@ Newcastle Metro Radio Arena, July 23 2011

In the live music arena, as in life, there are few certainties. Yet during the course of many years circumnavigating the globe again and again the mighty Iron Maiden have managed to craft what must be the near-perfect metal show. 

Very rarely do Bruce Dikinson, Steve Harris and co. suffer from dodgy sound, poor song selection, a lack of focus or dwindling energy. A Maiden show is never anything less than jaw-droppingly entertaining with outrageous stage effects befitting their reputation as genre leaders and multi-million pound earners.

There’s a reason these shows are packed out and reason this band is not about to pack it in anytime soon. Dickinson scoffed at those – ourselves included – who have speculated that the Final Frontier World Tour will be the last of its kind from this incredible band. According to Bruce Maiden will be back. And they’ll be back with a bang, as always.

Maiden even manage to get the support band right nine times out of 10. In young Aussie upstarts Airbourne they delivered one of the best emerging rock n roll acts on the planet in a bid to whip their notoriously tough-to-please diehards into a frenzy.

The O’Keeffe brothers might not appear to be a natural fit for a metal behemoth – more AC/DC than Maiden they do, nevertheless, possess a natural talent for putting smiles on faces and imprinting riffs on brains.

Airbourne’s happy-go-lucky, singalong bar room anthems are the antithesis of the headline act’s more absorbing progressive metal epics but maybe that’s a good thing. The Aussie quartet blasted through a set which grabbed the attention without taxing the audience. And that’s exactly what’s required when tunes like The Talisman and When The Wild Wind Blows are looming.

As if to prove that even they have frailties, Maiden actually kicked off their Newcastle show in atypically unconvincing fashion. A muddled sound meant the famous three-pronged axe attack was lost in the mix and the best of the band’s new material suffered as a result.

Normal service had been resumed by the time Dance Of Death rang out around an arena rising as one to salute the NWOBHM pioneers turned global superstars. Another of Maiden’s strengths is that, for all the sales, all the fame and all the experience they’ve never lost a special bond with their most loyal fans and that relationship shone through during a powerful mid-set drive that peaked with the quite brilliant Blood Brothers.

A brace of suitably over the top Eddie incarnations punctuated crowd favourites The Evil That Men Do and Iron Maiden before an encore unrivalled within the metal world.

Any band would kill for the fret melting hat-trick that is The Number Of The Beast, Hallowed Be Thy Name and Running Free. There may be no better finish to any show on this scale, anywhere, ever. And did we mention Maiden will be back?

Simon Rushworth