NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper seemed a little out of place at Nikon at Jones Beach at their concert Wednesday night: it was a beautiful evening, with the sun setting behind the amphitheater.
The scene would have been more fitting for Jimmy Buffett or Phish (both of whom play the venue later this summer), not Maiden and Alice, two horror-inspired artists whose names put fear into the hearts of parents everywhere, albeit in a different era.
Of course, neither artist represent the threat to society that they once did, yet each act rocked with power and volume that belied their age (Cooper’s debut album, Pretties For You, was released in 1969, while Maiden’s self-titled first record came out eleven years later in 1980). Iron Maiden’s singer, Bruce Dickenson, riled up the audience by comparing them to a New Jersey crowd (and reminding them that they can catch the show again next week at Newark’s Prudential Center). He also joked about the last time Maiden played the venue, drummer Nicko McBrain was arrested for driving over a security guard’s toe.
Dickinson is one of the most charismatic frontmen in metal — or, for that matter, in rock and roll. But his voice is remarkably well preserved: he sounds almost exactly like he did when he first joined the band in the early ’80s. Physically, he looks almost exactly the same, minus the long hair. The rest of the band look their age, but it doesn’t show in their playing. The band’s leader, bassist Steve Harris, still prowls the stage and strikes his signature pose, with one foot on the monitor, aiming his bass at the audience. Their three-strong guitar team (founding member Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, and Jannick Gers) makes a powerful noise playing leads and rhythms that even the most skilled air guitarists in the audience had a hard time keeping up with. Gers, the band’s relative newcomer (he joined in 1990) often seems like he’s playing in a different group: with his high kicks and various other on-stage calisthenics, he looks more like a member of Poison than of Maiden. But of course the sound is what matters, and the band’s sound has lost none of it’s brutality and ambition.
The material drew mainly from Dickinson’s first era in the band (he joined for their third album, 1982′s Number Of The Beast, leaving in 1993, rejoining in 1999), as well as some songs originally sung by his predecessor, Paul Di’Anno. Back in the ’90s, fans pined for the group’s early ’80s material (from Number Of The Beast, 1983′s Piece Of Mind and 1984′s Powerslave), but later songs like the title track from 1992′s Fear Of The Dark, and “Afraid To Shoot Strangers” from that same album, were greeted with the same audience roar as the earlier material. This time around, they opted not to play material from any of their four albums since reuniting with their most popular singer.
Sonically, opener Alice Cooper has little in common with Iron Maiden, other than volume. His music has more of a classic rock and roll influence, with a bit more swing, swagger and humor. But they share fans, which was obvious by the large crowd already in the venue for his set. Full disclosure: due to traffic, we were unable to get to the venue in time for the 7:20 photographer check-in, so had to wait outside through out Alice’s entire set (it took more than two and a half hours to travel from Manhattan to Jones Beach). But we were able to listen to the entire show. The audience sang along with Alice classics including “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and “I’m Eighteen.” The set closed with the fitting summer kick-off anthem “School’s Out,” which was combined with the chorus of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall, part 2″ (“We don’t need no education!”). While most of the audience probably are long past final exams, the song brought everyone back to the visceral thrill of the last day of school, and really, most of the concert seemed to have that kind of time machine effect for the audience.
Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper’s tour comes to New Jersey’s Prudential Center in Newark on Monday, July 2.
Brian Ives, CBS Local