Iron Maiden, O2 Arena, London
It is often said that heavy metal and pop have much more in common than either would like to admit, and there isn't a band for whom the blurring of the lines is more evident than Iron Maiden. They have always played their shows like heavier versions of the Moulin Rouge: heroically ridiculous, such gigs are as much a spectacle as anything offered by Lady GaGa.
Lest we offend too many metalheads, Iron Maiden's music, hooky and lustful as it is, is poundingly heavy and far more grandiose than pop. Things here begin with duller material from the group's last album, Final Frontier, which we are asked to wade through before being allowed a classic. Thus they eventually bestow a vigorous "Two Minutes To Midnight", sending a wild crowd into its first devil-horned paroxysms.
The first half of the show follows this pattern – our next big one is "Dance of Death". Bruce Dickinson is crouched down, writhing his arms, bathed in a red spotlight like a necromancer in combat trousers. Behind him, the band skip around like a camp horde, guitars thrust up and out from the groin. In case anyone misses the message, there is a big picture of a magic skeleton behind them.
Immediately after that, there is a boom and the band blast into "The Trooper". It is an absolute assault, four guitars on the lip of the stage aimed like Gatling guns. Dickinson materialises upstage, wearing a red Victorian infantry jacket, waving a Union Jack as if he has held Rourke's Drift single-handed. It is endearingly OTT and we are cooking with gas as they bring out the big guns: "The Wicker Man", "Blood Brothers" and "Number of the Beast".
We're joined by a 12ft version of the band's mascot, Eddie, for the end of "The Evil That Men Do". He saunters around playing a guitar – of course – but before we can process that we are into "Fear of the Dark", a series of epic solos loosely connected by a chorus, which is played like the future of the Earth depends on upon it.
One caveat: the sound quality is dreadful, thanks to the acoustic awfulness of the O2, and we lose most of the subtlety – some very familiar songs are rather hard to recognise. Still, it is a blinding show, a brilliant fusion of high camp and proper heaviness. Two days later, I remain deaf.
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant