After two failed attempts to gain access as a photographer to the Iron Maiden's last concerts in Greece, in Malakassa in 2018 and at the Olympic Stadium in 2022, I decided that as soon as "The Future Past" tour is announced, I will buy tickets and start the quest for the much desired photo pass.
Krakow, Poland's second most populated city, was the starting point of the tour for a long time. That meant I would have the chance to see the new show without any spoilers regarding the setlist and stage set. The announcement of eight added dates before Krakow ruined my plans, since any resistance not to take a glimpse at the setlist was easily bent…
Another reason for choosing Krakow was that due to high demand, the band would play for two nights at the same venue (the impressive TAURON Arena Kraków with a capacity of 22,000 people), so I thought strategically: Two concerts, more slots for photographers, more chances to open an email and read the "approved" I was longing for. Finally, Krakow has been one of the travelling destinations I always wanted to visit with my camera, mainly because of the Auschwitz (you can visit my story about Auschwitz in this link).
Krakow is a very beautiful city, with a historic center filled with tourists, pedestrian friendly (the 96km on foot in five days is an undisputable proof of that), with an excellent public up-to-date transportation system, with an extremely polite driving behavior (there were only a few traffic lights), quiet and quite affordable in terms of food and accommodation.
During the days of the concerts, you felt a familiarity as in every street, attraction and museum, you saw people (mostly tourists) wearing Iron Maiden T-shirts. Eddie dominated every corner of the city. The day before the concert, the captain Steve Harris performed with the British Lion, the band he formed about a decade ago to play with his fellow musicians at smaller venues. British Lion have released two albums (British Lion - 2012, The Burning - 2020). Their sound could be described as a melodic heavy rock, simpler in terms of composition compared to that of Steve Harris with Iron Maiden. I believe that when the inevitable end of Iron Maiden comes, this will be for him the vehicle to continue touring the world at a more relaxed pace.
In a warehouse, behind a train station, and in a completely different, almost family environment, the British Lion played a two-hour show in front of an audience of 200-300 fans, who wanted to enjoy Steve Harris playing with the same passion without the usual big production. A unique opportunity that there was no way I would miss.
And finally, June 13, the day of the first concert arrived. Just 30 hours ago, I received the final approval I was yearning for, a moment I will never forget. The venue is located about 25 minutes from the city center, and I saw a poster of the concert for the first time. This venue hosts the world's major tours happening now. The day before there was a festival with Deep Purple, Nazareth, Jorn etc. and within the following weeks Sting, Kiss etc. would play here. I was informed that the night before, Bruce Dickinson (singer of Iron Maiden) was there to watch his favorite band, Deep Purple.
The only drawback of this unforgettable experience was the difficulty in communication, as very few Poles speak English fluently. The process of finding out where to get my accreditation as a photographer with just 15 minutes remaining before the beginning of the supporting act, was extremely stressful. In the end, however, the representative of Live Nation Poland was more than helpful and friendly, along with the other 13 local photographers who were surprised to hear that I came from Greece to shoot Iron Maiden. The show started with The Raven Age, starring George Harris (Steve Harris' son) who had also performed in Athens in 2018, when Iron Maiden gave that unforgettable concert at Rockwave Festival 2018.
After we were led to the photo pit, the representative of the band welcomed us and talked to us about the structure of the show and urged us to have as much fun as we could. Impressive British courtesy, might I say.
The lights dimmed (not completely) and U.F.O.'s "Doctor Doctor" which traditionally marks the beginning of their shows for decades played through the speakers. The spotlight is on the First To The Barrier, a group of die-hard fans from all over the world, members of the IMFC (the band's official fan club) who secure access to the privileged (or maybe not) front row, way before the doors open. I reached to the center and my sight caught a Greek flag that had "Alexander The Great" written on it. "Are you Greek?", "What are you doing here?". He was known from his presence in the local Greek scene and social media as "John Porotikos", a loyal fan who follows them at various stops of the tour, always in the same privileged spot and becomes the center of attention for all photographers because of his passionate reactions.
Blackout. The closing credits of Vangelis Papathanasiou
"Blade Runner" gave way to the introduction of "Caught Somewhere
In Time" and for the next two hours or so we enjoyed once again (tenth for
me personally) one of the greatest bands on the planet.
This tour focuses thematically on Iron Maiden's latest album, Senjutsu released in 2021, as well as 1986's Somewhere In Time. It is inevitable to avoid spoilers and of course it was impossible not to know that the band would play "Alexander The Great" live for the first time, 37 years after its release (the burning desire of the Greek fans, but also as it turned out of every Maiden fan in the world).
Iron Maiden on this tour are quite different I would say, always with the same passion that has characterized them for 43 years of non-stop touring. And that passion alone is an inspiration to the millions of people who follow them at every tour. After the Legacy Of The Beast tour that lasted almost five years due to the pandemic, they returned with a new setlist and stage show, which is more simple than the previous tour that was the richest ever in terms of props. But aesthetically it is one of their best moments as lighting, colors and the use of impressive backdrops gives you the sci-fi/cyberpunk style they wanted to achieve. For the first time two oblong LED screens at the sides of the stage ("baby steps" as a member of their crew commented), which have been amazingly integrated into the set without standing out or being distracting. They fulfilled their goal to focus on what we should be focusing on: the musicians, since they are the show and not the screens or other stage gags. They have undoubtedly succeeded again.
Songs that have never been played or that have not been played
for many years have outdone classic tracks and renewed greatly their setlist,
satisfying and justifying why most fans have been claiming for years that the
more "unknown" tracks they play, the better. "Alexander The
Great", the burning desire for the Greek audience, was one of the
highlights of the concert. The new tracks of "Senjutsu" no longer
seemed odd and I personally admire the fact that they chose to play new epics
like "Hell On Earth" (real hell on earth and on stage from the pyros).
That is what makes them respected and motivates them to go on.
Bruce Dickinson (vocals), wisely
more limited on moving onstage, performed flawlessly and completed the show
without struggling at all, as may have happened on some occasions on the
previous tour. Steve
Harris (bass), passionate as always and tireless (played three
shows in a row and football at morning with local teams, something he is
used to doing since the 1980s), the trio of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers (guitars)
in usual high levels of virtuosity, with Adrian Smith over the years making
his way of playing - in my opinion - even more savvy and unique. The
performance of the beloved Nicko
McBrain (drums) whose sound but mostly rhythm had several
issues raised some thoughts, something that many have noticed on this tour.
No one knows what the band's future holds after the end of the tour. Rumors give and take, from the continuation of the tour during 2024 to the permanent hiatus in 2025. Let's not forget that Bruce Dickinson's solo album is also expected, which may be followed by a tour. Be that as it may, Iron Maiden are here, they continue to play at the highest level in every respect, to entertain the fans and, above all, themselves, to excite, but mostly to motivate people to travel thousands of kilometers to enjoy them once again with people from all over the world carrying out a lifelong dream. Like I did...
Up The Irons!
This review is the English extended version of the original review that was created for Documentonews published on 21/07/2023.