worth of tunes is not new in the realm of rock. But said albums are usually confirmed classics, not a 14th studio album barely a month old, at the expense of old favorites the entire audience has come to hear. A pretty bold move. Or a pretty indulgent one.