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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Iron Maiden shows no rust

The band turns the way-back machine to vintage year 1985 for its Forum stage set.

February 21, 2008|Greg Burk | Special to The Times

You can never accuse Iron Maiden of wimping out. The three-decade English rock institution proved that Tuesday night at the Forum.

Singer Bruce Dickinson has been personally piloting the band's own jumbo jet around the world, which some would have considered heavy metal enough.

But as a smooch to old fans (and to a ponderable throng of young conscripts), Maiden has also been revisiting its blowout stage fabulation from the golden metal year 1985: a series of Egyptian-themed backdrops -- monumental structures DeMilled with hieroglyphics and sarcophagi -- and face-scorching pyro.

There's some music too. Though these old rotters have exhibited considerable songwriting vigor since Dickinson's 2000 return from a six-year solo defection, for this tour they're mostly sticking to the vintage set list and its reliable themes of violence, apocalypse and violent apocalypse.

The gonzo L.A. fans pumped fists to "The Trooper," which rang with the distinctive lead-guitar trio harmonies of Adrian Smith (grayin' and ragin'), Dave Murray (lit up and slick) and Janick Gers (a pose for all seasons). From 1982, "Number of the Beast" veered close to punk churn.

The pinging bathos of "Wasted Years" (1986) and the devilishly hooky chorus of "Can I Play With Madness" (1988) broke the '85 barrier; the epic "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and the pounding "Revelations" offered relief from the persistent galloping rhythms of drummer Nicko McBrain and bassist Steve Harris. Blues roots were banished -- supercharged Saxon folk is what these warriors do, and in a world where the West is cowering, the rafter-stacked audience found cause for triumphal revelry. A couple of dozen even got to whoa-oh along onstage.

Dickinson, shorn of his barbarian locks long ago, blinded the unwary with his mirror-shard pants and scampered athletically while busting out with the vibrato-laden bellow you either love or hate. He could hardly be upstaged even when stage smoke billowed, sarcophag-eyes glowed, and a 20-foot robotic manifestation of Eddie, the band's skeleton mascot, got fitted with a Lakers jersey -- a gesture to which Dickinson objected as being unmetal.

Fans who missed the spectacle can explode their televisions with "Live After Death," the feature-packed new DVD of Maiden's '85 Long Beach show. And tickets go on sale March 1 for a bigger Maiden production launching at the end of May.

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