A sea of men in black t-shirts, enough beer to float a cruise liner, and more highly hung devil horns than you can count could only mean one thing… A metal concert is brewing. But it wasn’t just any concert, for Iron Maiden, the mightiest of the mighty when discussing British Metal bands, tore through Darien Lake on their 25th anniversary tour this past Monday. Fathers and sons, husbands and wives, and all manner of metalheads flooded the gates and parking lots of the performing arts center, ready for a strong dose of riffage and percussive pummeling. If it weren’t for the endless shards of broken glass on the grounds from prior events (clean that shit up already), I’d have to say that this was the best way to spend a Monday in history.

As epic an entrance as you’d imagine, Iron Maiden came out like a bomb going off, and the crowd was more than ready to greet their heroes, evidenced by the sea of Iron Maiden t-shirts in the crowd. Though it is generally a concert no-no wearing the headliner’s shirt, Maiden gets a pass… Eddie the Head is one of the most timeless characters in all of metal, and he deserves recognition.

The stage set up was brilliant. The visual spectacle came complete with pyrotechnics, stage props, costumes, and an ever-changing Eddie banner taking up the entirety of the back stage area. However, even with as much equipment and décor as they managed to construct, singer Bruce Dickenson informed the crowd that Darien was not big enough for their entire set up, telling us to see the group again somewhere where they can fit the whole thing next time.

One of the best frontmen of all time, Bruce is an absolute ball of energy on the microphone, constantly running all over the stage and singing like a whirlwind. It was great to hear him swearing at the crowd in Buffalo to get rowdier! While most of his contemporaries need teleprompters, vocal effects, and backup singers to sound the way they used to, Bruce Dickenson is all-natural and in tip-top condition. Still, he did have help…  Maiden’s fan base is one of the most loyal out there, and even the 2 young teenagers sitting next to me were singing along with every word.

Their triple guitar attack flooded the air with crunchy riffs and rhythm, prominently displaying one of the best gallops of the entire metal genre. The bass sound was a bit floppy sounding during the open, but the sound tech managed to correct the issue quickly, making for a solid sound mix for the rest of the show. While all the guitars were dialed in, drummer Nicko McBrain seemed a bit off at times, occasionally flubbing a hit, but otherwise holding down a blazing groove.

Proud Brits they are, a massive version of “The Trooper” found Bruce waving their huge British flag all over the stage, even draping it over the guitarist head during one of Maiden’s screaming axe solos. The band clearly has a good time up there when they perform together. Bursts of flame, sparklers, and dual video screens upped the ante for visual preoccupation, but the focus was all on the singer this evening.

Iron Maiden’s classic metal formula, insane delivery, and enormous stage set up is something every metal fan should witness, even if you are not well steeped in their material. But if that is indeed the case, and you really don’t know anything by or about Iron Maiden, then you should probably go to a Yanni concert or take up flute lessons.

As a total added bonus, Alice Cooper opened the show with his unique brand of horrorish rock. True to form, it was a theatric spectacle from the moment he hit the stage, elevated on a massive lift to summon his minions in the crowd. The rising platform was fitting a dark overlord of the dress up rock metal scene.

Featuring a fantastic group of musicians much younger than himself backing him up, Alice had the crowd eating out of his hand immediately with a steady stream of rock classics. Another triple guitar attack really fattened up the sound, especially for an opener, and the bass thump landed in the center of my chest quickly, letting me know it was going to be a loud night. Thank the lord for earplugs!

Playing through all of his hits including “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Hey Stupid,” “Poison,” “Frankenstein,” and “School’s Out,” Alice had the crowd singing along and having a great time. Between the super hot girl ripping through leads, Alice’s numerous costume changes and guillotine beheading, the faux murder of a paparazzo, streamers, confetti, balloons, and a monster-sized living Frankenstein character, one thing should be clear… Alice Cooper is a rock star genius!

Alice Cooper and his music will forever be a great soundtrack to a B horror movie. He’s metal’s theatrical tragedy/wax museum poster child, and I hope it stays that way.

Iron Maiden Set List:

Moonchild

Can I Play With Madness

The Prisoner

2 Minutes to Midnight

Afraid to Shoot Strangers

The Trooper

The Number of the Beast

Phantom of the Opera

Run to the Hills

Wasted Years

Seventh Son of a Seventh Son

The Clairvoyant

Fear of the Dark

Iron Maiden

Encore:

Aces High

The Evil That Men Do

Running Free