Iron Maiden – Book of Souls Tour Tampa
As a twenty-year-old college DJ, I got my first taste of a hellacious British act that was the perfect fit for my late night heavy metal show. “Two Minutes to Midnight” was my first Iron Maiden go-to record, but there were plenty of other songs from the prolific UK quintet pouring through my headphones over the ensuing late nights cramped in my cozy booth. In the decades that passed, I never saw the iconic band live, but on a dreary Sunday night in Tampa, that all changed.
My friends at the time nicknamed me Headbanger, but my metal head friends today would mock me if they heard that. In the decades that have passed, my preference in rock tilted more towards the alternative side, and I never became a devout follower of Iron Maiden or any metal bands for that matter. I was a casual fan, knowing a handful of songs, and typically able to identify their songs when they popped up on XM. My good friend Brian, however, is an Iron Maiden fanatic, and a few years ago, he promised to “break my maiden” next time they hit Central Florida.
When they announced a Florida run on their Book of Souls tour, I was excited, because this band has a legendary live reputation. A few days before the show, Brian dropped off a stack of Iron Maiden CDs and my crash course began. I cycled through the albums, and realized I knew more Maiden than I had realized. I also quickly noticed that the musicianship was pretty damn good throughout.
So, it was off to Tampa’s Amalie Arena with anticipation of a legendary Headbanger night.
After our friend John masterfully guided us through a brutal ninety minutes of torrential rain, the clouds parted as we reached downtown Tampa. John was also an Iron Maiden virgin, although he had forgotten more about the band than I ever knew. Brian and his lifelong buddy Mike first saw the band in New York thirty years ago, and both are longtime Iron Maiden veterans. Between the four of us, we probably owned 30 Iron Maiden albums, but none of them were in my collection.
We stopped at Ferg’s to grab some reasonably priced beers and catch up with a few other friends. It was here that I first realized how laid back and chill these metal heads were. We kicked back and listened to the house band treat us to some classic rock including a few brave Iron Maiden pieces. A collective ten beers later, and we were on our way into Amalie Arena.
Our seats were good… second level fairly close to stage right. And the joint was packed, The crowd was already buzzing when ghoulish Swedish rockers Ghost took the stage. Led by the anti-pope, a costumed Papa Emeritus, the band delivered an entertaining 40-minute set. Opening for Iron Maiden is a huge break, and this sextet capitalized as the general consensus was quite positive.
However, days after the show, some of the charm has been stripped away as Tobias Forge, the man behind the black papal top hat has been sued by his former band mates. It seems he’s a bit of an asshole. Time will tell…
The stage turnover was fairly quick, and before 9:00, the familiar sounds of UFO’s “Doctor, Doctor” oozed through the PA and the fervid crowd was instantly at a fever pitch. The six longtime band mates took the stage to a rousing welcome and kicked into the first track off of their latest release, The Book of Souls. “If Eternity Should Fail.” They followed that track with the next song on that album, “Speed of Light.” It was the beginning of a familiar theme for me, as my stack of borrowed CDs did not include their critically acclaimed 2015 release.
From the reaction of the crowd, I was apparently the only person in the arena unfamiliar with the album, which was featured on approximately half of the 14 songs we heard that evening. But not knowing the songs offered up an opportunity to focus on the musicianship more deeply than I typically would. And damn was I impressed.
The three guitar assault was nothing short of fantastic. Long time axmen Adrian Smith and Dave Murray expertly traded off leads all night, deftly weaving in relative newcomer Janick Gers (20+ years with the band) throughout the two-hour set. The guitar work was impressive, creative and pristine. All three bounced across the stage with constant smiles plastered on their faces as they delivered epic riffs and solos.
I was just as impressed with the rhythm section. Niko McBrain was a beast behind the drum kit and original bassist Steve Harris was impressive as hell. All five seemed to work perfectly together, almost as if they’ve been playing together for half of their life or something. I can’t dish out enough kudos for the talent of these five. They absolutely impressed all night long and never showed any sign that most of them are soon to become Social Security eligible.
Ed Force One Pilot and lead singer Bruce Dickinson also shined. Sporting shortly cropped hair, the longtime front man was a mad man, racing around the stage all night. And, unlike many of his contemporaries (think Axl Rose and David Lee Roth) his voice does not now suck. No, not at all. He actually sounded fantastic throughout.
The crowd was great. It was a 60’s love fest, just with lots of black shirts and constant head banging. Seriously, everyone got along great and were super friendly. I saw many more drunk a-holes at the last Buffett show I attended. These folks were there to rock… And rock hard.
Dickinson summed up the vibe perfectly, “I don’t care where you’re from. I don’t care what you’ve done. We came here to do no harm. We came here to drink beer and maybe do a shot later on. My friends, if you came here to do no harm, that’s all I care about. My friends, we are “Blood Brothers!”
Highlights of the set for me were admittedly the hits, well, because, that’s what I knew. I loved “The Trooper,” “Fear of the Dark” and their first encore “The Number of the Beast.”
If I had one criticism of the concert, it was the setlist. (See the full setlist below.) They didn’t play “Run To the Hills,” “Aces High,” “Flight of Icarus” or the song that introduced me to the band, “2 Minutes to Midnight.” But, I was in the minority, as the rest of the crowd soaked in all two hours, singing along with their fists in the air for most of the show.
I checked their setlist earlier today and noticed that they basically play the exact same setlist every night, or every show on this tour. For a band with the catalogue that Iron Maiden has, that’s weak, and their fans deserve a surprise or two each set. But, that’s a nit in the big picture of things. The reality is that they delivered two hours of passionate rock with expert musicianship from legends who have been playing together for decades… they killed it.
As they wrapped up their closer “Wasted Years,” and played Monty Python’s “Bright Side of Life” over the PA, they sent twenty-thousand entirely satiated fans out into the Tampa night. This one Iron Maiden virgin was glad to have finally caught these true heavy metal legends, still sounding and playing like they did in their primes. Good stuff.
Fly, on your way, like an eagle,
Fly as high as the sun…
RARA’s Farm is a rock music blog keenly focused on sharing killer rock music news to the rock music fans who visit our site. Make sure you Like / Follow Us below to keep in the loop on new music worth a listen, or just to be nice to us.
Iron Maiden Book of Souls Setlist
Doctor Doctor (UFO song)
If Eternity Should Fail
Speed of Light
Children of the Damned
Death or Glory
The Red and the Black
The Great Unknown
The Book of Souls
Fear of the Dark
The Number of the Beast