Iron Maiden Fulfills Its Live-Production Legacy on Latest Tour

Iron Maiden
John McMurtrie

Iron Maiden

A Spitfire fighter plane is among the visual spectacles at the iconic metal band's new shows.

Legendary heavy metal act Iron Maiden has returned to the United States for the first time in two years with the Legacy of the Beast tour. Having kicked off July 18 in Sunrise, Fla., the outing covers 27 shows across 26 cities, including two nights at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

The tour, which is being touted as Iron Maiden’s most ambitious stage production to date, is a continuation of last year’s sold-out European Legacy trek. It features a “flyover” of a life-size replica of a Spitfire combat plane, flame-throwers, pyro, muskets, claymores and, of course, the band’s ghoulish but lovable mascot Eddie.

“It’s really good, and I think it’s important that people will be able to see this show,” says bassist/principal songwriter Steve Harris, speaking to Billboard over the phone. “I’d go and see the show myself, but I’m facing the other way,” he adds, laughing. “I saw it in pre-production and everyone seems to think it’s one of our best shows, so I think people have a lot to look forward to.”

Harris explains that it was singer Bruce Dickinson’s idea to bring out the Spitfire for the classic Iron Maiden song “Aces High” -- no surprise, given that he’s also a licensed commercial pilot. “It turned out fantastic!” he says. “And we’ve used flames in the past, on [tour to support 1984 album Powerslave] and so on, but [the pyrotechnics] incorporates all kinds of different elements into the show.” Asked if the pyro will change in any way going from indoor venues to outdoor ones, Harris says, “Every venue has their own different rules about this sort of thing, so it’s difficult for me to say what’s going to be allowed or not allowed. Hopefully, we’ll be allowed to do what we do everywhere else, but you never know.”

He continues, “We just wanted to bring the show we did last year in Europe. We always knew that we’d do a part two or whatever. And maybe even more after that, we’ll see. But the tour was so strong and powerful in Europe, and we wanted to bring it over to North America, Central and South America.” These legs of the tour will total 41 shows in six countries. 

The show’s concept is loosely based on the mobile phone game Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast. Harris praises the work that the developers in Vancouver put into it -- “I think it’s a really good game, and from what people tell me, it’s a really good game. I can’t tell because I’m not really a gamer” -- and thinks the band has recently won more fans because of the app. “It’s great that it’s doing that, bringing in new young people as well. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that whatsoever. Any way that’s going to bring in fans is a good thing.”

The band’s theatrical live performances and concert production are also why it has kept bringing in new fans since Harris founded the group in 1975. During its nearly 45-year career, Iron Maiden’s prolific catalog has included 16 studio albums, 12 live albums, and 44 singles, as well as multiple compilations and box sets. Twenty-seven of the albums have charted on the Billboard 200 (14 reached the top 40, and three hit the top 10). In the United States, the band has sold 7.7 million albums since Nielsen Music began tracking sales in 1991, with many more millions in sales worldwide. 

Although it has seen its share of lineup changes, Iron Maiden’s membership -- which is rounded out by drummer Nicko McBrain and guitarists Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers -- has remained consistent for two decades. The sextet’s stage show has been a major draw for far longer.

Harris observes, “Over the years, we’ve been very lucky to have a group of good people who are able to translate our ideas into reality. Sometimes they’ll pull us back when we get too many ideas that aren’t really feasible or possible … but this [tour] kind of harks back to when we used inflatable stuff back in the days of [1986 album] Somewhere in Time, and that was really groundbreaking doing that sort of thing. These days, you can do a lot more with it, and we sort of looked at that again and thought we can actually do a lot of things.”

He acknowledged that “everything costs more [now] anyway,” but Iron Maiden doesn’t mind laying out the money to create an extravaganza. “We always put on a strong, powerful show. Everyone knows that, but this one seems to be hitting the nail right on the head, really. It’s one of those things, and we do that with every tour where you try and put on the best show you can, and in pre-production you just hope and pray it’s all going to work.

“I think the fans should be excited for this tour,” Harris concludes. “If they can’t be excited for this tour, I don’t know what to say!” he finishes with a laugh.

For information about tour dates, go here.