Helsinki, Olympic Stadium 8 July 2011

Life's full of choices to be made, but the one I had to make recently wasn't a hard one: would I go to Ruisrock to see Paramore and The Prodigy or would I travel to Helsinki to see Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper? Let's think... Cooper and Maiden are rock icons, and I hadn't seen Maiden before. Paramore have a couple of ok songs I've heard on the radio and I've never cared for the Prodigy, in fact I've always hated that "Firestarter" song. A no-brainer really, so off to Helsinki we drove.

Compared to the Bon Jovi concert in the same venue a few weeks ago, the Maiden audience was more male-dominated and just about every other person was sporting an Iron Maiden T-shirt. Nope, not a lot of business ticket holders with jackets and ties or ladies with their best dress on there. I'm talking about a Maiden audience, because as big a rock icon Alice Cooper is, most of the people were here to see Maiden. Cooper's presence was a welcomed bonus though, and a good number of people did watch his show too.

The thought of an Alice Cooper gig in bright sunlight is strange and just plain wrong. Never mind Ozzy, Alice is the real Prince Of Darkness with a song to go with that... What we got was a bit stripped back Alice show, not too many props were used and the band relied more on the strength of the songs. Compared to the Alice show we saw in 2009 which was a full-on headlining show with all the theatrics etc, I'd say that this gig wasn't quite as entertaining or memorable, but the setlist was better. Alice has brought back a couple of songs from "Hey Stoopid" album to the setlist, and they were warmly welcomed. The anthemic title track and "Feed My Frankestein" were both excellent additions and had the crowd jumping.

The rest of Alice's set consisted of seventies' classics and newer material, including one brand new song. The new song was introduced by Alice with a jacket with "New Song" written in the back. When he took off the jacket, the title of the song was written in bloody letters in the back of his shirt. The charmingly titled "I'll Bite Your Face Off" had an intro similar to Kiss' "Hide Your Heart", but the chorus was a bit boring. I suppose Desmond Child wasn't involved in writing this one.

Alice's usual theatrical tricks were limited to the guillotine chopping his head off during "Wicked Young Man" and a not-very-scary Frankenstein making an appearance during his "theme song". Alice did change his clothes a few times, and for the last song "School's Out" he came to the stage with a Finnish hockey shirt on.

The biggest hit of the set was unsuprisingly "Poison", although I thought the version was a bit chaotic. "School's Out" with its' Pink Floyd bit in the middle ("We Don't Need No Education...") was another particulary well recieved number. There had been some changes in the line-up of Alice's band, Bassist Chuck Garric and guitarist Damon Johnson being the only ones remaining from the line-up we saw in 2009. Glen Sobel is the current drummer, and Tommy Henriksen the new guitarist. As if two axemen weren't enough, Alice has drafted in his old bandmate from the original band, Steve Hunter to play guitar. Hunter was a bit of an "odd man out", since the other guys were younger, leaner and more active on stage, but I guess his contribution to the show is more on a musical level.

The Black Widow
Brutal Planet
I'm Eighteen
Under My Wheels
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Hey Stoopid
I'll Bite Your Face Off
Feed My Frankenstein
Wicked Young Man
I Love the Dead
School's Out

The IRON MAIDEN fans are a breed of their own. I've rarely witnessed such dedication as I did at Olympic Stadium. It wasn't required that you'd wear a Maiden shirt, but it almost seemed so - if you didn't have one, there was a wide selection of them available at the merch stands. The crowd had their fists in the air well before show time, and chants of "Maiden! Maiden!" were echoing in the stadium. Once the intro tape / video show started, the roar of approval was remarkable. The lengthy itro kept us waiting for the band for a few minutes, but when they burst into "The Final Frontier", everything was forgotten and the crowd went absolutely crazy. The song was a great opener, a straightforward track that got us in the mood for some classic metal. "El Dorado" was a bit lame in comparison, but Bruce Dickinson's "Scream For Me"-commands kept the fans on their toes, and they did scream as requested.

The hyper-energetic Dickinson is one of the legendary metal frontmen, and I can see why. He didn't hold back or save his energy, he was all over the place yet still delivering strong vocals. That's quite something, since his shouty vocal style isn't probably the most economic one. The aggressive yet catchy "Two Minutes To Midnight" was a highlight among the newer tracks for me, as was "The Trooper" with its' instantly recognizable riff. The more current material wasn't too familiar for me, but it did sound ok. The songs were lengthy, but had enough melodies to make them somewhat interesting. Maiden are known to make uncompromising setlists, on the tour of their previous album "A Matter Of Life And Death" they actually played the whole album from start to finish! Now they only played half of the new album. Nothing from the previous one though.

Although the set wasn't all classics, the athmosphere of the gig never really winded down, thanks to the nunber of hardcore fans in the audience. They knew all the lyrics and sang along. The band was pretty animated too throughout the gig, Janick Gers' constant dancing around and Dickinson's endless energy being the biggest reasons for that. Gers is a showman for sure, although his funny dancing and posing might look a bit weird to some when we're talking about a pure METAL band after all. You'd expect a glam rocker to strut like he does, not necessarily a metal guitarist. But more power to him, there's no need to follow "a code" when it comes to performing.

There was a small "exodus" during the lengthy "Where The Wild Wind Blows", it being the third post-comeback track in a row, but most of the punters came rushing back when the band kicked off "The Evil That Men Do". The legendary mascot EDDIE made his visit to the stage during it, hovering above the band but not looking particulary scary. The epic "Fear Of The Dark" proved to be one of the biggest hits of the set, with the fans singing it word by word. The band's namesake song ("Iron Maiden", doh) ended the main set, with the audience almost drowning out the band. The changing screen in the background during this song featured an image of Eddie in which he looked like the martians in the movie "Mars Attacks!"...

The encore section consisted of three bonafide Maiden classics, as you can see below, ensuring that the show ended on a high note. And fear not, even though this was "The Final Frontier" tour, it doesn't mean that the band has reached a final frontier... Dickinson convinced us that they're not done yet, far from it.

Did this gig make a fan out of a "non-believer" like me? It sure did make me want to check out the band's current and older output, and I'm pretty sure that sooner or later there will be an Iron Maiden CD or two in my collection.

Satellite 15... The Final Frontier
El Dorado
2 Minutes to Midnight
The Talisman
Coming Home
Dance of Death
The Trooper
The Wicker Man
Blood Brothers
When the Wild Wind Blows
The Evil That Men Do
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden
The Number of the Beast
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Running Free

Review by Kimmo Toivonen
Photos by Mira Suutari-Toivonen
(We didn't get a photo pass for this gig, so all the photos were taken from afar with a
pocket-sized camera. Not our usual quality, but better than nothing...)

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